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Albino Red-tailed Hawk

Thursday, January 10, 2013

On October 11, 2012, I was driving my sick confuser to Elan, the Mac repair place in Columbus. Yep, it's a solid two hour drive from my Appalachian home to anyone who will so much as look at a sick Mac. I very much mind having a sick computer, but I never mind going to Columbus. It's my Bright Lights, Big City. 

I'm tooling along on I-77N through Woodsfield, Ohio when I see a kettle of circling turkey vultures. And in that kettle is a snow- white bird. I try very hard not to drive off the road. Because Woodsfield is where the leucistic turkey vulture I saw twice back in the mid-90's used to live. I pull over as fast as I can and grab my big rig. Something told me to bring it to Columbus with me, even though it didn't make sense at the time.

It made sense now.

Smaller than the vultures. By golly, that looks like a redtail!

And a redtail it was, a true albino as far as I could tell, pale beak and pale blue or perhaps even a pink eye, not a mark on it. What a sight, what a heart-soaring, breath stopping sight it was.

I stood there gasping at the roadside, thankful to see it, thankful I'd brought my camera, saying a silent prayer of hosanna to whatever powers of nature, sky, and serendipity had brought this wondrous sight before me.

A sign, a sign, certainly a sign. Of what, I cannot say. Just good. Hope. Strength. Triumph of light over darkness, positivity over bitter negativity. Surely a sign of simple genetic, but not necessarily deleterious mutations. This bird has somehow survived into adulthood, fully functional, blindingly, gloriously white. Long may it fly.

I hereby apologize to all the people who've called and written me over the years to tell me about albino hummingbirds, redtails, cardinals, blue jays, expecting that I would jump in the car forthwith and come see them, too. If I have seemed a bit bored with it all, rather non-commital and unimpressed, I was not now. I was shot through with lightning, as you were upon seeing your special sign bird.

It was not my leucistic turkey vulture, the one dear Charlie Macaw spotted for me so many years ago, the same one I saw again the next summer in Woodsfield. But it was something, something searingly beautiful, transformative, a vision, a bolt from the blue.

Beautiful sky pilot, fly on. I'll be watching for you.


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Thanks for bringing back the memories of the completely white leucistic Red-tailed hawk that I followed for 7 years just outside of Athens. In 1995, just after returning from my Dad's memorial service, I discovered this hawk on my way home from work one afternoon. I always felt a special connection to this hawk. as if my Dad had sent it to watch over me. I stopped following it when I resigned my position where I worked in Athens at the time.

I was delighted to discover another white Red-tail last year during another tough time in my life. I started back to school and it appeared along my route to school, its nest within easy site of the road. They seemingly are special spirits and definitely lift my spirits with their exceptional beauty. Thank you for reminding me of my special angel.

We've got a leucistic redtail that keeps turning up in Piscattaway, NJ near the road that leads to the Rutgers stadium. First time I saw it overhead I wondered what a chicken was doing flying. It's a majestic bird in a tree, but somehow just looks wrong in the air.

This is absolutely breathtaking,
Julie. I can't help but think about the time when native people saw these sort of things and believed with every inch of their heart that it was a sign from the spirits. Although we know today that genetics can explain this, most people who experience such breathtaking and rare a sight will feel that perhaps there is something more powerful and significant behind it. Maybe there is.

Cristina, I believe it is a sign, as well as a genetic mutation. If you haven't read the Turkey Vulture chapter of my book, The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds, you're in for a treat. I do love straddling the camps between science and mysticism, natural history and poetry. Couldn't live anywhere else.

This was probably your gift for spending all that crazy time wrangling with that ornery greenhouse!

Hi Julie
Wow, what a fun find you shared.
Sue Plankis
in Lakeville, MN

Oh My Goodness!
Some spirit tells me to "take the camera" on a regular basis, too. I always listen.

Thank you for taking the time and effort to share this. Awesome!

Oh, that bird! Glorious!

Spotted a all white red tail just outside of woodsfield ohio on 7-19-13.was setting in a tree by a stream stopped to look watched it for a lil bit and it flew away got to see it real good and no question that is what it is.Talked about it and others have seen it too.Amazing!!!

Posted by Anonymous July 21, 2013 at 7:11 AM
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