A grey squirrel – or even a red – scampering around the garden is an familiar sight for many Scots.
But now some householders have been given an extremely rare treat after the arrival of not just one but an entire family of pure white squirrels.
According to wildlife experts the odds against a pure white squirrel being born are just one in 100,000.
With a squirrel population of more than 2.5 million in the UK, that suggests there may be only around 25 white ones around. So residents in Edinburgh’s Barnton area were surprised to see four rummaging for food and chasing each other in their gardens.
Although albinos are thought to suffer from problems with their sight and hearing, the mother and her offspring appear to have no problem mingling with their grey cousins.
And while they stand out clearly against their green surroundings, they have so far evaded neighbourhood cats and other predators.
Lorraine Hunter, 59, said: “We’ve lived here for 24 years and first saw a white squirrel a few years ago – I didn’t even know they existed. Now our female has had babies, they’re very cute.
“They’re so rare we actually feel very lucky to have them. The most I’ve had in the garden is four at once, but usually I see one or two.
“Albinos are supposed to have poor eyesight but these ones see me from a distance – and they see the cat from a distance too.”
Another resident who has fed the rare white squirrels in his garden added: “There was a pair of white squirrels, and then one day we saw a baby one. Then there were two babies.
“I’d never even seen one white squirrel before. Now there are at least four different ones. They come in to our garden on a daily basis for snacks.
“Greys are supposed to be pests, but there’s something about these little white ones. With all the disadvantages they are supposed to have, they deserve a little help.”
Pure white squirrels are either albinos, distinguished by their pinky red eyes, or born with leucism, which is a rare white fur colouration as a result of a mutated gene.
Both types form a very exclusive club, however.
Scottish SPCA National Wildlife Rescue Centre manager Colin Seddon said: “Albino grey squirrels are rare, largely because their colour makes them more visible to predators such as birds of prey and domestic cats.
“We have only ever heard of members of the public in parts of southern England seeing several at a time. It’s possible if there are one or two albino grey squirrels in the area there may be others nearby.”
A spokesman for the Woodland Trust said: “It is extremely rare to see one albino squirrel let alone four, so this Edinburgh family is unique indeed.
“They will unfortunately be a very big target for predators because they are extremely easy to see and their best hope is that we get a white Christmas.”