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The Queer COLORED birds

What are the colors you think about when you hear the words queer colored birds? Maybe purple, pink, or even rainbow colors? Well there are birds that are naturally colored like that. The Lilac-crowned Amazon Parrot, native to Brazil, has a purple crown and the Lilac-breasted Roller has a purple colored breast. Purple on birds is most always a lilac color or a paler purple and never a royal purple. Birds that are a royal purple have most likely been dyed. The Pink-headed Fruit Dove, native to Indonesia, has a bright pink head, nape, and breast. As for rainbow colors? Well just look at the Rainbow Lorikeet, native to Australia. A blue head and throat with an orange beak, a yellow nape with a green back, wings and upper tail, a red-orange breast, blue belly, yellow undertail, and yellow-orange underwings coverts.

Left: Rainbow Lorikeet, Middle: Lilac-breasted Roller, Right: Pink-headed Fruit Dove


However there are some birds whose colors are made from an excess amount or not enough melanin. Wait, what's melanin and why is it so important? Melanin is actually in every living thing. It is what colored your eyes, hair, and skin. If you have less melanin then your skin, hair, and eyes will be lighter. If you have more melanin then you will have darker skin, hair, and eyes. There are four different kinds of abnormal colors—albinism, leucism, also spelled as leukism, melanism, and xanthrochoism.

Albinism. Albinism is where a bird is completely white. This occurs when a bird has little to no melanin in it's feathers. So are cockatoos and egrets albinistic? The simple answer is no. The more complex answer is that while cockatoos and egrets are white they aren't albinistic because they aren't lacking melanin. Some birds are white without being albinistic. So is it possible that I could see a albinistic cockatoo or egret? You could but because they are already white it isn't likely that you would see an albinistic cockatoo or egret. So if there are birds that are naturally white how do you tell that the bird is really albinistic? Here's how to tell. White birds, such as a cockatoo or egret, will have black or gray feet and bills with brown colored eyes where as the albinistic bird would have pinkish colored feet and bills with red eyes. Albinism is rare but does occasionally occur especially in thrushes.

Leucism or leukism. Leukism is very similar to albinism however the bird is not completely white. Leukism can occur when there is little or no melanin in certain feathers or it can occur when a bird loses lots of flight feathers in a fight or other incident and needs to replace the feathers quickly. White feathers are easier to make quickly because they aren't hard to replace and don't take as long to make. There are two main kinds of leukism. Pale leukism is when a bird has some feathers that aren't as brightly colored as they should be and nearly white. A bird with pale leukism often looks as if it has been dipped in semi-opaque white paint. The other kind of leukism is called pied leukism. Pied leukism is when birds have single feathers around the body or patches of feathers that are white. Both kinds can occur. Albinism and leukism are similar because both are caused, mostly, by the lacking of melanin but albinism is where the bird is completely white and leukism is where the bird has patches of white.

Melanism. Melanism is when a bird has an excess amount of melanin. This makes a bird appear almost black or brown. So is a crow or raven melanistic? The simple answer is no. Here's the more complex answer. Crows and ravens are dark birds just like vultures but this doesn't mean they're melanistic. Melanism is caused by the excess of melanin and this is why some birds have darker variants. Some birds are more prone to have melanism. Crows and ravens can be albinistic and leukistic however they are already black and can't be any darker so they most likely will not be melanistic. Birds such as Barn Owls, Ring-necked Pheasants, and penguins are all examples of birds that can be melanistic. Melanism can occur but is not as common as leukism.

Xanthrochromism. Xanthrochromism is when a bird has an abnormal coloration that is not due to diet. Some people could confuse this with the normal and naturally diet caused coloration that House Finches can have when their red head and breast changes to yellow or orange. So what about an oriole or goldfinch are they xanthrochromistic? Nope. They are naturally orange or yellow. Xanthrochromism is a very rare coloration in birds and does not occur often.

Well those are the four different kinds of abnormal colors. Now that you know them maybe you will see them out in the field.

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