'Albino Blackbird': Poem; True Chance Encounter with Rare Albino Blackbird
When & Where it Happened
I was helping the houseparents of a school boarding house; actually they were also helping me as I had nowhere to live for six weeks! Lucky students to live in such an enchanted place; a huge mansion, with a rambling garden and paddocks leading down to a river where they could fish and paddle canoes.
Energetic badminton in the garden or relaxing evening strolls down to the river, whatever the activity the place itself was peaceful, even magical in the quiet evenings, a soothing balm after a busy day.
I often took that walk down to the river, sometimes alone. I love watching for the birds; herons playing statues to fool the fish, buntings flying like skipping stones across water, shy blackbirds singing in the hedgerow.
An Enchanted Place
An Unexpected Privilege
I had never seen any albino creature in the wild and never thought I would. One day, I came across such a creature. It seemed to be there just for me, it sang just for me and it became a habit for me to go in search of even just a brief sighting.
So special was this experience that I wanted to record its existence, the effect it had on me; a courageous, bold bird that surely had to fight for its existence far harder than most.
A Graphic Contradiction
The Albino Blackbird
A paddock leading down to a narrow river
winding through the Somerset Levels,
a solitary woman strolling in the summer evening sun.
A blackbird’s song heard nearby,
the woman’s eyes search the hedges for its origin,
no blackbird discovered in the foliage.
But what is that boldly sat upon the fencepost,
though not black,
singing for all his might the familiar sound?
A blackbird in name, in form but not in colour!
Albino, red-eyed, bold as brass,
defying incredulity with his evening song.
An albino blackbird? A graphic contradiction.
A concrete phantom, living, pulsing, flying
and watching with daring eye.
Daring to exist, daring the woman to believe,
daring to live in its prejudiced world,
the whitebird sang, loud and joyful.
The woman came more often then,
to that calm spot where meadow met meandering river.
She longed to see him again.
Three times he granted her heart-felt wish,
though she dared not hope too much.
The third was when, tearful and sad, she
turned towards the house to leave for ever,
an aching heart to see him no more,
in her mind an urgent chant ‘say goodbye, please...say goodbye!’
Out of the calm silence, as she despaired,
his lifting melody of evening cheer, louder than ever,
just for her, sped across the space
to kiss her heart, to gladden her eye,
leaving a gratefulness, an enchantment which endures,
which will endure longer than he or I.
An Idyllic Setting
Facts on Albino or Partial Albino Animals
Albino birds and animals have pink eyes; the colour in the eyes comes from blood vessels behind the eyes and is not pigmentation.
Leucism can be confused with albinism. Leucism occurs when colouring chemicals are present in the body of the bird, though not present in the feathers. The feathers are white but the eyes are still dark.
Partial albinism can occur; you might see blackbirds with a smaller or larger degree of white feathers.
Albino blackbirds are rare.
More about Blackbirds
- The blackbird is the most numerous breeding bird in the British Isles, with a population of around 6 million pairs.
- The highest breeding densities are to be found in small urban parks and residential areas.
- The European population has been estimated at between 38 and 55 million pairs.
- The only European country with no breeding blackbirds is Iceland; small numbers do occur there in the winter.
- The reason for its success is its adaptability, for it is equally at home in a town park or suburban garden as it is in a remote Welsh wood.
- Blackbirds are what is known as sexually dimorphic, which means that the plumage of the female is completely different from that of the male.
- The song of the blackbird is arguably the most beautiful and best-loved of any British bird, as well as being the most familiar.
- The first blackbird song of the year can usually be heard at the end of January or early February, though urban birds often start earlier.
- Studies have shown that the first birds to sing are cocks that were hatched the year before. The older birds do not start singing until well into March.
- Blackbirds typically like to sing after rain.
- The song period continues well into the summer, but it is unusual to hear sustained song much after the middle of July.
- The song ‘Sing a song of Sixpence, a pocket full of rye, four-and-twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie’ was actually a coded message used to recruit crew members for the notorious 18th-century pirate Blackbeard.
- The majority of English blackbirds seldom move any distance from where they were hatched.
- British birds are joined in winter by large numbers of migrants from Europe, mainly Scandinavia, the Baltic States, Russia and Germany.
- The most common causes of death for ringed blackbirds are cats and cars.
- It takes a pair of blackbirds between 11 and 14 days to make a nest. Most of the work is done by the female.
- It is only the female that incubates the eggs, but the male helps feed his offspring.
- Scottish blackbirds are usually two weeks behind their English counterparts when it comes to nest building and egg laying.
- Blackbirds have been successfully introduced to south-eastern Australia and New Zealand.
- Attempts to establish blackbirds in New York and Oregon in the 19th-century both failed.
- The oldest ringed blackbird recovered was over 20 years old.
Sightings of Albino Birds/Animals
Have you ever seen an albino bird or animal?
© 2013 Ann Carr