I was sorting through a large mixed flock of Brown-headed Cowbirds and European Starlings at Fort Tilden on Friday morning when Isaac Grant, the intrepid Staten Island birder, showed up and asked if I had seen the white one. I had no idea what he was talking about and told him so and he then showed me a couple of distant pictures he had gotten of a white Brown-headed Cowbird. He had seen the bird a couple of minutes earlier but then a Merlin had come past and he lost the white bird in the frantic flock. It was a pretty cool looking bird.

We birded together for awhile and then parted ways, promising to let each other know if either of us found anything good. Alas, the only thing either of us found worth making a call about was the white cowbird, which I refound in one of the huge flocks of cowbirds and starlings that have been roaming around Fort Tilden. Yippee! The best bird I could find was a common – and oft-hated – species with weird plumage.

Nonetheless it was cool to see this leucistic bird.

Brown-headed Cowbird leucistic

white Brown-headed Cowbird 

This is not a terribly uncommon thing to happen to cowbirds. Or, maybe, there are so many cowbirds out there that it is bound to happen to some? I don’t know. What I do know is that a Google image search for “leucistic Brown-headed Cowbird” turns up quite a bunch of results. This individual, however, is more attractive than most.

Brown-headed Cowbird leucistic 2

I only managed a few shots before the flock took off and wheeled around for awhile. Though I looked, I could not refind the bird. It’s odd that a white bird could disappear in a flock of black birds so easily, but try as I might I could not pick it out again. Maybe it is a ghost?

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy, their son, Desmond Shearwater, and their indoor cat, B.B. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.