Saturday, February 12, 2011

Just Look at That Pale Tail Feather! We've Got A Marker For Progeny

Photo courtesy of

Now there is the ultimate difference between Pearl the Pale Beauty and Pale Male. Just look at that white tail feather! Or to put it scientifically Pearl is likely a leucistic Red-tailed Hawk or one could say she has the gene for leucisticism.

For those unfamiliar with the phenomenon catch John Blakeman's essay on Marie Winn's blog

Give this gene for leucisticism which Pearl likely has, some thought. Then think about how pale the monarch of Central Park, the redoubtable Pale Male is.

As Pale Male passed his coloring arguably most noticeably to Pale Male Jr. and to the late Tristan, both pale hawks themselves, though as he apparently hasn't got leucisticism, nor do any of the other resident hawks in New York City as far as anyone has observed-- when the eggs hatch this year (fingers crossed, positive thoughts for that outcome) some of those youngsters may carry Pearl's gene for leucisticism themselves.

Though not total proof positive of parentage it's a much closer marker than just very pale coloring, (which eyasses of these too could very likely have), body shape, and behavior which is all we've had so far in attempting to follow Pale Male's genealogical line in Red-tailed Hawks around the city.

And as leucisticism is a peculiar and therefore particularly interesting aberration in Red-tailed Hawks perhaps one of these days we'll get that DNA testing of feathers going for Pale Male's line after all!

I cannot wait for the 2011 hawk season to get into full swing!

Donegal Browne

No comments: