Rare white magpie colony discovered in Perth
A growing population of white magpies has been documented by a Perth photographer.
West Australia man Harry Harrison had been regularly photographing one white magpie last year at an undisclosed location, but when he returned he found they had multiplied, growing into a small colony.
“My God, it surprised me,” he told Yahoo News Australia.
“I looked at one and thought: That’s not the one I normally take photos of.
“And then all of a sudden there’s another one, and another one.
“I thought: There’s three now.”
Most animals with mutations don't survive
The remarkable creatures are just some of the unusual birds located by bird enthusiast Harry Harrison, across Western Australia's suburbs.
In total, Mr Harrison has photographed three white leucistic magpies, a spotted magpie, and a host of other birds with unusual plumage.
One study suggests just one in 30,000 wild birds are living with either leucism or albinism, making Mr Harrison’s discoveries exciting finds.
While both conditions can be caused by a genetic mutation, leucism can also be triggered by nutritional deficiencies and environmental factors.
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Professor Ary Hoffmann from the University of Melbourne told Yahoo News Australia mutations on the whole are a relatively common occurrence, but they are usually selected against.
“If you're hiding, and you’re a grasshopper, and you're in a green patch, and your mutation turns you orange, you become more visible to the predator, and you're going to die more quickly,” he said.
“So most mutations are actually what we call detrimental.”
“Most of these patients that lead to colour changes, very rapidly selected out of a population.”
Interestingly, Mr Harrison said he finds it easier to spot black and white magpies in a suburban environment, while white individuals are harder to spot.
This could be a reason the rare animals are beginning to flourish.
First white magpie almost dies on Christmas day
Perth’s white magpie colony almost suffered a major blow before it even became established.
One individual was spotted by Mr Harrison looking dehydrated and unwell in December. It was on its own, standing on the ground, and being attacked by other birds in the colony.
“That was on Christmas Day and it was stinking hot and I thought and I can't just leave it,” Mr Harrison said.
“It just looked stuffed.”
Once Mr Harrison had caught the bird and delivered it to Kanyana Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, they found it was sick with throat worm.
A month later, the “patient” was all healed and he was able to return it to the colony.
“It just jumped out of the box, hopped onto my hand and just sat there looking at the other ones as if to say I’m back,” he said.
“I had to push my hand forward to say jump off, and then it swung over to the family and they all took off together.”
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