The Penguin Post has learned that David Stephens, a naturalist aboard Lindblad Expeditions’ National Geographic Explorer ship, photographed this rare white Chinstrap penguin on Monday on Antarctica’s Aitcho Islands.
“At the water’s edge stood a leucistic Chinstrap,” Stephens wrote in the ship’s daily expedition report. “This bird was whitish, but not quite an albino. Instead, it had pigmented eyes and a washed-out version of a Chinstrap’s normal pattern. Many wondered about this unusual bird’s chances of success. While odd coloration may make fishing a bit more difficult, leucistic birds are regularly found breeding normally.” A leucistic bird has reduced pigmention, unlike a bird with albinism, which is a lack of skin pigment. The standard black-and-white coloring found on penguins serves as camouflage that aids the bird in fishing, so it’s unusual to find a penguin without it. “It is a fairly rare phenomenon,” said Dyan deNapoli, a penguin expert and author of “The Great Penguin Rescue,” who added that the rate of leucism in Chinstrap penguins is about 1 in 146,000. “When I was in Antarctica, I never saw one, and I saw a lot of penguins.”