A magpie with a rare mutation that makes it light-coloured has been seen in southwest Calgary and is one of only a few living in the province.

The rare bird was kind enough to hang around CTV’s office until we could get a picture of it. It’s a magpie, but without the sharp black and white plumage normally seen on the birds. Instead, it’s white and light brown because it has leucism.

“It’s different than albinism,” said Barbara Kowalzik, City of Calgary Parks. “An albino bird you would see would have the pink eyes, the complete lack of pigment, and the magpies you are seeing, they do have a bit of that melanin, that darker pigment.”

It’s a rare trait, but one that has been seen in many other animals, including white lions, turtles, giraffes and more. It can express itself as a spotty appearance or an overall lighter colour, but it’s not necessarily a good trait to have in the wild.

“It’s not an advantageous trait for a black bird to have bright white feathers, it makes them much more conspicuous,” she said. “It opens it up to being predated upon, so obviously these birds are not passing on their genetics as often as a bird not having this condition.

As mentioned, the birds are rare, with experts at the Royal Alberta Museum saying there are less than a dozen in the whole province.