I had a wonderful experience today as I was lucky to witness an incredibly rare sight of a White Swallow! These birds, which are a normal Barn Swallow only they have a condition called leucism. Leucism, or leukism, is an abnormal plumage condition caused by a genetic mutation that prevents pigment, particularly melanin, from being properly deposited on a bird’s feathers. As a result, the birds do not have the normal, classic plumage colours listed in field guides or seen in most photos, and instead the plumage may have several colour changes. Not to be confused with Albinism, which affects all the pigments, and albino birds show no colour whatsoever in their feathers. Furthermore, an albino mutation also affects the bird’s other pigments in the skin and eyes, and albino birds show pale pink or reddish eyes, legs, feet and a pale bill. Leucistic birds, on the other hand, often have normally colored eyes, legs, feet and bills.
Swallows with this condition are extremely rare and only show up one in several million birds. This Swallow was constantly harassed by its more normally plumaged companions along with Sand Martins and House Martins. This is often the case with leucistic and albino individuals. There are many reasons for this but I think there is a bit of jealousy going on! Judging by the length of the tail streamers this bird appears to be an adult female, which makes the bird at least a year old and it may possibly have bred somewhere in Ireland this year.
What a fantastic bird. Keep your eyes pealed if your in the Clonakilty area as there are thousands of Swallows in the skies above at the moment as they prepare for their long journey south which can take them to southern South Africa!