This was the case for Dexter and his wife Carolyn Stanfield of Burnville when they saw a rare white hummingbird feeding in their yard last week. They wanted to share their unusual experience with others.
“We were excited and surprised when we saw the white hummingbird because we knew how rare they were,” Mrs. Stanfield said. “The bird stayed around for about six days and then departed. We got some great pictures of it.”
For those who don’t know the basic facts about hummingbirds, these birds are small, colorful birds with iridescent feathers. Their name comes from the fact that they flap their wings so fast (about 80 times per second) that they make a humming noise. Hummingbirds can fly right, left, up, down, backwards, and even upside down. They are also able to hover by flapping their wings in a figure-8 pattern. They have a specialized long and tapered bill that is used to obtain nectar from the center of long, tubular flowers. The hummingbird’s feet are used for perching only, and are not used for hopping or walking.
That’s not enough rarity in itself, however, seeing a white hummingbird is even more of a slim occasion, according to Patrick Poindexter, County Director at the Mississippi State Extension Center in Corinth.
“This is the first report I have heard of a white hummingbird in this part of the county,” Piondexter said. “Even if it is not a true 'Albino' hummingbird, the 'Leucistic' hummingbirds are still rare as well.”
A true albino hummingbird -- one that has white feathers and pink eyes, feet, and bill is an extremely rare site and the Leucistic hummingbirds are also still rare but are seen more often than true albinos. Leucistic are more like "normal" hummingbirds, lecistic forms, as far as having black eyes, feet, and bills, but their feathers may be pure white, buffy, tan, or gray instead of green or some other "normal" color.
“Either way, it is still very, very, rare to see a white feathered hummingbird,” added Poindexter. “I think it is a pretty cool thing and it is exciting to know.”
Poindexter said the genetic mutation for a hummingbird isn’t for them to be white in color, but it does sometimes occur.
“I have seen pictures of them, both of the Albino and the Leucistic, but I have never seen one in real life and I think it was a smart idea for them [Stanfield’s] to take some pictures and enjoy the rare moment with the bird,” said Poindexter.
Only about a dozen albino or leucistic hummingbirds have been banded (or trapped by a professional bander), and none of them are known to have returned in a following year after migrating to Mexico or Central America for the winter.
Therefore, seeing one of these birds and getting pictures and/or video of them continues to be a rare event, but one that the Stanfield’s was able to capture and enjoy.