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GO WILDwith eric paylor.

MOST birds can appear a little conspicuous when their usual camouflaged markings are replaced by an all-white plumage.

So let's hope that this stand-out little owl is blessed by a few snowfalls this winter.

This startling picture of the little owl, which is suffering from a problem known as leucism, was photographed close to Cleveland by Brian Martin.

Leucism is a condition caused by a genetic mutation which prevents the melanin pigmentation from being deposited on a bird's feathers.

It can take various forms.

Most of us have spotted those piebald blackbirds in and around Teesside which have white areas all around their plumage, while leucism is also common in members of the crow family.

Leucism is completely different from albinism because leucism affects only the feathers, while in albinism the eyes, skin, bill and legs are also affected.

Naturally white feathers make birds more easily seen by predators.

There is a further potential problem because leucistic birds have weaker feathers, which means they wear out more quickly and provide poorer insulation against cold weather.

This little owl has condition called Brian So we must hope that this little owl overcomes all its problems, finds a warm roost and is still with us in the spring.

Little owls are the smallest owls regularly found in Britain, though they are not native to these shores, having been introduced by a couple of wealthy landowners during Victorian times.

They gradually spread throughout the country and arrived in our area in 1930. They are now a regular feature and can be spotted in daytime sitting in the branches of deciduous trees.

a leucism Martin. Little owls usually nest in holes in trees but have also taken to nest boxes which have been provided for them on local farmland.

Little owls will take small birds and mammals, but a good percentage of their diet comes from eating worms and insects.

The beauty of little owls from our point of view is that they can be seen during the day. So can their cousins the short-eared owls and also barn owls - the latter usually hunting at dawn and dusk.

Short-eared owls have been in short supply on Teesside this year. However we have a healthy but difficult to spot tawny owl population, while the long eared owls roost in open trees and bushes during the day and can sometimes be spotted by eagled-eyed birders.

If you have noted any interesting or unusual wildlife sightings around Teesside and Cleveland lately, contact Eric on


This little owl has a condition called leucism BRIAN MARTIN

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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Nov 29, 2017
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