Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Journalism First for Jim

June 18, 1966 - Worthington Daily Globe

Another frame of the albino robin

In the summer of 1966 Jim (at age 20) worked at the Worthington Daily Globe as a photographer and route driver delivering bundles of newspapers to the carriers in surrounding communities. The above newspaper on June 18, 1966 was his first front page feature where he made the photograph and wrote the accompanying story.

*On a sad personal note, the article featured just below the albino robin story is about a 12-year-old girl that was killed in an automobile accident the day before. The little girl was Jim's cousin, Jackie Aanenson.


The photo caption in newspaper read:
A nest of May-hatched robins, at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Chris Heppler of Harris, Iowa, had one unusual occupant--a pure albino. It is pictured here just as it leaves the nest with a mate to try its new white feathers for the first time. The Hepplers found the unusual bird dead of causes two days after this picture was taken. (Daily Globe color photo by Jim Brandenburg)

The accompanying text:
Rare Albino Robin is Hatched In Nest in Nearby Harris
By JIM BRANDENBURG Globe Staff Writer

One of nature's rarest phenomena, albinism, has shown up in the small northwest Iowa community of Harris. Four young robins occupied a nest this spring at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Chris Heppler. All of the young robins, born in May, were normal except one, a pure albino.

The mother robin accepted the strange looking youngster, and gave it the same care and attention as the normal ones. Despite all of this care, the young albino died two days after picture above was taken.

The Hepplers observed the family of birds from the time the nest was built until the youngsters left the nest. They noted that the albino was the last to be hatched. For this reason the albino was the weakest of the four fledglings and probably accounted for its early death.

The nest was constructed near the kitchen window in a nesting box built by Mr. Heppler. The Hepplers, without the robins seeing them, could watch every activity of the unusual family.

Although albinism is more frequent in the robin than in other species, the odds against such a happening still run high. One albino in 100,000 birds is expected, but in the robin one may find one in 60,000. With these odds, very few people are fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of one of these freaks of nature in the wild state.

An albino's life is doomed.

Many dangers await the unsuspecting animal and its chances for survival are almost as high as are the chances for albinism to occur. With the animal’s natural coat, it blends into its surroundings and is hidden from its natural enemies. But in the case of the albino, there is such a marked difference in the animal to its cover that any predator has an easy job spotting it. Likewise, the albino has a disadvantage in seeing the oncoming danger due to the characteristic poorer eyesight of the individual.

One advantage the albino animal does have is in winter. With the ground completely white, it blends in perfectly. But with the migrational habits of the robin, only rarely would it find itself in such a situation.

Man could have been the robin's worst danger. With such a rare occurrence and such striking plumage the bird would have been a much sought after specimen in the eyes of the collector. News of an albino travels fast and interested people would soon be hunting for it.

Even with all the efforts of the Hepplers to give the rare robin a start by guarding the nest from danger, it died of unknown causes soon after leaving the nest. With all the perils in the life of an albino, the young and inexperienced robin would have had a difficult time surviving in the ruthless world of nature.


  1. Holy mack, that is one freaky-looking robin! And what a beautiful picture!

  2. Wonderful. I was delivering the Globe in Luverne at that time, so I guess I helped distribute your work. It's great you kept the paper and have the alternate photo too.


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