Birds of a feather usually flock together—but not in the case of a rare “white” mutant penguin, spotted in a chinstrap penguin colony in Antarctica. One in a colony of millions—which is why the encounter was nothing short of thrilling.
The “blonde” penguin, seen at the edge of one of the South Shetland Islands (map), “astonished” tourists on a National Geographic Journey to Antarctica cruise.
Although the penguin looks like an albino, the bird actually appears to have isabellinism, said penguin expert P. Dee Boersma of the University of Washington in Seattle.
It’s actually a genetic mutation that dilutes the pigment in penguin feathers. This condition was based on a 2009 study on Isabellinism published in the journal Marine Ornithology. According to the study, this leads to a “uniform lightening” of the dark colors of the bird, which turns into a grayish yellow or pale brown.