Albino pigeons are extremely rare. Only 1% of pigeons are albino. That’s because albinism is an uncommon genetic mutation that causes a lack of pigmentation. Both parents must carry a recessive gene coded for albinism for a squab (young pigeon) to be born albino.
Research also suggests that many albino animals have difficulty in the wild due to their condition and their whiteness makes them a prime target for predators.
Related Post: Albino Pigeon – Facts, Symbolism, and Worth
What Makes a Pigeon White?
There are 3 causes for all white or partially white pigeons
The cause of albinism is the absence of Tyrosinase in an animal’s pigment cells. Tyrosinase is an enzyme that contains copper and is found in plants and animal tissue. It’s also responsible for the first step in producing melanin, the main pigment that determines the color of skin, feathers and eyes.
Albino pigeons are identified by their all-white appearance. And because they have albinism, they will have red or pinkish eyes and flesh-colored feet, legs and bills due to their lack of pigment.
Leucism is another rare genetic condition that is often confused with albinism. Unlike albinism, which affects all melanin production in an animal’s cells, leucism is the partial loss of types of pigmentation.
The difference can be seen in the eyes. Leucism does not affect pigment cells in the eyes and is a key distinction between leucism and albinism. Blood vessels normally masked by pigment will show through in an albino making their eyes pinkish in color.
Release doves are small domestic pigeons used for public ceremonies such as weddings and funerals. They are selectively bred for their small size and white appearance to be ceremoniously released.
Increased public awareness surrounding animal cruelty is decreasing the demand for release dove services.
Why are Albino Pigeons Rare?
First, a pigeon’s parents must both carry the recessive gene coded for albinism; this is very rare. In the 1% chance this happens, and a squab is born with albinism, they face many obstacles in nature due to their condition.
For example, albino pigeons often have poor eyesight that put them at a disadvantage when hunting for food or avoiding danger.
Their inability to camouflage themselves makes them vulnerable to predators…including humans. Pigeons that suffer from albinism are more at risk to people looking to capitalize on the demand for exotic pets.
Melanin is also an important structural component of feathers. Pigeons with albinism or severe leucism have weaker feathers that wear out quicker. This makes flight more difficult and eliminates some of the bird’s insulation against harsh weather.
And because plumage colors play such an important role in courtship rituals, some albino pigeons are shunned and unable to find strong healthy mates.
Albino pigeons are considered sacred and a symbol of hope in many cultures. Their all-white appearance is beautiful and eye-catching.
By understanding what albinism is and how it affects pigeons, it gives you a better appreciation if you are lucky enough to see one of these rare birds in the wild.