World first: albino kookaburras found

By AAP with AG Staff 6 December 2010
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What are believed to be the world’s first albino blue-winged kookaburras have been found in Queensland.

A CHANCE DISCOVERY AFTER a storm has led to the discovery of what may be the world’s first albino blue-winged kookaburras.

The two siblings are feathering a new nest in Queensland’s far north, where staff at a wildlife sanctuary south of Cairns are caring for what they’ve called “a miracle sent from heaven”. The blue-winged species (Dacelo leachii), found in northern Australia and New Guinea, is less common than the more well-known laughing kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae).

The six-week-old rare birds were blown from their nest during a storm. “We didn’t know that they existed. No one I have spoken to has ever heard of, or seen albino blue-winged kookaburras before,” says Harry Kunz, founder of the Eagles Nest Wildlife Hospital.

“Somebody found them and thought ‘They’re babies, that’s why they’re not coloured yet’, but no, they’re actually albino. They are a miracle … a world first.”

Extraordinarily lucky

The discovery is “very exciting” agrees John Peter, an ornithologist with
conservation group Birds Australia in Melbourne. “I haven’t come across
any other records of albinos in this species,” he told Australian
.  “Albino blue-winged kookaburras are obviously very unusual,
but two together is just remarkable.”

Harry says it was extraordinarily lucky the babies were found before predators got them in the Tablelands forest. “They would never make it in the wild, they have just come out of the nest; snakes or other birds and kookaburras would have killed them because they have no camouflage…We can never release them; they would be dead within a week.”

The birds are being fed mice and chicken by hand and would be taught to hunt their own food at the wildlife sanctuary, Harry says. He plans to hold a competition to name the birds, which people could enter by making a donation to the wildlife hospital.

Albinism is a congenital disorder caused by a lack of melanin pigment in humans and animals.