'That's unbelievable!' - Rare white tūī appears during Seven Sharp story on sighting

An extremely rare white tūī has been photographed within sight of Wellington's CBD.

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Sean Gillespie lucked out while wandering around on Mt Victoria one day. Source: 1 NEWS

Local photographer Sean Gillespie lucked out when he was wandering around Mt Victoria the other day and happened to catch it on camera.

“It was in the middle of a bush and I noticed it because it just looked weird,” Gillespie said.

“As soon it came into view I saw the tuft and realised it's a tūī . A white tūī - a ghostly tūī anyway.

In an extraordinary turn of events, the same tūī was spotted by Seven Sharp cameras while filming a story on the sighting today.

“That's unbelievable. It seems like a set up but there's no way to set this up. It's just right there,” reporter Julian Lee exclaimed.

“That was pretty cool.”

After the sighting of a white tūī last year, Te Papa's curator of vertebrates, Colin Miskelly, told 1 NEWS the birds have a condition called leucism, which is sometimes confused for albinism.

A leucistic tui with almost totally white plumage photographed in forestry near Taumarunui in 2017. Source: Supplied/Simon Rapley

In leucism, birds can have unusually coloured plumage, with either patches or areas of white feathers, or total white colouration. Their eyes remain dark coloured.

In albinism, the bird is totally white, with pink eyes being the giveaway between the two conditions.

"Causes of aberrant plumage in birds are complex and may be due to genetic, developmental or environmental factors or a combination of these," he said.

Source: Guy Vickers

"The New Zealand species for which partial or complete leucism is most often reported in is the blackbird, but there are many reports for tūī, kererū, fantail, variable oystercatcher, red-billed gull and Australian magpie among others."

Miskelly said a handful of unusually coloured tūī get reported to the museum each year.

According to the British Trust for Ornithology, leucism is inherited from the parent bird, but the gene can be also be recessive and skip generations.