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Rare white puffin spotted on Handa Island - Scottish Wildlife Trust

Leucistic puffin on Handa Island © Dora Hamilton
Leucistic puffin on Handa Island © Dora Hamilton

A rare leucistic puffin has been spotted by our rangers on Handa Island Wildlife Reserve off the coast of Sutherland.

In contrast to its more colourful cliff-side neighbours, this young puffin has only a few black feathers and its bill is largely orange. This lack of pigmentation is caused by a genetic condition called leucism.

The puffin was first seen on the island in mid-June by Seabird Fieldworker Dora Hamilton. Its relatively late arrival and behaviour suggests it is a young bird which is not ready to breed.

Handa Ranger Erika Faggiani said: “When you live and work on Handa you are surrounded by amazing wildlife all the time, but this leucistic puffin is one of the most unusual things I’ve seen in my three seasons on the island. This is a very rare sighting. There are only a small number of reports of leucism at seabird colonies around the UK, including one puffin which bred on Handa in 2018 and 2019 which had light brown feathers instead of black. The puffin has only been seen occasionally and it seems to be spending most time in areas where members of the public could not easily spot it, so anyone coming to Handa to see this puffin is likely to be disappointed. But visitors can still look forward to seeing and hearing crowds of seabirds, including puffins, guillemots and razorbills, on the reserve’s tall cliffs.”

Posted on: 01 July 2021

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