Odd Magpie colours explained
We’ve received two queries about strangely coloured Magpies. From Steve Parker in Nuneaton comes a picture of a very pale Magpie with brown accents, while Jane Hambling has sent us a rather more colourful picture from St David’s in Pembrokeshire. Both ask how these birds acquired their rather different plumage. Pink Magpies, while unusual, have been reported before, including a nearly brick-red one in Yorkshire several years back. The usual explanation is that the pink hue is caused by diet, in the same way that flamingos pick up their colouring from the food they eat. This coloration is usually caused by carotenoids transferred to the feather during moulting. But this may not be the whole story. For a start, if this pink colour is diet-related, it begs the question as to why the diet of the pink Magpie is so different from any other local Magpies. Studies of a yellow and black Magpie in Scandinavia showed that the unusual colouring was caused by the bird bathing in a pond containing an iron compound, and we’re of the opinion that this particular bird (and the Yorkshire ones) has been exposed to some sort of chemical staining. Or it be due to a genetic defect. We can be more certain about the pale Magpie – this bird is clearly has a form of schhizochroism which is preventing pigments such as melanin from being deposited in the feathers, which can lead to feather weakness.
Female Kestrel Rook Male Kestrel Schizorchroic Magpie Pink Magpie