Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The White Pheasant

Every year we notice at least one pure white pheasant living wild. This year it survived the entire shoot season, only to die from natural causes during our recent bout of cold weather. We found it stone dead in a hedge, no marks or injuries on it. Pip is "helping" me inspect the carcase:

CSI: Labrador

Every year we hatch a small percentage of white pheasants and very dark pheasants. The white is a form of albinism. The birds don't necessarily have red eyes; it depends on the genetic origin of the albinism . Unfortunately, the mutation seems to decrease its life expectancy. The dark pheasants' plumage is caused by melanism.

White animals are still seen as an anomaly. On an estate like this one with a healthy population of Fallow deer, we are often stopped and told by someone that he or she has see "The White Deer". White fallow are surprisingly common. It's a coat colour and not a form of albinism. I have seen 5 or so white animals in a single herd of wild Fallow, but I never have the heart to tell the visitor that his sighting was anything less than amazing. Or that we prefer not to shoot the white deer because we use those to help us spot the herds of darker fallow that blend better with their woodland surroundings.


Poppy Cottage said...

You've shattered my illusion, I was dead chuffed to see a white deer, feel a right numpty now!!

Hope all is well with Mike. Send him my best.

C x

megan said...

huh! Maybe that is the origin of the white animal being special - as in, don't shoot it because it shows you where the other animals are evolving into "don't shoot white animals because they are special/rare/scared." Indeed they are, but maybe not for the reasons you think.