Unusual 'white' magpie snapped at Port Macquarie

Dondingalong local Debbie Day spotted this somewhat rare white magpie near Lighthouse Beach at Port Macquarie recently.

Mrs Day, who enjoys photographing nature, was understandably surprised upon sighting the bird and had to take a closer look to confirm it was in fact a ‘white’ magpie (Cracticus tibicen).

“It was quite amazing, I’m over 50 and I’d never seen one before,” she said.

Bird expert Peter Woods said the ‘white’ magpie is not an albino but more than likely has a condition called leucism, in which there is a deficiency of pigmentation resulting in white, pale, or patchy colouration of the skin, hair, feathers, scales or cuticle, but not the eyes. 

Unlike albinism, it is caused by a reduction in multiple types of pigment, not just melanin.

Due to the lack of melanin production in the retinal pigmented epithelium and iris, albinos typically have red eyes because the underlying blood vessels are visible, in contrast, most leucistic birds have normal eyes.

They also retain areas of normal colouring such as the beak and legs. 

Mr Woods said leucism is a genetic condition, so it’s passed down through the family – meaning where one is found, there is usually at least some of its family members nearby who are also leucistic.

“Magpies are common birds, we see lots of magpies, the white ones are pretty rare but if you keep your eyes open you will see them.

“They are around if you know where to look.”

Thank you to Mrs Day for sending in the photo.

If you have any photographs you would like to share, please email to tom.bushnell@fairfaxmedia.com.au