Albinism and melanism in birds

Published on 01 June 1962 in Main articles

T H E STUDY OF heterochtosis or colour variations in the plumage of birds is a subject that the majority of field ornithologists either ignore entirely or regard with only mild curiosity. In the early years of the present century and before that, however, interest was more widespread and a number of very fine skin collections of abnormally coloured birds were built up. Among the most notable were those of C. J. Carroll in Ireland and Joseph Whitaker in Nottinghamshire, and the very large collection of international scope formed by Lord Walter Rothschild at Tring Museum. One of the more recent workers in this country with a deep interest in the subject was the late W. E. Glegg who published a detailed study (Glegg 1931) relating to Essex specimens. Since then there have been few British publications apart from a scattering of isolated records, though a forthcoming paper by Harrison and Harrison (in press) will deal with the possible evolutionary implications of albinism and melanism in birds. On the other hand, a good deal has been published in America, including such valuable papers as those of Lee and Keeler (1951) and Nero (19J4). Colour variations in birds fall into four main groups–albinism, xanthism, erythrism and melanism. The present paper deals only with the first and last of these, though examples of xanthism in Wood Warblers are shown on plates 44 and 4;. As a result of appeals for information on albinism and melanism published in British Birds, Bird Study and

Click here to download the full article.