25 October 2007
The above starling image comes from Wild About Britain.
I recently had the luck and great pleasure to see an albino bird. I was going 40 mph at the time so I wasn't in the best situation to view it but as it was moving roughly in the same direction I was I did see it well enough to realize that it was most likely an albino starling. It was flying in a group of birds with the exact same size, shape and flight pattern but it was stark white with no coloration while the other birds were the typically black against the blue sky. I'd never seen an albino bird before and except for the White Squirrels of Marionville, Mo I'd never seen any stark white wild animal before. (For the record, and you'll learn this if you read the above article, there is still some debate about whether or not the Marionville squirrels are really albinos or not. I've seen dozens but never close enough to see their eyes, so I can't call them albinos with any certainty.) At first I couldn't really see it clearly but when it turned slightly in its flight I could see that it was completely white. I couldn't see its eyes so there's a chance it wasn't a true albino but even so, it was a rare and joyous occasion. So I went on a search to learn about albino animals.
Like human albinos albino animals cannot produce pigmentation. While they may sometimes have blue eyes they usually appear as stark white with pink skin and eyes. This pink look is resultant from the blood vessels beneath the skin. Absence of the protective virtues of coloration of the eyes causes albinos to have very poor eyesight and many are completely blind. Their eyes and skin are also extremely sensitive to light and can burn easily. An albino animal in the wild has a lot stacked against them and they usually don't survive long. This is because, as mentioned above, they have poor eyesight, no camouflage and are vulnerable to sunlight. For all of these reasons, and because an albino birth occurs anywhere from 1 in 100,000 births to 1 in 1 million births, it is a very rare thing to actually see an albino animal in the wild.
There is quite a lot of albino animal lore to be found in the world, especially among American Indian traditions. To kill an albino animal was/is a major taboo with serious consequences.
If an albino squirrel were hunted and killed, the hunter would suffer loss of his hunting abilities. If an albino deer were killed (and without remorse) the hunter might later loose his life in a freak accident often involving his hunting or survival skills.
The White Buffalo is probably the most sacred of albino animals in American Indian lore. As a portent of peace and something of a host for the Great Spirit just to look upon the White Buffalo was to gain some of this power.
Among all tribes, the Albino animal had spirit connections, one of the strongest among the Plains tribe was the White Buffalo, a definite omen of great wisdom. The symbolic significance behind white or the quality of "whiteness" was not associated with purity as in Western culture but also wisdom and ancient knowledge of greater conceptual and spiritual magnitude.
The taboo against killing an albino animal is closely related to the fact that an albino animal is easier to kill and it is thus not a fair fight to hunt an albino animal. To learn more about Spirit Animals visit Encyclopedia Mythica.
In Asian society the White Elephant is an omen of good luck and in 2001 was used as a political tool to bolster the regime of Myanmar. This is particularly disgusting given the current situation in Myanmar, also known as Burma.
As for myself, I consider my sighting of an albino bird a portent of good things to come. When I saw it I was driving home from my second visit with two of my most favorite witches. We started a women's group years ago and things didn't work out but we have since rejoined. I feel my albino bird sighting was an encouraging sign from the gods that, this time, we will stick together and learn and grow together for a long time to come.