brown magpies

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: brown magpies
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2008 09:29:54 +0100

Some thirty years ago I wrote a little paper (in Norwegian) on brown Magpies 
(Fauna, Oslo 32, 1979,152-155); a few years later I followed this up with a 
similar short paper in Dutch in De Levende Natuur, after brown magpies also had 
been noticed in the Netherlands This of course were the 'real magpies', Pica 
pica, in the crow family, and not your bell magpies, but I think the phenomenon 
will be the same. At the time I figured out that this colour aberration goes 
under the formidable name of schizochroic non-eumelanism, i.e. loss of one of 
the two melanin pigments that together cause most of the  colouring in black 
birds. And yes, the condition is hereditary, though probably recessive: a 
phenotypically normnal pair produced two brown-and-white and three normal 
coloured young. In these Norwegina browmn magpies the feathering seemed 
unusually loose, and the birds a bit smaller than normal, so they may well be 
at a considerable disadvantage in competition with their normal relatives, so 
that the  colour form remains rare.

        Wim Vader, Tromsø Museum
        9037 Tromsø, Norway

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