Blonde (not albino) Penguin

Last week the Penguin Post reported the discovery of an albino Chinstrap penguin, but we stand corrected.  He’s leucistic—not albino—which means his coloring is muted but he still has pigmented eyes, making camouflage and fishing more difficult. Yet despite these disadvantages, blonde penguins are regularly found breeding normally.Penguins’ black and white coloring is essential to their survival, so exactly why has this blonde penguin survived?

The penguin was spotted at the edge of the South Shetland Islands by tourists and naturalist David Stephens. They were all aboard the National Geographic Journey to Antarctica. Stephens, of the Lindblad Expeditions cruise company, which is running the cruise, wrote on his blog: “Despite colorful variation in facial patterns, all penguins are decked in the standard black and white pattern. This is no accident. Counter-shading camouflage is so necessary to diving birds that all are fundamentally alike. But to our astonishment we found an exception. At the water’s edge stood a leucistic Chinstrap. 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.” The leucistic penguins have a reduced level of pigmentation but still have pigmented eyes, according to National Geographic. Penguins’ countershaded dark and white colors camouflage them from above from predators. Stephens wrote on his blog, “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.”  So good to you luck blonde, have a long, wonderful, waddling life.

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