Natalie Aldrich was outside birdwatching and enjoying the outdoors in Upstate New York over the weekend when she spotted something in a tree that seemed a little bit unusual. Unable to make it out, she went in for a closer look.  What was it?

"At first," she said, "I thought it was a clump of snow. But then I got excited when I zoomed in."

What did Aldrich zoom in on while birdwatching in Upstate NY?

It was a Hawk - but this was no ordinary bird of prey.

Seeing a Red-tailed Hawk in New York isn't all that uncommon, and wildlife experts will tell you they can be spotted coast to coast from Mexico up through Canada.

But take another glance at the bird Aldrich spotted, and you don't need to be a wildlife expert to know this was no ordinary hawk.

Photo: Natalie Aldrich
A rare, leucistic Red-tailed Hawk is perched in a tree in St.Lawrence County, New York.


What Aldrich spotted near her home in Canton, NY was something quite rare; a leucistic Red-tailed Hawk.

What is "leucism" and how rare is it in birds?

Leucism is a genetic condition in which parts or all of an animal's body surface lack cells capable of producing any type of pigment.  The result is the "white, pale, or patchy coloration of the skin, hair, feathers, scales or cuticles, but not the eyes."

Leucism is distinguishable from albinism because leucism does not affect the pigment cells in the eyes. This bird did not have pink eyes.

READ: There's a growing herd of very rare, white deer in Upstate New York, and a woman took to social media recently to show off her blessed encounter!

Photo: Natalie Aldrich
Rare, leucistic Red-tale Hawk. Of the millions of Hawks in the country, less than a few hundred have this condition.

According to nature photographer Pat Gaines, a study from Cornell once found that "among 5.5 million birds of different species studied, less than 1,000 were leucistic. The red-tailed hawk population in North America is believed to be around 2 million, meaning only a few hundred might fly with leucism in the continent."

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