MECHANIC FALLS – Robins signal spring, but one local bird may be better off in snow.
At least if it wants to hide from the neighborhood cats.
A rare white robin has been spotted in Paris and Mechanic Falls by separate bird lovers. Partially albino, the bird is completely white but it has a robin’s common red breast.
Rita Ross first saw the bird in her Paris backyard in early April. Although it was roaming the yard with other robins, Ross first thought it was a dove. She got a closer look with binoculars.
“Everything about it looked like a robin. Only it was the wrong color,” she said.
Excited, she called Wini Mott, a friend and fellow birder. By the time Mott arrived, the robins had flown to a neighboring ball field.
Ross and Mott stood on a stone wall, trying to take photos. But they were too far away and the birds were too skittish to get close. They called Charlotte La Belle, a neighbor with a more powerful camera.
Like Mott, she rushed over.
“I just started snapping pictures,” La Belle said. “I’ve lived here my whole life and never seen one. I was thinking Is this really a robin?'”
It moved like a robin. It sought worms like a robin. And, to the dismay of Ross, Mott and La Belle, it flew away with the rest of the robins.
It appeared this week in Terry Foster’s backyard in Mechanic Falls.
“It was so beautiful. I couldn’t believe it,” Foster said.
The white robin has shown up each morning for three or four days. Without film in her husband’s camera, she couldn’t get a picture.
She didn’t see the bird Friday because she had a morning errand. She doesn’t plan on missing it today.
“I’m not going out,” she said.
Like other animals, albino birds are rare but not unheard of. Tom Hayward, treasurer of the Stanton Bird Club, remembers hearing about one or two albino birds over the years. He vaguely recalls seeing a white chickadee sometime in the last 25 years.
He’s never seen a white robin.
“It’s a very small percentage,” he said.
Hayward said “quite possibly” the bird seen in Paris is the same one seen in Mechanic Falls.
“It’s so unusual, I’m thinking it probably is the same bird,” he said. The bird’s “unusual color could be a disadvantage” to mating so it could be that “it’s single and wouldn’t be attached to a nesting area and could move around like that.”
Also, he said, to have one albino robin in an area the sizes of Paris to Mechanic Falls would be unusual, but to have two would be even more so, leading him to think there is just one, he said.
For robins, white feathers make them easier to spot when all they want to do is hide.
But to area bird lovers, white is beautiful.
“I go by the field every day watching,” Mott said. “I think it was one of those special things of nature this year.”