Re: `black' ibis
Fri, 03 Jul 1998 13:01:52 +1000
I was very interested to hear of a black pelican in Canberra in the
> From: Ian Fraser <>
> Subject: RFI: pigment in birds' bills etc
> This is a rather odd, and doubtless naive enquiry, but it may help to
> resolve a (mildly) raging debate among Canberra birdos at present. As you
> may know if you look at the Hotline Highlights, a black pelican has been
> hanging around Canberra lakes for most of the year. The debate centres
> around whether it is 'naturally' black, or oil-stained. The weight of
> opinion among observers favours the former, but a knowledgable member has
> just tossed in the following plausible argument for the latter.
> He argues that since melanin only replaces other pigment AND A BIRD'S BILL
> CONTAINS NO PIGMENT, the pelican's black bill is evidence of oil staining.
> With that given, he must be right, but is the proviso correct? I find it
> hard to accept that a bird's bill has no pigment, in terms of UV protection
> if nothing else.
I recently saw what appeared to be a `black' white (sacred) ibis
perched on a dead tree in easy view between Jells Park and Shepherds
Bush (south-east of Melbourne). At the time there were numerous
normal white ibis flying overhead. The `black' ibis looked a bit
untidy and I wondered if it had somehow become covered in oil, or
could it have been a melanin problem? It wasn't a glossy ibis or a
straw-necked with extra black! Has anyone else seen this bird?
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