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While the bird sitting in this chicken coop sure looks white and feathery like a chicken… that ain’t no chicken. But this odd-looking bird was just what a local Vermonter found sitting in his coop the other day.
What you see there is actually a red-tailed hawk with leucism. A leucistic animal is similar to an albino in that there is a genetic mutation affecting pigmentation, but a leucistic animal maintains some normal coloring. So while this hawk’s feathers have a reduced pigmentation (giving her the white feathers), her skin and eyes are normal in coloring. Albinism includes a complete or partial absence of normal pigments in the skin, eyes and hair (or fur or feathers). If this hawk was albino, her skin would be pink and her eyes red. In the photos below, you can see the cere (skin above the beak) and feet are a nice, bright yellow — standard hawk color. Her eyes are also a normal dark brown.
Hawks often work their way into chicken coops with great determination encouraged by a hungry belly. But getting back out of the coop is often tricky for them. Fortunately, the fellow who found this bird was able to release the hawk out of the coop (now shy one chicken), and she flew away.
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