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Other colour variants

Leucistic great tit

This great tit has leucism which gives it a 'washed-out' look

Image: Bev Dillon

Leucistic or 'dilute' birds are abnormally pale or washed out, although the normal pattern and colour of the plumage is discernible. This plumage aberration is perhaps more frequent than any except albinism, though still very unusual.

In erythristic birds chestnut-red replaces other forms of melanin. The best known example probably being the rare 'hepatic' phase of the female cuckoo.

Xanthochromism involves the loss of dark pigment and abnormal retention of yellow pigment, and has been recorded in wood warbler and yellow wagtail.

Some birds obtain their red or yellow colour from carotenoids in their diet. Diet deficient in carotenoids can make the bird gradually fade and become white. The flamingo is a good example of this. 

Conversely, a bird that normally has no red pigment, may assume an orange or crimson colour if fed on a diet high in eg yew berries or capsicum.