As the valley cools off, I returned to Sabino Canyon on the early morning of October 11th. I was walking east from the parking lot toward the dam, as described in my posting of December 17, 2015 when I ran into Jean and Mark Hengesbaugh, Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists, and fellow birders. They reported that a male partial albino Phainopepla had returned to the canyon for his 7th year. Although I spotted him on the 11th, I returned on the 18th, tripod and gimbal head in hand. I hung out close to the corral on the south border of the park, and found our subject doing what Phainopepla do as the sun comes up, munch on mistletoe in the mesquite and catch bugs. With a bit of patience, and some luck, I got the images below.
It turns out that partial loss of pigment is not uncommon in birds, and can be confusing when trying to identify individuals. There is a nice posting on partial pigmentation (melanin reduction) in the Sibley Guides, available online, click here. The author goes through terminology, and different displays of color loss, using the Northern Cardinal as an example.
For information on the Phainopepla, see the Cornell Ornithology site, and the Audubon field guide. The Audubon site has a good gallery of images, including one of the male in flight, with the white wing feather showing. The image below was captured on the 18th as our subject was preening, with the wings partially open, showing the white feathers.
That's it for now. Stay tuned!
Henry Johnson, photographer and author of this site. For more detail, see About