Odd Spoonbill near Bermagui, Far South Coast NSW

To: Birding-Aus <>
Subject: Odd Spoonbill near Bermagui, Far South Coast NSW
From: "David Adams" <>
Date: Thu, 31 Jan 2008 09:56:17 +1100
My wife and I took our scope down to the Long Swamp, a local wetland,
yesterday to have a look yesterday and were excited to spot a
Yellow-billed Spoonbill. We've always got some Royals within a few km.
of here at any given time but only see Yellow-bills rarely near here.
Upon closer inspection, the bird seems to be either a partially-albino
immature Royal Spoonbill or an odd immature Yellow-bill. Does anyone
know anything regarding albinism in Royal Spoonbills, Yellow-bills
with black wing-tips or hybridization of the two?

For reference, here's a description of the bird, which we revisited
today. The bird was always seen in good light and from relatively
close in yesterday. (This location has a decent blind.)

* It's part of a group of thirteen spoonbills, the other dozen of
which are obviously Royals. The other birds don't shun this bird but
they aren't as 'friendly' with it as with each other. (We've got a
fairly albino Black Swan in the area and it's always left pretty much
on its own by the rest of the swans.) Several of the Royals are
immatures and spent a great deal of time yesterday chasing each other,
playing tug-of-war with sticks, and generally interacting. The
odd-bird-out isn't included in these activities but he is tolerated
feeding right in the group.

* The odd individual has black wingtips, which is a feature of
immature Royals exclusively, as far as I can sort out. We both saw
this feature clearly and repeatedly yesterday.

* The bill color on this bird is a very pale
yellow/cream/pink...fairly close to the color of a Pelican's bill but
more yellow/less pink than a Pelican.

* The legs are roughly the same pale color as the bill with slightly
darker knees.

* There are _no_ facial markings visible of any kind. We've looked
repeatedly under high magnification and just can't see anything at
all. If it weren't for the black wing-tips, this bird would look a lot
like an immature yellow-billed spoonbill, based on what I see in
Pizzey & Knight. Do Yellow-bills ever have black wing-tips?

* The bill shape looks like a 'spatula' or 'spoon', like a Royal.
According to my compact Morcombe, the bill shapes of the Royal and
Yellow-billed are distinctively different. I don't see yellows often
enough to remember. Pizzey and any number of on-line photos don't show
the bill shapes being dramatically different between the two species.

My long-lensed camera is out of commission and my old small camera
didn't give me anything useful in the way of digiscoping shots.

Any suggestions on how to sort out if this is a very weird immature
Royal (right wing-tips, wrong bill/leg color) or a slightly weird
immature Yellow-bill (black wing-tips, with a group of Royals, not
nearly so common in this area)?

 David Adams
 Wallaga Lake 2546 NSW
  0400 359 110

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