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20120601 Rare-HummingbirdThe Leucistic Black-chinned Hummingbird has been sited at the Edinburg World Birding Center. The white hummingbird has been seen feeding on the flowers of the Turks Cap, next to the Interpretive Center between 2 and 5 p.m. daily. First discovered and photographed on Sunday, May 20, by local photographer Mati Lopez, word has spread quickly and images have spread across the internet.

Black-chinned Hummingbirds are one of four hummingbird species commonly found in the Rio Grande Valley, though they are much less abundant than the resident Buff-bellied Hummingbird and migratory Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Black-chinned Hummingbirds are migratory species, spending their summers in the Western U.S. and Canada and their winters in Mexico. However, a few Black-chinned Hummingbirds have been known to winter and breed in South Texas.

A Leucistic Hummingbird is very rare. Unlike Albinism, which is a genetic mutation affecting the production of melanin in the whole body, Leucism is a genetic mutation affecting the normal deposit of melanin in the feathers only. Therefore, a Leucistic bird can have an all-white body, but would still have normal color in the eyes, bill and feet, as is the case for this hummingbird. If this bird were an Albino hummingbird, it would have red or pink eyes, not black and would lack tell-tell markings in the feet and bill that help in its identification.

Leucism is very rare in the avian world, affecting only about 1,000 birds out of more than 5.5 million seen in the U.S. Most birds affected by this trait do not survive, because they are more easily seen by predators.

For more information, contact EWBC naturalist Gilbert Martinez at 381-9922 or EWBC is located at 714 S. Raul Longoria Rd. in Edinburg.

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