White penguins are rare, and spotting a leucistic Chinstrap penguin is a once-in-a-lifetime event. The nearly-white penguin chick was photographed Monday by David Stephens, a naturalist on the National Geographic Journey to Antarctica expedition.
Located on Antarctica's Aitcho Islands, the rare bird is described by Stephens as "whitish, but not quite albino." Also called albinistic penguins, the leucistic bird has a lower level of pigmentations and differ from albinos because they have pigmented eyes, according to ABC News."... all penguins are decked in the standard black and white pattern. This is no accident. Counter-shading camouflage in so necessary to diving birds that all are fundamentally alike. But to our astonishment we found an exception. (Daily Expedition Reports from National Geographic.)
The leucistic penguin has a washed out look, easily discernible from the black-and-white tuxedos of the traditional Chinstrap penguin, and is considered normal in every other sense of the word. MSNBC reports that penguin expert and author of "The Great Penguin Rescue," Dyan deNapoli, said, "It is a fairly rare phenomenon. When I was in Antarctica, I never saw one, and I saw a lot of penguins." Extremely rare, the rate of leucism in Chinstrap penguins is approximately 1 in 146,000.
David Stephens's voyage is in the middle of its journey, a 14-day excursion to Antarctica. "Expedition photography is a big component of our expeditions," said Patty Disken-Cahill, spokeswoman for Lindblad Expeditions. "The photography that comes out of our ships is pretty spectacular." Lindblad Expeditions is considered an expedition travel company in alliance with National Geographic, according to MSNBC's Travel on Today.