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Rare white swallow was big surprise at Ballineen picnic

August 2nd, 2022 10:30 PM

By Siobhan Cronin

The white swallow which was captured on camera by Paudie Lee near Ballineen.

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AN amateur photographer with a keen interest in nature captured a pretty rare bird on his camera in West Cork last week.

Paudie Lee from Killeagh was delighted to spot the rare white swallow while picnicking near Ballineen Bridge.

Paudie, who was accompanied by his partner Deirdre Threadgold, was thrilled to see the bird, which is a very rare sighting.

In 2015, the BBC reported a sighting of an almost-white swallow in Gloucestershire but said it wasn’t classed as ‘albino’ because it had some melanin pigment. Another white-ish swallow was spotted in Clonakilty in 2018, but it had even less white plumage than the 2015 sighting.

But all-white swallows are certainly very rare indeed.

Ricky Whelan of Birdwatch Ireland told Paudie that the swallow was a ‘leucistic’ bird (a bird lacking melanin pigment). ‘You do get albino ones from time to time, but they rarely survive beyond fledging due to having such poor eyesight,’ he said. ‘Leucistic swallows show up from time to time. It’s rare but not unheard of. These mutations show up in common birds due to the sheer number of chicks produced annually … it’s just the law of averages. You see it often in crows and blackbirds also.’

He added: ‘They are fully healthy but likely stand out more to would-be predators which can shorten their lifespan. They also tend to have trouble finding a mate and they can be treated differently even by other swallows. Regardless, it’s an oddity and great to have the photo evidence.’

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