Birds & Blooms

This woodpecker visits our feeders. What species is it?

- Scott and Jean Degolier WAUNAKEE, WISCONSIN

Kenn and Kimberly: Every once in a while a birder is lucky enough to see a truly unique individual; this is such a bird. It’s a downy woodpecker, but one with an odd condition affecting its plumage. The feathers that ordinarily would be black are a light brownish gray, apparently because the melanin pigments in those feathers are reduced. In technical terms, this would be called either leucistic or dilute plumage. Although birds with odd-colored feathers look distinctly unusual, they often lead healthy lives, finding mates and raising young, just as most normally colored individual­s do.

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