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Here we will have some pictures of birds in unusual plumages generally not shown in the books, but which you might encounter. The best lesson is that usually odd looking birds are common birds that have pigment abberations. If you see something not in your books, it is more likely an aberrant bird, rather than you having discovered an unknown species.

Albinism or partial albinism, or too much or too little of any color or pigment is possible.  One should use size, shape, structure, behavior and vocals to identify these abberant individuals.

Sometimes, odd plumages can be the result of hybridization, however great care should be made in claiming such. Some like Red-shafted and Yellow-shafted types of Northern Flicker however produce lots of hybrids, they are annual here. Which results in lots of backcrosses or intergrades over the years. I see hybrid Myrtubon's - hybrid or intergrade Myrtle x Audubon's (Yellow-rumped) Warbler annually here as well. Of course if you just give it all a cursory glance, you do not have to worry about seeing these things.

When you see anything weird, different, or unusual, the key is to get pictures so an expert can identify it.

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Here is something new from 2020, the oddities just keep showing up.
This is an intergrade or hybrid Sapsucker that is part Red-breasted, and part either Yellow-bellied or Red-naped.

This is the hybrid or intergrade sapsucker seen last week.
Note on the top pic the amount of red on head is out of limits
for normal Red-naped or Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. This
requires Red-breasted Sapsucker genes. On the second pic
note red on breast below throat, again, requiring Red-breasted
genes. Note also there is no black crescent on the breast.
Note the solid red forehead to nape over crown. It could be some
sort of backcross or who knows what kind of combo. It is
of interest in Texas since it is partly Red-breasted Sapsucker
which are very rare in the state.

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Here is an odd Junco. A rufous-backed, gray-headed, pink-sided, Dark-eyed Junco, which I suspect is a hybrid Gray-headed x Pink-sided Junco. Later, I heard from an expert on these, they said my diagnosis is correct.



This bird seems a hybrid to my eye. It struck me as a Gray-headed Junco due to red-rufous back and gray head and breast, but it has pinkish sides, not gray. A good Gray-headed Junco has gray sides, but otherwise it's a close match with correct bright red-rufous back color. It is also suggestive of a Pink-sided Junco due to those pink sides, but, the back is red-rufous, unlike Pink-sided.

In my view the key incriminating or definitive character showing evidence of it not being a pure Pink-sided is the gray breast which extends too far posteriorly on the underparts for pure Pink-sided, which has a distinct clearcut standard issue 'Junco' hood, lacking on this individual. So a hybrid seems the likely correct determination in this case.

It was present in our Utopia area yard winter junco flock off and on (6 days over 6 weeks) on Feb. 13, and between March 10 and 31, 2012.

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hybrid Teal

This is a hybrid Cinnamon x Blue-winged Teal, showing characters of both species. These are seen somewhat regularly. This one was at the fish hatchery in Uvalde.

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Also one must consider escaped game or pet birds too, especially gamebirds and waterfowl, but not just them.

Odd Bobwhite Odd Bobwhite
Odd Bobwhite

If you lost this bird please contact me.
This is one of the Mexican races of the Bobwhite.
Such things are obviously not of natural occurrence.

Below are a couple of examples of pigment aberrations in the way of "greenie," a yellow morph Pine Siskin, and "whitey" (a partial albino Chippy) that were here near Utopia during winter '06. Then there is a hybrid quail and a couple different Painted Bunting plumages, a warbler sketch and a white-winged Scrub-Jay. We'll add weirdos as we find them.

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

Note back color which changed with angle and light!!

Pine Siskin

Above is a "yellow" morph as they are called, Pine Siskin near Utopia, TX, Jan. 22 to late April '06. I'd say it is more oddly green than yellow. However, the amazingly green back faded as the fresh plumage wore.

Some of the photos taken through two old window panes ..... The bird had unmarked yellow underwings (linings brighter), and an unmarked yellow patch on lower back like Eurasian Siskin !&$!. Amount of yellow above on wing and tail in flight was stunning. Bird was present with up to over 80 other "normal" Pine Siskins.

Pine Siskin

Here you can see the underside of tail, a butter yellow, as were undersides of remiges (flight feathers on wing).

Here is a partially albinistic Chipping Sparrow ... when it flew it had lots of white in tail and wings, like a Snow Bunting, but in all the wrong places.

albino sparrow     albino sparrow
albino House Finch

This albino House Finch complete with red eyes was in our Seco Ridge yard in July and August, 2012.
Use size, shape, structure, vocalizations and behavior to ID such oddities.

Here is a real doozy, an oddity among oddities

hybrid Quail?

A possible/apparent hybrid between Scaled (aka Blue) Quail and Northern Bobwhite, near Sabinal, Texas, May '05. A few very very top crack gamebird and quail folk have agreed with this diagnosis. And I've seen another since, also down near Sabinal! One said my name for it, a Bluebob, should stick. ;)

Painted Bunting

This is a 2nd year (about a year old) male Painted Bunting. Not really an oddity, but not shown in the typical field guides. There seem to be several avenues 1st year male Painted Bunting use to achieve adult plumage, some are yellower below with some blue on the head in the first summer, more though are like this one, lime and salmon. Whooda thunk that went together so well.

Painted Bunting

This was by all accounts an adult male Painted Bunting, but which lacked all red pigment, leaving those parts yellow. Since it was not photographed, all you get is this mis-shapen thumbnail. Xanthistic might be the term for this. Interestingly a short time later one was seen I think near Junction (posted to Texbirds). Perhaps was it Birds of So.Carolina about 1910 by John Dick that illustrated this type of pigment aberration in Painted Bunting?  You should get an extra point for having seen one.   :)


This is a texana Scrub-Jay with partial albinism, or leucisism.
One parent had a "shadow" of the pattern apparent in flight.
If you see a white-winged Scrub-Jay around Utopia please
let me know, it is from Seco Ridge.  :)

hybrid warbler

This is a hybrid Hermit x Townsend's Warbler that Kathy found over at Garner St. Pk. Nov. 1, 2009, showing characters of both parent species. One of the furthest eastward records and probably the first for the Edwards Plateau.

So don't be too alarmed if you see something not in the field guides. They can't illustrate or show everything possible. Hybrids, intergrades, and abberancies are just another set of possibilities to keep ones mind open for. Most of what we see that is not 'just like the book', is just a variation they did not show. But there are actual hybrids out there too, just waiting to be puzzled over, if you can find them.

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© M. and K. Heindel 2006-2020