HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — There is an old saying that states “Birds of a feather flock together.” That is certainly true when these Black-bellied whistling ducks gather in mass for breakfast along a resaca in a Brownsville backyard.
With their coral pink bill, tawny body, and black belly, whistling ducks are strikingly beautiful creatures.
However, if you look closely you will spot a speck of white amidst all the brownish feathers. When the corn and grain gets tossed to the waiting flock, one duck stands out.
This unusual white whistler has only flecks of dark color throughout its mostly white feathering. This rare condition is called leucism (pronounced luke-ism) and is caused by a genetic mutation that prevents dark pigment, particularly melanin, from being properly spread through a bird’s feathers.
Albino birds are distinctly different as they are entirely white with pink eyes and skin.
While Whitey may have different plumage, she or he has plenty of whistler attitude and doesn’t shrink from normal duck squabbling as the pecking order gets sorted out.
There is another different duck that is a regular at this Brownsville breakfast spot. We’ll call him Stumpy, as he navigates the flock with no webbed feet.
When Stumpy was first spotted, his feet were freshly missing, having been torn off by a gator or turtle or perhaps entangled in fishing line. It was doubtful he would survive, but he now appears healed and always gets special attention from the breakfast provider.
There is also a fulvous duck that joins the breakfast bunch, and even with dissimilar plumage seems welcomed by the whistlers.
Sometimes, it seems these different ducks get picked on, or shall we say pecked on, but for the most part they are accepted by the flock, and that is as it should be, after all, they are all ducks.