There he was (she?) hopping around with his head cocked to one side, stopping every few feet to stare into the short grass of my front lawn in the Missouri Ozarks on a late autumn morning. I couldn’t believe my eyes: He was cream colored with a few streaks of light brown here and there on his wing feathers.
I phoned a well-respected local birder with the news. He didn’t take it too well and thought I was mistaking a robin for a mourning dove. He came over later that day and verified the sighting: The white robin was still acting like a robin.
It was the behavior of the bird that caught my eye. If it looks like a robin, if it hops and searches the ground like a robin, if it has the form of a robin, it’s probably a robin –no matter its color.
In the wild, female cardinals don’t look red at all. They are a drab green and brown and don’t reveal the red color of a cardinal until they take flight and flash the underside of their wings. Red-bellied woodpeckers don’t have red bellies and the yellow-bellied sap sucker’s ventral area doesn’t look very yellow to me. Let’s not even talk about a titmouse.
Whether my morning robin was a rare color variation or a true albino, I’ll never know for sure. But, the behavior of my ghost-like morning robin, reminds me that you can’t always judge a book by its cover, nor a bird by its color: By their behaviors, you shall know them.