IMLAY AREA — A harbinger of spring would have likely been missed had there been snow on the ground at Janet Savage's home earlier this month.
The Chic Drive resident was surprised when she caught a glimpse out her window of what turned out to be a "white" robin on April 4th.
"I saw a white thing in the neighbor's yard and thought 'what is it,' and got my binoculars out," Savage says. "I took a look and said 'oh my gosh, it's a white robin.'"
Bright red breast is a giveaway when it comes to identifying this white bird as a robin.
How did she know the species of the bird? Well, the unusual winged creature isn't entirely pale—as it is with all robins, this one has a bright red breast.
Since making the discovery earlier this month, Savage has spotted the bright white bird every single day hanging around a stand of pine trees. Savage believes there may even be another white robin hanging around as well.
"This morning I think I saw another one at the end of the pole barn," she says. "It was fatter and the color is a dirtier white so there may be two of them."
"It's probably a little more common than people think, especially with a partial lack of the color pigmentation," she says.
Rheaume, who lives in Imlay City and serves on the Park Board, says mail carrier Jerry Stryker and fellow board member Paul Walker have both spotted 'white' robins in the city. At the nature center, Rheaume has also identified photos brought in by people seeking information on what they've seen in their own back yards.
Full albinoism in any species is rare, Rheaume adds, and in the animal kingdom any type of albinoism often translates into a shortened life span so repeat sightings aren't likely.
"They usually get picked off by predators because they have no camouflage coloration," she says. "It would be rare for the birds to come back year after year because of mortality."
Mortality also contributes to the lack of numbers of birds with albinoism: Predation lessens the chances that the recessive gene will be passed to a new generation.
Still, there's a chance that the bright white robin in Savage's yard is nesting in the pine trees.
"I see it over there every day, and I'll be curious to see what happens," she says.