Albino Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) in Devon

Eurasian OystercatcherDuring a visit to the hides im Dawlish Warren National Nature Reserve I was lucky to observe a partly albinotic Eurasian Oystercatcher. This was on the afternoon of 22nd of August 2013. The website of the reserve refers to abnormalies in plumages with oystercatchers which occur with some regularity most years. Otherwise, this wader is very frequently found on the southern coast of Great Britain. This is especially true for overwintering birds and migrating birds in fall.

I saw this unusual Eurasian Oystercatcher in a flock of roughly 100 of his congeners. Standing a bit by side all the time, it was neither mobbed nor attacked by the other, “normal” Oystercatchers. I could see that this bird had red eyes. In deed it is a partial “albino”. In an article by Charlie Fleming, an albino Oystercatcher is mentioned already for July 2009. The plumage looks quite the same. So maybe this bird still survives at Dawlish Warren for at least 4 years.

My main reason for my visit to Dawlish Warren was, to check if I could catch up with the Roseate Tern (Sterna dougallii) seen a few weeks ago. Additionally a Slavonian Grebe (or Horned Grebe), Podiceps auritus, had been reported. Unfortunately I dipped with both rarities. But the leucistic Oystercatcher was an excellent photo opportunity, too.

Of a white Eurasian Oystercatcher I had not heard before. But from Germany I found a comment by Edgar  Schonart from 2nd of September 2012, that he found a Eurasian Oystercatcher with almost a white head and neck –partial leukism – under 1.300 other Eurasian Oystercatchern in the south-western wadden of Spiekeroog – one of the east Frisian islands. On the same island an Eurasian Oystercatcher-Albino could be photographed already on the 5th of  June 2012. The bird was found during a research program to monitor breeding birds on the island. It was an oystercatcher chicks just hatched with typical albino eyes and almost white downy feathers. Only around the beak and in the area around the rump color structures were identifiable.

As far as I could find out, this is the last reporting from Germany for such a color variation whithin oystercatchers . Previously, an albino Oystercatcher with his conspecifics was once seen and photographed by Peter Herring near a location called Godelmuendung on the north-frisian island of Foehr on 30th of October 2008.

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