Birds: Downy Woodpecker with Yellow feathers

posted in: Birds | 3

On May 25, 2024 we had a pair of downy woodpeckers at the peanut feeder with yellowish feathers.

a downy woodpecker with yellow tinges at

The first photos taken about 11 am by my husband show a male downy woodpecker. I didn’t see the bird at this time.

a downy woodpecker with yellow tinges at

After lots and lots of photos were taken, the research began.

a downy woodpecker with yellow tinges at

Numerous bird books were pulled from the bookshelf (who knew we had so many), lots of searching on Google for information, and posting to some social media sites. All in the hopes of finding some explanation.

a downy woodpecker with yellow tinges at

The next photos were taken about 4 pm of the female downy. I was taking photos from one angle with one camera and my husband was taking photos with a different camera from another angle.

a downy woodpecker with yellow tinges at

Someone from a bird group mentioned xanthochromism or xanthochroism.

Xanthochromism is a pigment disorder, such as albinism/leucistic (lack of pigment) and melanism (excess pigment). In xanthochromistic birds, either there is excessive yellow pigment in the feathers or yellow replaces a colour, usually red. Hm-m-m-m

a downy woodpecker with yellow tinges at

Xanthochromism can be caused by a genetic variation or by diet and it replaces normal colour with yellow. Do birds outgrow this mutation?

Someone thought it might be a yellow bellied sapsucker, but they have a lot of red on their head and on their throat. Similar, but not the birds we had seen, they were definitely downy woodpeckers.

a downy woodpecker with yellow tinges at

Another term mentioned was carotenism. This is an environmental or genetic disorder, which affects the normal showing of carotenoid pigments (red, yellow, and orange) A lack of carotenoid containing food can result in this. Hm-m-m-m

We feel it definitely has to do with diet. I wonder what it is they are eating that causes the yellow on the feathers? any insights?

Have you ever seen a bird with xanthochromism?

Perhaps some visitors from Saturday’s Critters have seen a downy with yellow feathers.

more birds in the garden

Unusual bird visitors:

3 Responses

  1. Crafty

    It seems comments were turned off. I wondered why there was no one commenting. Hopefully it is all fixed now, it is amazing what a little check mark in the right place will do. ✔️

  2. Eileen

    Hello Linda,
    I am glad you fixed the comment issue. The woodpeckers are another one of my favorite birds. I have to say I have never noticed the yellow color on the Downy Woodies here. I agree it could be the food source having an affect on it’s feathers. Thank so much for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, have a great day and happy week ahead.

  3. Lavender Dreams

    How interesting! I’ve never seen anything like this with the Downy. But in the Spring a lot of birds here have mating colors. What neat photos you got!

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