NEWTON COUNTY, Mo. – A southwest Missouri man spotted a red-tailed hawk in rare form earlier this week.
Steve Jaeger, a resident of Pierce City, Missouri, spotted a white-colored red-tailed hawk in Newton County. The bird is living on a genetic trait known as leucism, which is slightly different than albinism.
“Leucism is a genetic anomaly in which an animal has a partial loss of pigmentation. Albinism involves the total absence of melanin, which is the substance in a body that produces skin pigmentation,” said the Missouri Department of Conservation on the hawk.
The hawk caught on camera has a few dark-colored spots on its feathers, so its leucism is not due to pigment cells, unlike an albino animal.
According to nature photographer Pat Gaines, a study from Cornell once found that, among 5.5 million birds of different species studied, less than 1,000 were leucistic. The red-tailed hawk population in North America is believed to be around 2 million, meaning only a few-hundred might fly with leucism in the continent.