A Special at Green Mubazzarah:  Leucism in Desert Lark

SteinlercheAfter a successful morning in first light and 2 hours afterwards in the Green Mubazzarah, at the foot of the Hajar Mountains, I’ve just come back from a photo tour of both the Plain Leaf-Warbler (Phylloscopus neglectus) and a pair of Hume’s Wheatears (Oenanthe alboniger). I walk over the thick pebbles that make the Wadi more and more impassable in the back. Back at the car, I see a completely white Desert Lark (Ammomanes deserti). Based on the characteristics described and as seen in the photographs, the bird is a leucistic lark if not part albino. Leucism is a defective mutation in animals that causes the fur to be white and the underlying skin to be pink because the skin lacks melanocytes (dye-forming cells). Leucistic birds have more or less white plumage, but always show pigmentation on the eyes and legs as well. In albinos, the pigmentation is completely absent, which is why eyes then appear reddish, legs and feet more flesh-colored. The eyes appear too dark (not reddish) for a real albino, while legs and feet appear clearly light orange.

The striking orange beak could indicate an albinism defect in the beak color. As far as can be seen, the bird has survived its stay well, not to say successfully.

In Europe, individuals of different species with such color deviations are observed more frequently, and bird-lens.com had already reported on a very light colored Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) and on a Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio) on migration through Cyprus. In general, however, birds with these color defects are very rare.

Research on the general frequency of albino and leucistic Red-backed Shrike, which Günter Barth and Günter Nicklaus did in the article “On the observation of a leucistic Red-backed Shrike, Lanius collurio in the Noswendeler Bruch” in Lanius 35, 2014: pp. 53-57, yielded results for the time from 1950 to 2012 a total of only twelve cases.

Green Mubazzarah is a resort area taken near Al Ain/UAE at the foot of Hajar Mountains. Lawn sprinklers are plentiful and in full use in the mornings to keep the green in the very desert environment. The green of the desert not only attracts larks and other year-round birds such as Grey Francolin (Francolinus pondicerianus), Chukar (Alectoris chukar), Oriental Turtle-Dove (Streptopelia orientalis) and Palm Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis), but also many migratory birds such as Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush (Monticola saxatilis), Hoopoe (Upupa epops), the “normal” Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe), Desert Wheatear (Oenanthe deserti), White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) and Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta).

To cope with the growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of the Palearctic Bird-Lens is keen to enrich the range of pictures of birds you can find in the western palearctic.  Trips to remote places like this one to capture images not only of rare birds of western palearctic were very successful. The nice image of the blog is only a first impression, what you will find in the gallery in the “Picture Shop” very soon. Just give bird-lens.com a message, if bird-lens.com could serve you with an image needed before the new pictures are online.

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