Bird experts are stunned after very rare WHITE sparrow is spotted

Bird experts are stunned after very rare WHITE sparrow is spotted at beauty spot in Cornwall

  • The leucistic white sparrow was spotted in Lost Garden of Heligan in Cornwall
  • A team of experts from tourist attraction described the moment as ‘such a rarity’ 
  • Leucism is a genetic condition which results in a partial loss of pigmentation

A rare white sparrow has been discovered by experts at a tourist attraction in Cornwall.

Barry Hitchens had been visiting the Lost Garden of Heligan in St Austell when he spotted the unusual white-feathered bird and called experts at the beauty spot to investigate.

A team from the tourist attraction identified the bird as a leucistic white sparrow and described the moment as ‘such a rarity’.

Leucism is a genetic condition which results in a partial loss of pigmentation and in birds the lack of cells responsible for melanin production often leaves their feathers white or washed-out in colour.

The rare leucistic white sparrow has been discovered by experts at the Lost Garden of Heligan in Cornwall

Barry Hitchens had been visiting the tourist attraction when he spotted the unusual bird and called experts 

Wildlife photographer Andy Wilson, who is part of the team at Heligan, said: ‘It was a real treat to photograph this unusual looking bird.

‘It certainly stood out within the garden and amongst the other sparrows.

‘I feel really privileged to have had the opportunity to observe and photograph such a rarity.’

From a distance, the leucistic sparrow appeared completely white, but upon closer examination is has a few brown feathers.

The genetic condition, which results in a partial loss of pigmentation, is inherited however the extent and positioning of the white colouration can vary between adults and their young.

This means in some birds their feathers may not appear completely white but pale or washed-out in colour.

Due to the lack of pigment in these birds, their feathers are more prone to wear and can weaken more easily. 

Wildlife photographer Andy Wilson said it was ‘a real treat’ to photograph the unusual looking bird


The bird has the genetic condition leucism which results in a partial loss of pigmentation

While the condition is inherited it differs between birds and this means the extent and positioning of the white colouration can vary between adults and their young

Unfortunately, the chances of survival for leucistic birds are also low since the distinctive whiteness makes it a target for birds of prey. 

Albinism on the other hand also results in white feathers but it is caused by a genetic mutation where there is a total lack of melanin.   

A spokesperson for Heligan added: ‘As many birds in search of winter food are visiting gardens, it is not only the perfect time to make sure that your bird feeders are full, but also enjoy what you can see in your own garden.

‘Like Barry discovered, it could be something quite rare. 

What is a leucistic bird and how rare are they?

Leucism is a genetic condition resulting in a partial loss of pigmentation.    

Birds with this condition lack the cells responsible for melanin production and this results in their white feathers.

The lack of melanin pigment is inherited however the extent and positioning of the white colouration can vary between adults and their young.

Due to the lack of pigment in these birds, their feathers are more prone to wear and can weaken more easily.

In some scenarios, leucistic birds may not be recognised or accepted by a potential mate.

Unlike albinism, leucistic birds are not completely without pigment and may just appear lighter than normal.

Albinism on the other hand also results in white feathers but it is caused by a genetic mutation where there is a total lack of melanin.

Albino birds will have pink or red eyes while the iris pigmentation of leucistic birds remains dark.    

Source: British Trust for Ornithology

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