Manu pango / leucistic blackbird

Production date
Hamilton solicitor Arthur Henry Swarbrick donated this specimen to the Museum Society in 1967. Swarbrick believed the bird had been shot in the vicinity of Harwood Street, Hamilton, around 1935.

Although it looks to be all white, the adult female bird is in fact a blackbird and was initially classified as an albino. Full-grown albinos are particularly rare in the avian world as birds with the genetic defect lack the enzyme responsible for producing melanin and would be unlikely to survive long after fledging. Their eyesight would be poor, due to the eyes lacking a protective layer of pigment, making them light-sensitive and affecting their feeding.

In recent years, curators have come to believe the specimen is more likely a leucistic bird, able to produce melanin but unable to deposit this pigment into its feathers. Leucism is the result of something going awry in the development of the pigment-containing cells themselves. The aberration in plumage varies, depending on whether the inherited mutation shows up in the early stages of cell differentiation or during cell movement to particular regions of the body. The bird has an entire body of white feathers, except for a hint of light brown in a left wing feather.

Mr Swarbrick likely came across this unusual bird and a number of quant historical objects that were part of the Swarbrick family home in Boundary Road, Hamilton, following his mother's death.
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Object detail

Production date
Albino back bird, white feathers
Case size: 340 x 250 x 145 mm incl. base - Verified
Department collection type
Credit line
Collection of Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato
Accession number


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