As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Rare white penguin on Macquarie Island hopes birds of a different feather still flock together

Updated 17 Jul 2019, 7:29am

A pale king penguin spotted on Macquarie Island might have plenty of picture appeal, but there's some very real consequences to standing out from the crowd.

"One thing is certain — something has gone wrong in its development," said Barbara Wienecke, a senior scientist with the Australian Antarctic Division.

"It's not an albino, because it still has a little bit of colour in the plumage."

Colour aberrations in penguins were rare, Dr Wienecke said, which made them hard to study.

She said the young bird had dark eyes and a black beak and feet, yet would still be more at risk of being killed by a predator.

"Often the light-coloured birds, because they are so different to everybody else, fall victim to predators more easily."

'Altered' pigment process

Chicks start off brown but later turn black; Dr Wienecke said penguins' black colour was due to two types of melanin.

An altered pigment process was likely the cause of the white penguin's condition, she said.

"In all likelihood it will retain a pale colour, and it will be interesting to see whether its belly turns white."

Expeditioners will keep an eye on the chick to see if it makes it through winter.

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