A Case of Schizochroism

Who is at this feeder? Could someone’s canary have gotten loose?

Nope, this lemon-yellow fellow is a good ol’ American goldfinch with a case of leucism, a genetic mutation affecting pigmentation. While it’s similar to albinism, a leucistic bird maintains some normal coloring. As you can see in the photo, this finch’s eyes are not red, but the normal dark brown-black color. Same with his legs.

Barb Wendt of Meriden, N.H.,took these photos of the goldfinch a few days ago. In addition to sending them to VINS, she posted them on the Cornall Lab of Ornithology’s Facebook page, where readers responded with their thoughts on this bird’s coloring. One response in particular gave Barb a bit more detail on the bird’s condition: “Though it’s commonly known as partial albinism, it’s actually partial leucism. In this case, the eumelanin pigments responsible for black and brown are gone, leaving only the yellow phaeomelanins. It’s called Phaeo schizochroism.”

You may remember awhile back we posted photos of a leucistic red-tailed hawk who had gotten into a man’s chicken coop. The photos are worth checking out, and the blog post goes into more details of leucism.

If any of you have photos of leucistic birds, we’d love to see them. Email them to Meghan at moliver@vinsweb.org.

Phaeo schizochroism. Right in Barb’s backyard. Imagine that.


  1. Katie on January 7, 2012 at 1:57 am


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