Wildlife heroes that become our favourites

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Sylvia Beaumont sends this picture of a strange bird for identification. It is a very handsome and partially-albino jackdaw! writes George Hogg (Hogg Estate Services).

Sylvia is a volunteer with East Lothian Council Rangers who keeps an eye on the Exmoor ponies which are kept at North Berwick Law to keep rank grasses under control and allow wild flowers to multiply. I have no doubt she will see the jackdaw again as the species tend to be fairly sedentary.

Another remarkable fact about the jackdaw is that it is reckoned to be perhaps our most faithful British bird, generally keeping the same mate for life.

Albinism is just one of several conditions to cause colour abberations in birds and other animals.

Another common condition is melanism which produces excess black colour as is often seen in pheasants and rabbits.

Blackbirds and carrion crows are possibly our most often seen albino and partially-albino birds, while grey squirrels are maybe our most likely albino mammal.

My colleague Scott currently has a part-albino sparrow visiting his garden.

In the past such individuals were much sought after as pets and are the origins of many of our many colour varieties of smallstock.

This is the case with domestic pigeons whose great variety of patterns and colours owe their origins to mis-marked individuals which were used to breed and create new varieties

There is the possibility that conspicuously marked creatures will be more vulnerable to being predated.

This may be true but there are also many instances of well-known individuals leading long lives and breeding successfully.

Whatever the species these individuals tend to become local heroes and great favourites among folk who come to know them through regular sightings.