Re: Pedantry (phase v. morph); and leucism/melanism.

To: "Conole, Lawrie" <>
Subject: Re: Pedantry (phase v. morph); and leucism/melanism.
From: John Penhallurick <>
Date: Fri, 09 Jan 1998 10:37:55 +1100
You are right.  We should be more careful about the terms.  In the case of
the Kestrel, it was just a leucistic individual.  I agree with you that it
is better to talk about grey and white morphs of the Grey Goshawk, in that
"phase" suggests something that will pass with time.

John Penhallurick

At 14:31 8/01/98 +1000, you wrote:
>David Andrew gets to vent his spleen every so often, regarding proper
>use of the English language.  I'd like to inflame a few passions now in
>having a lash at this "phase versus morph" thing.
>A grey phase Nankeen Kestrel is one that presumably will return to
>normal nankeen colouration later on, ie. it's going through a phase.
>However, a grey morph Nankeen Kestrel will presumably retain that
>genetic makeup until death.
>So, if you feel the need to be "nitpickingly" accurate, talk about white
>morph Grey Goshawks, pale morph Little Eagles, black morph White-winged
>Fairy-wrens, etc. - rather than white phase, .... etc.
>That feels better ..
>On the subject of colour in birds, a friend in Geelong had recently been
>observing a strange looking honeyeater in his garden.  One night it had
>found itself confined in the neighbour's greenhouse, so Ira took his
>chance, captured the bird, and rang me.  It turned out to be a New
>Holland Honeyeater, but one considerably lacking in melanin.  The beak
>and legs were horn coloured, the eyes pinkish, most of the plumage a
>washed out pale buff-grey, but the white and yellow feathers quite
>normal.  Is this a "leucistic" bird, or just a "negatively melanistic"
>bird??  ;-)
>Lawrie Conole
>Geelong, Victoria, Australia
Associate Professor John M. Penhallurick<>
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