Birds & Blooms
Ask the Experts
Learn what’s ailing your plants and how to keep backyard birds healthy.
An albino hummingbird came to visit. How rare are birds like this?
Kenn and Kimberly: Every year there are a few reports of hummingbirds that are partly or mostly white. These birds lack most of the melanin and other pigments in their feathers and are called leucistic. But the bird in your photo appears to have the characteristics of a true albino: completely white feathers, pink bill and feet, and even pink eyes. Such true albinos are extremely rare. What a treat to have this exceptional and beautiful bird visiting your feeders.
I saw this chipping sparrow feed a much larger baby bird. Is it common for birds to feed other species?
Kenn and Kimberly: You’ve witnessed an odd relationship in the bird world: the result of brood parasitism by a brown-headed cowbird. Cowbirds don’t build nests or tend to their own young.
They employ what seems to be an unfair strategy of laying eggs in the nests of other birds, such as this chipping sparrow.
The adoptive adults care for the young, unaware they aren’t its biological parents.
It can be tough to see a small songbird feeding the much larger young cowbird, but it’s very important not to interfere.
Cowbirds are a native species, protected by law. They do create conservation challenges for some species, such as
Kirtland’s warbler, but in general nature manages to maintain a fair balance.