Manitoba·Photos

White Canada goose spotted in Winnipeg park

It isn't a snow goose, and it isn't albino, but a Canada goose spotted in Winnipeg last weekend is definitely white.

Goose spotted at John Forsyth Park white due to 'partial loss of pigment,' biologist says

A white, leucistic Canada goose forages in a field with other geese in John Forsyth Park Pond on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015. (Christianne Hacault/Radio-Canada)

It isn't a snow goose, and it isn't albino, but a Canada goose spotted in Winnipeg last weekend is definitely white.

Radio-Canada's Christianne Hacault was in John Forsyth Park last Sunday when she noticed an anomaly in the crowd of geese foraging in a field.

At first glance, it looks like an albino Canada goose; it has the characteristic black head and body shape. But Christian Artuso with Bird Studies Canada says appearances can be deceiving.

"This is a partially leucistic Canada goose — technically not an albino," Artuso says. "They are not common at all but we do see them every once in a while."
The goose got its white plumage as a result of partial leucism, a condition that occurs when an individual is lacking melanin in some of its pigmentation. (Christianne Hacault/Radio-Canada)

Leucism occurs when there is a "partial loss of pigment or loss of some pigments in some body parts," Artuso says. That's why in the goose pictured the honker retains its black neck and head, but its body is white.

In albino individuals, a complete loss of melanin leads to birds that are completely white, lack their normal colours and have red eyes.

As fall migration ramps up, it's a great time for Manitoba birders to head out to places like Fort Whyte Alive and Oak Hammock Park.

"The odds are small," Artuso says, "but you might get lucky" and see one of these genetic rarities in flight.

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