Originally posted 2011.
For the past month or so I have been seeing an unusual, brownish-rust colored bird at my feeder. I’d only been able to view it from a distance or through my window screen, but determined its size and shape was that of an immature grackle and it also appeared to have yellow eyes. In fact, it hangs out with the grackles and is just as aggressive. I emailed an expert at the National Audubon Society about this bird and was told it may indeed be a grackle, but one with leucism – a condition in which a bird’s normal coloring is quite faded or splotchy. A black grackle with leucism would possibly appear rust and could also have splotches on its breast. For more information about these interesting conditions see http://www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/AboutBirdsandFeeding/Albinism_Leucism.htm.
Well, upon closer look this weekend, I determined my mystery bird is not a leucistic grackle, after all. I saw it in flight and noticed it had distinct white bars on its wings and was able to ascertain its splotchy breast was in fact, naturally spotted. In fact, it looked more like a rusty mockingbird upon closer inspection. After searching through my bird book page by page, I finally identified my mystery bird as a Brown Thrasher. I’ve never seen a Brown Thrasher in my area, although North Texas is within its range according to my reference book. Incidentally, it is the state bird of Georgia.
Mystery solved, the topics of leucism and albinism got me to thinking about the birth earlier this year of a white buffalo calf, not far from me, in Greenville, Texas. As you know, some animals are light in color by nature and it isn’t at all unusual they are born white. However, other animal species are very rarely born white. Not all of these rare white animals are considered albinos, however. The little calf born in Greenville is deemed a “non-albino”, as it has brown eyes, a brown nose and a spot on its tail. It is possible its coat may eventually turn brown as it ages. Nonetheless, the birth of a white buffalo is indeed a rare sight, estimated at one in a million or so, and a very sacred one to Native Americans, especially the Lakota Sioux.
To the Lakota, the birth of a white buffalo brings messages of hope, re-birth, harmony, unity and peace. It is a spiritual sign of the eventual return of the White Buffalo Calf Woman, a prophet of supernatural origin that is of great importance to Lakota religion; a prophet who is sometimes compared to the Virgin Mary.
Lightning Medicine Cloud was born on May 12, 2011 on a ranch in Greenville, Texas during a thunderstorm. On June 29th, an official Native American Naming Ceremony was held on the ranch. The ceremony attracted over a thousand attendees and was complete with Native American prayers, songs, dances and pipe smoking in honor of the sacred white calf.
An interesting side note: You may think, as did I, that the white buffalo calf may have to receive extra human attention and protection from other bison and predators since it is indeed quite different in appearance – you know, as in extra protection according to the laws of evolution and the survival of the fittest theories. Not so . . . the others in the herd also sense Lightning Medicine Cloud is special and surround him when there are perceived predators or strangers in the area.
Wow! The herd protects and helps him because he is different!
Couldn’t we all benefit from the valuable messages brought by this Great White Buffalo?
Until next time,