While glancing out the window into our backyard last week, a member of the B and B team spotted a bird she had never seen before. It looked and acted like a sparrow, foraging around in the drought-parched remnants of our lawn, but it was very palepractically white. Nothing she was familiar with, and certainly nothing I was familiar with either.
Upon seeing the first picture, I threw out the idea that this was some kind of "freaky house finch." Later, we noticed the small size relative to a Northern Cardinal in one of the pictures. That would be make it too small even for a freaky house finch. Then I noticed the solid gray breast, which reminded me of the chipping sparrows that so often visit our yard in huge flocks. With the information, and photographic confirmation, that, indeed, this bird was hanging out with, and acting just like, the chipping sparrows, we changed our amateur diagnosis to "freaky chipping sparrow."
A bird-expert friend of ours suggested this is likely what is known, more formally, as a leucistic bird. It is lacking much of the pigment that gives its cousins their normal coloration.
It's been a few days and we haven't seen this odd-colored sparrow again yet. Given his bright white topside, I suspect he may have been relatively easy prey for a hawk, owl or some other predator. He blends in quite well with the gravel in our garden, as in the pictures above. But amongst the brown, dry grass that the sparrows love to hang out in, this bird would stand out dramatically, while his compatriots would be nearly invisible.
But we'll keep an eye out hoping to see it again.