“Very Rare” White Bald Eagle Spotted In Oklahoma

“Oklahoma seems to be a great place to spend the winter—especially if you're an eagle.”

White Bald Eagle

Justin Briley

Now here’s something you don’t see every day!

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) recently shared footage of a supremely rare white bald eagle. The now-viral video, taken by college student Justin Briley, shows a leucistic eagle sitting in a tree in an unspecified location. 

“Oklahoma seems to be a great place to spend the winter—especially if you're an eagle,” the agency wrote on Facebook. “This white bald eagle was spotted by Justin Briley who kindly shared this footage with ODWC biologists. While there isn't any way to confirm that this is the same one seen repeatedly along the Illinois River last year, leucistic eagles are VERY rare, and a treat to see in outdoor Oklahoma!” 

Bald eagles are usually brown in color with a white head. This eagle's white color is caused by a genetic condition called leucism, which prevents pigments reaching the eagle's feathers, ODWC explained in a tweet

This reduced pigmentation is different from albinism which causes a complete loss of pigment and red or pink eyes. Unlike albino animals, the eyes of leucistic animals remain dark.

ODWC biologists believe this particular leucistic eagle may have been sighted before: first in 2021 along the Illinois River, and then again this past February in Vian, Oklahoma, near Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge. There is no way to confirm whether or not it’s the same bird, but considering the rarity of leucistic eagles, it seems like a safe bet. 

Briley told USA Today that he noticed the bird dining on an armadillo carcass alongside some turkey vultures and grabbed his phone to take a few photos. 

“At first I thought it was an albino turkey vulture,” he recalled to the outlet. “When I was looking at the pictures, I zoomed in on them and I could see its distinct white head and yellow beak.” 

Briley said he has no plans to disclose the location of the eagle to the public. By doing so, he hopes to protect the extraordinary bird from being crowded by people, which is what happened the last time there was a sighting. 

“With a bird that rare—if everyone knows where it is—it’s going to attract a lot of people,” he said. “...mainly the concern is the safety of the animal.” 

We’re more than happy to marvel at the photos from afar! 

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