AskDefine | Define xanthochroism

The Collaborative Dictionary

Xanthochroism \Xan*thoch"ro*ism\, n. Abnormal coloration of feathers in which yellow replaces the normal color, as in certain parrots. It is commonly due to lack of the dark pigment which with yellow forms green. [Webster 1913 Suppl.]
Xanthochromism (also called xanthochroism or xanthism) is a term that may be applied to birds, fish and other animals whose colouration is unusually yellow through an excess of yellow pigment, or possibly a loss of darker pigments that allows yellow pigment to be unusually dominant. It is often associated with the lack of usual red pigmentation and its replacement with yellow. The cause is usually genetic but may also be caused by diet. A Cornell University survey of unusual-looking birds visiting feeders reported that 4% of such birds were described as xanthochromistic (compared with 76% albinistic).
Birds exhibiting genetic xanthochromism, especially deliberately-bred mutations of several species of parrot in aviculture, are termed ‘lutinos’. Wild birds in which xanthochromism has been recorded include Yellow Wagtail, Wood Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Evening Grosbeak, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Scarlet Tanager, Northern Cardinal, and Crimson-breasted Shrike.


  • Cornell University Project Feeder Watch 2002-2003 Accessed 19 March 2007.
  • Helleiner CW. (1979). Xanthochroism in the Evening Grosbeak. Canadian Field Naturalist 93(1): 66-67.
  • Isted, Deloris. (1985). A xanthochroistic male Purple Finch. Bulletin of the Oklahoma Ornithological Society 18(4): 31.
  • Schnell, Gary D.; & Caldwell, Larry D. (1966). Xanthochroism in a Cape May Warbler. Auk 83: 667-668.
  • Schwartz, F.J. (1978). Xanthochromism in Epinephelus drummondhayi (Pisces: Serranidae) caught off North Carolina. Northeast Gulf Science 2 (1): 62-64.
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