18 February 2009


It's been a few years since I've thought of him.

Whitewall: a leucistic male Red-winged Blackbird. He owned the Juanita Bay Park middle boardwalk marsh for a number of springs and summers, protecting his territory from all comers real and imagined.

Turns out he was internationally-known as well. People came from all over to see this little cutie scream his call, and flit from cattail to cattail. Frequently, he would land at velocity, and the cattail (with him riding it) would bow to 15-20 degrees from vertical before eventually reasserting its proper point-to-the-sky posture.

Whitewall's fourth (and unfortunately last) full year at the park started poorly. His presence was noted and photographed for a day or two, then wasn't seen again for almost two months. When he did re-appear, he was missing some tail feathers, but seemed unaffected otherwise. The easy money said he'd survived an encounter with someone who thought he was lunch.

I can't recall, but I don't believe he showed up for his fifth year. If he did, he was not seen for long.

Occasionally, the rangers of the park will hear about a second leucistic Red-winged Blackbird, but to the best of my knowledge Whitewall was one-of-a-kind. We believe he was responsible for a fair number of RWBBs over the years, but none we could positively point to as his, with the characteristic white bum.

1 comment:

Michael Hobbs said...

I was leading a group of 4th or 5th graders at Juanita a few years ago. Initially the kids were very into birding, but during the walk from the bridge to the middle boardwalk, their attention waned.

While passing the cattail marsh on the middle boardwalk, I spotted Whitewall, and got him in the scope. The girls all took a turn looking at this cool bird, but the boys were busy discussing xBox games or somesuch. I finally hit on the magic approach. "Hey boys - come and take a look at this mutant Red-winged Blackbird"

"A MUTANT??? COOL" came their replies, and immediately the boys were pushing each other out of the way in their attempts to get to the scope.

A bird - a word - a herd.