'Pretty weird': Rare birds flourishing in Aussie suburbs

·Environment Editor
·2-min read

Rare white kookaburras are thriving in a region south of Sydney, new photographs shared with Yahoo News Australia reveal.

At least two individual birds with the leucistic genetic trait, which affects colour and skin pigmentation, have been documented near Wollongong.

While it’s commonly believed that white coloured animals struggle to survive in the wild, NSW woman Caroline Marasovic said one of the kookaburras has lived in the area for at least four years.

Rare white kookaburras have been photographed south of Sydney. Source: Caroline Marasovic
Rare white kookaburras have been photographed south of Sydney. Source: Caroline Marasovic

“I just remember looking at it and thinking it looks like a kookaburra but that's pretty weird, because I didn't think they came in white,” she said.

“Then over time I started seeing light ones that had a few brown feathers, but also had a lot of white.”

Why white birds could be thriving in Australia's suburbs

This cluster of kookaburras is far from being the only unusual birds spotted around urban areas of Australia.

At least two white kookaburras are thriving in their urban environment. Source: Caroline Marasovic
At least two white kookaburras are thriving in their urban environment. Source: Caroline Marasovic

In April, a man shared a series of images showing white and unusually marked magpies living around Perth’s suburbs.

An albino brush turkey is also frequently photographed as he makes his way around the streets of Noosa, Queensland.

Chair of Ecological Genetics at Melbourne University, Professor Ary Hoffmann, told Yahoo News Australia selection pressures are expected to differ in urban areas, compared to the field.

While white coloured birds would be quickly targeted by predators like wedge-tailed eagles in natural habitat, predators in cities are likely to be less dangerous.

White magpies and a spotted magpie have been photographed in Perth's suburbs. Source: Harry Harrison
White magpies and a spotted magpie have been photographed in Perth's suburbs. Source: Harry Harrison

Urban areas also have more white surfaces, making it easier for light coloured birds to blend into the landscape.

“If you're thinking of where are these things going to pop up in a greater frequency, then certainly, you can imagine that urban areas are where we might expect to see them at a higher frequency,” he said.

Theory emerges concerning white birds in Australia

Professor Hoffmann said there is evidence urban environments can lead to evolutionary changes in some organisms.

The lack of shade and prevalence of concrete often leads to these areas becoming hotter, making white colouring a possible advantage.

Whether or not it is specifically affecting birds is yet to be researched in Australia, however Dr Hoffmann maintains it makes an “interesting hypothesis”.

“That could be quite interesting with respect to watch birds, because we’ve all heard the message about white roofs keeping your house cooler,” he said.

“In a heat sink like an urban area, there might even be an advantage (to being a white bird).”

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