Rare 'ghost owl' with white feathers spotted in Britain

An incredibly rare ghostly white "Ino" owl has been spotted in the UK.

The beautiful pure white owl was photographed at a secret location, on private land just outside of Durham City Center.

It is a British species called a Little Owl which has been turned white due to a rare genetic condition known as Ino, which makes it look a bit like an albino.

Photographer Hilary Chambers, a member of the Durham Bird Club, took the extraordinary pictures but was asked to keep the location a secret in a bid to protect the rare bird.

 

 

The 68-year-old originally thought it was an Albino owl or a Leucistic owl but presented her incredible shots to Hein van Grouw, bird curator at The National History Museum, who later confirmed it was actually an Ino bird.

"You learn something every day," Chambers said.

"I am a keen birdwatcher and photographer and have been doing this for about 15 years now.

"I have had some great encounters over the years and you just never know what you are going to see next."

Albinism is a congenital disorder characterised by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the feathers and Leucism is a condition in which there is partial loss of pigmentation in an animal resulting in white, pale, or patchy coloration of the feathers but not the eyes.

Birds known as Ino appear similar to albino birds, but do not suffer the same eyesight problems.

The colour of budgies, for instance, is often changed by a condition caused by the Ino budgerigar mutation, which removes any dark colors in the feathers, skin and eyes of birds.

In his email to Hilary, Hein said: "As the bird is clearly not a juvenile, so in other words; this bird is independent and able to source its own food, it must be an Ino rather than an Albino.

"Albino birds have a very poor eyesight due to the total lack of melanin pigment in their eyes.

In Ino birds there is still a little bit melanin left, in both the eyes and the plumage.

"In the plumage this pale coloured melanin rapidly bleaches further in the sun light and soon the bird appears to be fully white," Hein added.

"The remaining melanin in the eyes, however, is enough to keep a proper eye sight and therefore Ino birds do not have a problem with their vision and often survive very well for a long time.

"I knew about an Ino Long-eared owl who lived for years in a certain area (in the Netherlands) and even reared a nest of youngsters every year."

This story originally appeared in The Sun