Albino hummingbirds are extremely rare sightings, and if you've been lucky enough to see one near your
hummingbird feeder, congratulations! You may be able to spot one in Central America, but the chances are so slim that it would be almost impossible.
They are so rare that some people even believe their existence is unreal. Well, we can’t blame them. If you can barely see them, it’s hard to assume they’re actual rare albino birds.
So to answer this question: Of course, there are white hummingbirds! They’re not ghosts. In fact, you’d be surprised to find out that many species of animals can be albino: rhinoceros, lions, and so on.
And then, of course, you might’ve heard about people that have albinism or even meet someone with the condition. So why would albino hummingbirds be a myth?
Unfortunately, these hummingbirds are rare sightings, and the few birders who were blessed to see them know how eerie their presence can be.
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What’s the difference between white hummingbirds and other hummingbirds?
Hummingbirds are small birds that hover and dart around flowers for nectar. The male gorgets are iridescent, which is a word that means it reflects several colors at once in different lighting. The color depends on what angle you view the bird from—and it changes depending on the light.
This iridescence makes their throats appear blue, green, pink, red, or orange – depending on how the light hits them (and on the hummingbird species). But some species of hummingbirds have white feathers instead of colored ones, making them albino!
This means they don’t have any pigment in their feathers, which makes them look white instead of colorful like other hummingbirds. For such a colorful bird, you wouldn’t expect to be even more in awe when the pigment so specific to them is missing.
What is albinism in hummingbirds?
Albinism is a genetic mutation in which melanin is completely missing. You might have heard of melanin before; it’s what gives color to your skin, hair, and eyes. When you don’t have enough melanin in your body – or any at all – you get an “albino” animal or person!
That’s because this condition causes the pigment to stop being produced. A true albino hummingbird has no pigment, not even a little bit. In other words, when there’s a mutation in a gene responsible for melanin production, then we have albinism.
What does a white hummingbird look like?
Typically, an albino hummingbird has white feathers all over its body and pink eyes. So it is, in a very straightforward way, a white bird with no color in its feathers or skin. Albino hummingbirds are very different from white leucistic hummingbirds, which are less rare than the former.
What is leucism in hummingbirds?
Leucistic hummingbirds can also be slightly white, with brown or pale patches and streaks over their bodies. Leucistic birds produce melanin, but that doesn’t show in their feathers. However, they can have a little bit of color here and there. Their beaks, feet, and eyes also tend to be black, not pink, like a true albino hummingbird.
Pied (or Piebald) hummingbirds
These birds look like they have colored green and brown patches on their white bodies. Pied hummingbirds’ half of their bodies are colored, and the other half has no pigmentation. They also have black eyes, beaks, and feet. However, they are more colorful than their other counterparts mentioned here.
Disadvantages of being an albino bird
Albino hummingbirds’ habitats are essentially the same as regular hummingbirds. However, these rare hummingbirds are more predisposed to predators, illnesses, and sun sensibility. Their feathers might also be weaker, which makes them migrate for shorter distances than regular hummingbirds.
The lack of color in their feathers might make them more visible to predators. This condition can affect things like hearing and sight. When it comes to birds like hummingbirds, whose eyesight is so crucial for finding food and avoiding predators (among other things), this can be devastatingly detrimental!
Sightings of rare leucistic and white hummingbirds – by bird species
- 2019 – Albino Ruby-throated hummingbirds spotted in Muskogee, Oklahoma
- 2021 – Leucistic male Anna’s Hummingbird – Halfmoon Bay, British Columbia
- Leucistic Anna’s hummingbird visiting Australian Garden at the University of California, Santa Cruz Arboretum
- 2021 – Pied Black-chinned Hummingbird in Meers, Oklahoma
- 2000 – A leucistic Rufous hummingbird photographed in Grand Junction, Colorado
You can see more rare white hummingbird photos on https://www.hummingbirdcentral.com/
White Hummingbird Summary
Hummingbirds come in various colors, from the bright red and green of the common Ruby-throated hummingbirds, the feisty Rufous hummingbird, to the tiny vividly-colored Calliope Hummingbird. But albino hummingbirds are completely different than the rest of them: they have no color whatsoever.
White hummingbirds (otherwise called albino hummingbirds) do exist! However, they are tough to spot, which makes them seem like apparitions from another world. And we can’t promise you’ll ever get to see one, so you just have to take our word for it.
They’re not ghosts or figments of overactive imaginations; they’re real birds with the same wingspans and feathers as their non-white counterparts.
So what would it be like to see an albino hummingbird? We can’t answer that for you, but we can tell you this: If you ever come across one of these rare birds, enjoy the moment. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime sighting, and their rarity is a treat to share with others.