“They sort of did a double take, staring at them, agitated, as if they were thinking, ‘What are they, what’s going on here?’ and I was thinking the same thing,” Ms Winfield said yesterday. “They looked like kookaburras but were covered in beautiful glossy black feathers so I got on the net and it turns out they are kookaburras.” Australian Museum naturalist Martyn Robinson said: “It’s the result of a genetic mutation called hyper-melanism – an excess production of dark pigmentation and a similar, but opposite, mutation to albinism”.
l to r: photo credits – John Grainger, Neal Chandler
“Not a lot is known about them but it appears it might be more common in young kookaburras and that they might change back to almost normal colouration on their first moult.” And that’s where the story of the visitors, who appeared two weeks ago, gets even more strange. “The first black kookaburra was a young one and turned up with two normal-looking ones, then two adult black kookaburras started appearing as well,” Ms Winfield said. “Now the younger black bird is actually getting darker, not lighter, and it only appears and stays with the two older black ones, and we even have a fourth darker kookaburra, but not as dark as the others, turning up too.”
Article below from Townsville Bulletin by Daniel Bateman, 2008
The downside of being dark coloured, unfortunately for the kookaburra, meant it was a`black sheep’ among its flock. “I don’t think it would be an advantage being black,” Ms Wieneke said. It might have trouble finding a mate. “Usually ones that are very different like this don’t do very well.” Queensland Museum bird expert Greg Czechura agreed the kookaburra would be at a disadvantage among the sociable bird species. “In general, they are often rejected because they look different,” Mr Czechura said. “It is one of the odd colour forms and they never really get accepted and they don’t manage to survive.” He said the museum received reports of butcher birds afflicted by albinism near the Mt Gravatt area. “It can be a local thing because the gene has somehow gotten into the local population and pops up more frequently than others,” Mr Czechura said.