Rare albino blackbird spotted in Northumberland town centre

An unusual albino blackbird has been spotted in the Northumberland town of Haltwhistle by a bird enthusiast couple

Tony Messner
The rare albino blackbird spotted by Tony and Ursula Messner in Haltwhistle

This rare fellow has taken up residence in a Northumberland town centre.

The unusual albino blackbird was spotted by chance in Haltwhistle by bird enthusiast couple Tony and Ursula Messner as they parked up to do their weekly food shop.

The feathered visitor was seen near the Co-op, in the town, earlier this week.

Albino blackbirds tend not to survive very long because they are born weaker and are more at risk from predators.

Keen-eyed mother-of-two Ursula spotted the male bird, but didn’t have a camera on hand to take some snaps.

So, she returned with husband Tony the following day and only had to wait a few minutes until their new feathered friend made another appearance.

Tony, who lives with Ursula and their two children Jenson, three, and Joshua, two, in Haydon Bridge, Northumberland, said: “We were just pulling up in the car park of the Co-op and we just saw this thing flying behind a fence. Ursula said ‘What was that?’ because there aren’t many white birds. It then jumped up on the fence again and we could see if was a white blackbird.

“We’re very keen on birds, Ursula particularly, and we’ve rescued them in the past.

“In fact, we rescued a blackbird, who we called Hooka, after it was chucked out its nest by its mother and she lived for 13 years. So, we knew blackbirds pretty well and we could see this was one. Neither of us had a camera on us but Ursula said blackbirds normally stay and feed in the same area, so we went back the next day and it only took a few minutes until we saw him again.”

Ursula added: “I was so excited when I saw what it was. The kids were with us but they were too young to know what it was. I’d never seen one before, so I was excited. We know he’s male because he has an orange beak.”

Albinism describes birds in which some or all of the normal pigmentation is missing. It is most often inherited. As it is a recessive characteristic, it only shows up when a bird inherits the albino gene from both parents. There are different degrees of albinism, ranging from all white to only a few white feathers on an otherwise normal coloured bird.

A spokesperson for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said: “Blackbirds are susceptible to albinism but it is still unusual to see one.

“Only a tiny proportion of the species have this condition and those that do, rarely survive for very long because they tend to be weaker and more at risk from predators. This blackbird looks like it is only partially albino as it does have a bit of colour in some of its feathers.”

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