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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Interesting paint job

Back in late-April, my friend Stephen sent me an email asking me if I'd seen a very unusual bird in Prospect Park. He described a bird that, well, didn't seem like it would be found in any field guide. I told him that it sounded like a hybrid, but if he could, send me a picture.

Eventually, someone else asked me about an odd bird that had been hanging around the Long Meadow, near the baseball fields. It piqued my curiosity, so I wrote back to Stephen. His friend, Kevin, was able to take a couple of photographs with his cellphone's camera. The quality isn't very good and I wasn't able to determine the bird's identity.

Spring migration ended, I went back to focusing on the Red-tailed Hawks and completely forgot about the unusual bird in Prospect Park. That is, until I ran into an acquaintance one afternoon as I was leaving the park.

At first, Carl didn't recognize me, but just zeroed in on the binoculars hanging around my neck. He approached me and said, "Excuse me, but are you a birder? I have a question about an unusual bird." Apparently, whenever he came to the park with his young son to play baseball, he saw the odd bird nearby. Carl knows a little more about birds than the average person, so his description of the animal was pretty good. I told him that it sounded like a leucistic or albinistic bird, maybe a robin. We looked around for a few minutes, but didn't locate it. I went back a couple of times to try and find it, but eventually gave up.

I ran into Carl and his son again this week, in virtually the same location in the park. We chatted briefly, then Carl turned to his son and said, "Do you think we can find that special bird for this man?" Within a couple of minutes, his son flushed the bird and it hopped out of the grass onto the wood chips beneath a stand of mature elm trees. It was one of several hundred American Robins currently in the park, but, without a doubt, the coolest looking one I've ever seen.

I don't know how to tell the difference between leucism and albinism, so let's just say this bird is schizochroistic. He has white patches on his coverts, a wicked racing stripe on his tail, a white crown and only small areas of black on a normally all black face. His "new improved" look seems to have come with an attitude. When he was foraging on the ground, the male robin boldly chased away most of the birds that got too close.

by Rob Jett for "The City Birder"

1 comment:

Leah Labrecque: spying on birds since 2007. said...

I've seen that bird on the ground in the stand of trees on the small hill near the dog beach. Great photos!

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