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Do White & Albino Macaw Birds Exist?

Oliver Jones

Macaws make up less than 20 of the 350 species of parrot that exist in the world. This limited number of birds does not include any that are naturally white, but birds can have albinism or leucism, both of which can discolor or completely decolor their normal feathers. Although leucism and albinism can lead to similar-looking birds, the two are quite different and they affect animals in different ways. Read on to find out more about these unusual mutations, and to see what other types of white birds do exist.divider-birdcage

About Macaws

Macaws are large birds that are brightly colored and have long tails. They are parrots and are among more than 350 separate species of parrot. They are considered popular pets because they are a decent size, trainable, and they are considered talkers because they can accurately mimic human words.

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White Macaws

Although there are less than 20 species of macaw today, this includes a wide range of different sizes, colors, markings, and other characteristics. Despite their diversity, however, there are no naturally occurring white species of macaw, although macaws can be subject to albinism or leucism, causing a change in color feathers.

Albinism

The color of bird feathers is largely attributed to a combination of carotenoids, which produce bright-colored feathers, and melanins, which are responsible for the production of black, gray, and dark colors, as well as orange colors. Albinism is the lack of melanin pigments. This means that the bird does not produce feathers in the colors created by this pigment. They will often be pure white, although they may be yellow or gold because this hue is produced by the carotenoids that the bird does still produce.

Because an albino bird can still produce some colored feathers, the only true test of whether a bird is albino or not is through its eyes. Because there is no melanin in the structure of the eyes, either, they appear bloodshot. Albino macaws will have distinctive red eyes that signify albinism.

Albinism can be a desirable trait in some potential owners. They appreciate the unique look of the white birds with red eyes. In the wild, however, bright white feathers that make you stand out is not considered a positive trait. Albinism also tends to cause poor eyesight, which is obviously detrimental to the survival of wild birds.

Albino birds stand out more than their colored counterparts, and because black does a better job of retaining heat, albino white feathers mean that the bird is afforded less protection against the cold.

Leucism

Leucism is another, albeit less well-known, genetic condition that affects the coloration of birds. Leucism not only affects melanin but also carotenoids, which means that it affects all the possible colors of the bird. However, it does not necessarily mean that all pigments are completely missing. It can lead to muted and lighter colors. They do appear lighter than normal but will not be completely white. They can be very light and may appear white in certain conditions, but this cannot be the case. Leucism also does not cause the red or pink eyes that are present in albino birds.

Although leucism does cause the dulling of color, the birds do retain some color, which means that they are less a target than albino birds. Leucism does not negatively impact eyesight, either, and the feathers should still provide some protection against extreme weather conditions. This means that if you see a light bird in your yard, it is much more likely to be leucistic than albino.

White Parrot Breeds

Umbrella Cockatoo
Image Credit: Nigel Dowsett, Shutterstock

The cockatoo is a large white parrot with a distinctive plume of feathers on its head. While it is not a macaw, it is a large bird that can be capable of mimicking human speech and that shares a lot of other attributes with macaws.

They are referred to as Velcro birds because the cockatoo loves to spend time with its owner and will affix itself to your side once you have bonded. This is ideal if you want a species of bird that makes a good companion, but it also means that a cockatoo can become destructive and depressed if it is left alone too often and for too long.

The size of the bird means that it does need a generously proportioned cage, even though it will need to spend several hours a day outside its cage and in your company.

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Do White and Albino Macaw Birds Exist?

Macaws are some of the largest parrot breeds. They can make good pets and companions because they are friendly and many of them are capable of mimicking human speech patterns. They do require time and they will benefit from being allowed to spend time sat with and interacting with you every day. Although there are different sizes and colors of macaw, none are naturally white.

While leucistic macaws may be lighter than standard, only true albino macaws are completely white: they also have red or pink eyes, and although they would rarely survive in the wild, they can be quite sought after as a pet because of their unique looks.

If you are looking for a naturally white bird, the umbrella cockatoo is a large bird with naturally white feathers. It, too, makes a good pet, but it is not considered suitable for novice parrot owners because it demands a lot of time and attention from its owner or it can become destructive and depressed.


Featured Image Credit: Fotosdelalma, Shutterstock

Oliver Jones

Oliver (Ollie) Jones - A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master's degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.