A Rare White Puffin is Sighted

Monday 17th June 2024

A white puffin with only a few black feathers and a beak that is mostly orange has been spotted an Handa Island Wildlife reserve off the coast of Sutherland in Scotland. This young puffin is much less colourful than its puffin friends because it has a genetic condition called Leucism.

Dora Hamilton is a Seabird Field worker at this wildlife reserve and first spotted this white puffin in mid-June. This puffin returned  from the sea later than the other puffins this year. It might be a young puffin so perhaps it is not ready to make a nest  and breed yet.

Erika Faggiani, a ranger on Handa, said: " when you live and work on Handa you are surrounded by amazing wildlife all the time, but this leucistic puffin is one of the most unusual things I've seen."

"This is a very rare sighting. There are only a small number of reports of leucism at seabird colonies around the UK. One of these reports was of one puffin which made a next adn bred on Handa in 2018 and 2019. This puffin had light brown feathers instead of black."

"The white puffin has only been seen occasionally and it seems to be spending most time in arteas where members of hte public could not see it easily, so anyone coming to HAnda to see this puffin is likely to be dissappointed. But visitors can still look forward to seeing and hearing crowds of seabirds, including puffins, guillemots and razorbills on the tall cliffs at the reserve."

Handa Island is owned by Scourie Estate and is managed as a wildlife reserve in partnership with the Scottish Wildlife Trust. The island is internationally important for breeding seabirds. Handa has two rangers at the moment and four long-term volunteers. The team live on the island while they carry out a programme of work including  the monitoring of sea birds and practical conservation.

Did You Know...

LEUCISM - leucistic- is a genetic condition where there is some loss of colouring but not complete loss. This can make the animal have white or partially coloured skin, hair or feathers.

ALBINISM - albino- is a condition when there is no Melanin present in the body. Melanin is what gives skin, feathers, hair and eyes their colour. So if there is no Melanin, there will be no colour to the skin, feathers, hair nor eyes.

LEUCISM in birds is RARE but more common than albinism. LEUCISTIC birds show a variable amount of white or pale in their feathers.

All photopraphs are @Dora Hamilton 2021

Kindly shared by Scottish Wildlife Trust

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