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Been awhile since I did one of these photo challenges, hasn’t it? For some reason, the theme of “One” resonated.

My urban backyard bird feeders are often overrun by House Sparrows, one of the most undesirable species of feeder birds because they’re an “introduced” (invasive) species that crowds out the natives, like Black-capped Chickadees. At the peak of flock size each year, we see up to three dozen House Sparrows at a time, gobbling up all the seeds we put out for less obnoxious birds. This year, we have an anomaly — just one — a leucistic House Sparrow. Leucism is a genetic defect resulting in failure to produce any type of pigment, which is not the same as albinism (albinos are missing only melanin). Technically, our one genetic freak of a House Sparrow is only suffering from hypopigmentation, or partial leucism, but it’s enough to set him apart.

Leucistic Luke will never win a House Sparrow popularity contest because he looks different

Leucistic Luke can’t win a House Sparrow popularity contest. He’s the only one with unusual pigmentation, so he’s been disqualified for being too different.

As you can see, Luke the Leucistic House Sparrow (I believe it’s male based on what markings remain; most of his plumage is bright white) is making off with a beakful of cracked corn. In the highly hierarchical House Sparrow society, leucism permanently places Luke at the bottom of the pecking order: the larger the black bib on a male House Sparrow, the higher his social standing. Although he’s accepted as part of his flock, Luke will be lucky if he ever gets a mate, and he’ll never be the boss bird.

While I’m not particularly keen on this little bugger either, he’s remarkable because he looks so different from his flock. And yet he’s the same as the rest of them — annoying, garrulous, and greedy. Kinda like those of us with mental quirks: a little different from the rest of the flock, but with nearly all the same fundamental needs, desires, ambitions, and abilities.

Here's Luke with some of his flockmates - striking, isn't he?

Here’s Luke with some of his flock – striking, isn’t he? That’s a normal male House Sparrow taking wing at left, and a female perched below.

Be kind to those who are different from you, friends — whether or not they had a choice in it, you can’t presume to know what crosses they may bear as a result of being different.

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