Yesterday, a female house sparrow and a male house finch were having a conversation while perched on a railing that surrounds my urban garden (which is on a rooftop in NYC), as evidenced in the pictures atop this blog entry, where you can see them sharing the railing with my kiwi vines.
Normally the coloration of male house finches is red, and, knowing this, caused the little sparrow to be very concerned as to what caused this particular finch to have a white-colored face and a white head. The sparrow listened very carefully and with great empathy as the house finch confided in the sparrow saying that he had a case of leucism.
Not knowing if I overheard the house finch correctly I queried Joan Morris (with a one of these photos) and she informed me that it appears my white-headed visitor was a leucistic house finch. Curious about the implications for my avian visitor, I looked it up and according to Still Life With Birder, "birds with the condition face special challenges in the wild. Lighter plumage may rob the birds of protective camouflage and make them more vulnerable to predators such as hawks and feral cats. Because plumage colors play an important role in courtship rituals, birds with leucism may be unable to find strong, healthy mates." My aforementioned source also states "Leucism, or leukism, is an abnormal plumage condition caused by a genetic mutation."
I was saddened to learn the consequences that this little creature faced and admired his tenacity. I also identified with his feelings re having a condition as a result of a genetic mutation as I have have a medical condition as a result of a mutation. My condition is a nerve disorder known as Neurofibromatosis Type One (NF-1). In my case, it is the result of a mutation of chromosome seventeen.
I wrote about this in one of my first blog posts,"Tis true my form is something odd..." (that I published in 2010), where I wrote about my having been born with NF-1. In that entry, I discussed how alienated and isolated I had felt having this condition; a condition which caused me to lose occupations at a prominent NYC museum and at a well known college; because people were afraid I was contagious.
Even when I was vacationing in Italy, I was approached regarding this. The instances are always painful and there is nothing I can do about preventing them from occurring; however, I am getting somewhat better in my response to the unpleasant encounters.
In any event, NF-1 is rare as conditions go, and therefore, I was most surprised to have it come up when I attended a Thomas Merton-themed retreat a little over a week ago. The leader of the retreat, Christopher Pramuk, cited Pope Francis's embracing Vinicio Riva (a 53-year-old from Vicenza, Italy who suffers from neurofibromatosis). Riva is afflicted with a severe case of NF-1. Evidently the Pope's embrace of him happened in 2013, but I had never heard of the incident.
I've posted a video (below, from You Tube) featuring the afflicted man, as a way of standing in solidarity with his (and others who have NF), for the cruelty we've had to contend with in having NF-1.
A good number of years ago I wrote a book, An Inside Story, about the inner experience (starting out with a child's perspective) of having this disorder, but have not done much with my endeavor as I've been helping Cam with her book, Words In Our Beak Volume One.
Cam, as readers of her book know, stands in solidarity with members of the avian community; especially those who are dismissed due to their physical appearance. And it appears the sparrow seen in the photographs atop this entry is also concerned for the circumstances of others and does not let their appearances stand in the way of being with them. I truly hope the little leucistic house finch will survive his circumstances and also find a loving mate, for he is very adorable as you can see in the pictures atop this entry as well as in the ones that follow.
If I were a female finch looking to date, I would NOT swipe past this guy if I came across his picture!