I like snow, and not just because I love snow for Christmas and New Year's (which I do).

I like snow, and not just because I love snow for Christmas and New Year's (which I do).

No, snow provides some protective cover for a house finch that is a little different. This finch recently showed up at the bird feeders at Deer Haven Preserve and immediately caught everyone's eye. Most of its feathers are white - a contrast from the usual red and brown coloration - although its wings and tail include some brown.

This finch is leucistic, which means it has reduced pigmentation. It is not an albino (albinistic) bird; those birds are pure white with pink eyes, beaks and feet. Here's an interesting fact: Albinistic birds have pink eyes because without melanin in the body, the only color in the eyes comes from the blood vessels behind the eyes.

Leucism is unusual in birds. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, fewer than 1,000 leucistic birds were reported between 2000 and 2006, out of the 5.5-million birds spotted during Operation Feeder Watch each year.

I headed over to Deer Haven Preserve recently, hoping to see our little white house finch for myself, and went for a walk along the Bent Tree Ridge Trail.

It was one of those drab days in the woods, when the leaves are gone and there was no snow - leaving only the taupes and grays of an Ohio winter landscape.

I could hear birds (the blue jays were making quite a racket, as is not unusual), but I didn't see much. The common finches and sparrows blended in quite well with the dull colors in the woods, so even when I could hear birds, they successfully stayed out of sight.

They would show up much better against snow, which reminded me that our little white bird is at greater risk than its conventional cousins.

I keep thinking of hawks circling around - looking for lunch. What would stand out to their sharp eyes? Not the little drab birds on brown branches. No, our white finch might as well be a sitting duck. I understand that predator and prey are part of the "circle of life," but really, I'd like this special little bird to be spared.

I didn't see the finch that day, but did see it at the feeders a few days later. I hope he (or she - it's hard to tell the gender without feather markings!) is watching out for predators, while waiting for a good snowfall.

A visitor to the park took some great photos of our leucistic house finch; one is posted on our Web site, with the Fun Fact.

On another note, Preservation Parks has borrowed a "traveling kiosk," showcasing birds, mammals, amphibians and insects. The kiosk is installed at Deer Haven Preserve, 4183 Liberty Road, and will be there at least through January.

Using a touch screen, you can take a look at various species, listen to their calls, and view their ranges during winter, summer and migration. It's a fun learning tool for kids and adults.

We're trying it out, with the idea of having a custom animal identification kiosk made for the Park District, if there is public interest and, of course, available funds.

The permanent kiosk would help you know where in our park system certain birds and other wildlife most likely would be spotted, and help you identify species that you see and hear.

You can visit Deer Haven Preserve, and all the parks in Preservation Parks, every day until dark. The Lodge at Deer Haven is open noon-5 p.m. daily, and the Mary Barber McCoy Nature Center at Hogback Ridge Preserve is open 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Friday, and noon-5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.

Call 740-524-8600 or visit www.preservationparks.com for information about park locations and features, programs and special events, information on holiday hours and more.


Sue Hagan is marketing and communications manager for Preservation Parks of Delaware County.