Piebald hummingbird in North Saanich a rare discovery indeed

A rare hummingbird has been spotted in North Saanich.

Jennifer Duncan first noticed the green and white speckled bird at her feeder about 10 days ago.

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“I thought I better get my binoculars so I know I’m seeing right,” she said. “When it flew away and sat in the tree and looked at me, it was just like a white beacon.”

Eric Pittman, who has been lecturing on hummingbirds for five years, identified the bird as a piebald Anna’s hummingbird. The term “piebald” refers to a leucistic abnormality, similar to albinism, which prevents pigment from being properly deposited on a bird’s feathers.

“It’s a very rare condition and it just comes through genetic mutation,” he said, likening the bird to a pinto horse or blue merle dog.

Duncan told him about the bird before a presentation he gave at the Sidney Garden Club. He visited her Saturday and saw for himself.

“This is absolutely the first time I’ve seen one,” said Pittan, who has given talks on hummingbirds at the University of Victoria and the Mary Winspear Centre, and runs the website Hummingbirdsupclose.com. “There are very few pictures of it anywhere. I sent [a photo] off to a few university people and none of them have seen one either. It’s completely rare.”

He said the condition doesn’t affect the bird, aside from giving it a different look — which might be an advantage.

“She really does blend in a lot in some of the sparser bushes,” he said.

Anna’s are one of four species of hummingbirds commonly found on Vancouver Island.

Those interested in learning more about local hummingbirds are invited to a three-hour drop-in event at Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary.

Hummingbird Day will arrive Sunday, March 31, from noon to 3 p.m. Admission is by donation.

Experts will talk about the best ways to attract hummingbirds to your home, and there will be crafts for kids and games of Hummingbird Bingo.

asmart@timescolonist.com

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