Re: `black' ibis

Subject: Re: `black' ibis
Date: 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? 

Merrilyn Serong

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