A Grey Magpie?

Article | Updated 3 years ago

Here is a magpie that does not see life in black and white!

Let me introduce to you an inhabitant of the Museum’s garden that is quite unusual: a grey magpie…

Image of a grey magpie with two normal-coloured magpies

The grey magpie with two normal-coloured magpies
Image copyright WA Museum 

This magpie has been living for a while at Welshpool, near the Museum’s main collections and research facility. To find out more about this unusually pale magpie we asked Western Australian Museum Curator of Ornithology Ron Johnstone. 

Mr Johnstone told us that this little fella is in fact a leucistic bird. Leucism results in reduced pigmentation which makes the bird’s plumage more transparent. This genetic phenomenon is really rare: it occurs in less than one bird in six million! And we have one near by the Museum, pretty cool huh?

According to Mr Johnson leucism is more likely to affect birds with black iridescence plumage like wood-swallows, starlings and crows. There are different degrees of leucism and, while some birds may have their plumage turned almost completely white due to an absence of black pigment, others may become just grey and also have patches of the original plumage. Our magpie looks to have a plumage from dark grey to white, passing through different shades of grey.

Unlike albinism, leucism may affect only skin, hair and feathers. As a result eyes of leucistic birds do not appear red-pink coloured as in the case of albino animals.

Image of the leucistic magpie on Museum grounds

The leucistic magpie that lives near by the Museum
Image copyright WA Museum 

Mr Johnstone has early photographs of the bird at nearby Tomato Lake, that were taken five years ago. Thus it would seem that this very cute magpie has put down his bags in the Welshpool area quite a while ago and enjoys living next door to the Museum.

Have you ever seen a leucistic or albino bird like this one? Please send us your photos!