Rare all-white bald eagle spotted in Oklahoma by student home for Thanksgiving break

Justin Briley captured photos of the bird using his phone camera and spotting scope.
Justin Briley captured photos of the bird using his phone camera and spotting scope.

An extremely rare white bald eagle was spotted in Oklahoma by a college student returning home for Thanksgiving last week.

Justin Briley said he noticed the bird feasting on an armadillo carcass alongside some turkey vultures and grabbed his phone to nab a few photos.

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

The bird perched itself on a tree after it finished eating. Briley captured more photos and videos of the iconic American bird with his phone using a spotting scope.

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Briley, who said he studies fish, range and wildlife management at Brigham Young University-Idaho, sent the images to a professor, who told him the bald eagle wasn’t albinistic, but leucistic.

Leucism is a genetic condition that prevents pigment from reaching birds’ feathers, causing discoloration, according to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Briley sent the images to ODWC, which shared them on its social media. He told the department exactly where he saw the eagle, but wished to keep it’s exact location a secret to the public.

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The bald eagle picks at a dead armadillo on the morning of Nov. 25.
The bald eagle picks at a dead armadillo on the morning of Nov. 25.

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

The ODWC said it could not confirm whether the eagle was the same bird that was spotted last year along the Illinois River in eastern Oklahoma.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: White bald eagle found in Oklahoma: Rare leucistic bird seen, pictured