Meet “Cloud,” a leucistic red-tailed hawk at the Medina Raptor Center in Spencer, Ohio.
Cloud is white because there’s no melanin in his feathers, a recessive trait that expresses when both parents pass it on to their offspring. Cloud is leucistic, not an albino, because he does produce some melanin, shown in his blue eyes (not pink) and yellow legs and cere (not white).
Cloud led a normal life and raised at least one family at a railyard in Ohio until his territorial choice was his undoing. One day he caught prey on the railroad tracks and did not get out of the way when a train approached. The train ran over his wing.
His color saved his life. Because of his beauty he was a favorite with the railyard workers who immediately saw he’d been struck and mobilized volunteers to collect and deliver him to Medina Raptor Center.
Cloud was so badly injured they thought he would die but he fought his way back to health. Unfortunately he will never fly again. Part of his left wing is missing.
However, he’s now an excellent educational ambassador, teaching people about leucism and the lives of red-tailed hawks.
Thanks to Annette Piechowski at Medina Raptor Center for introducing us to Cloud. What a beautiful bird!
p.s. Do you know of any leucistic red-tailed hawks in the wild? I know of one that used to nest on the Hays hillside in Pittsburgh and another near Millers Pond at Pymatuning.
(photos by Kate St. John)
p.p.s. You can sponsor Cloud and the other educational birds at the Medina Raptor Center. Click here to see.