Topic : Rare Birds
Article 44 20 February 2008
Leucistc Bronze-winged Courser at Bivane Dam, Vryheid, Zululand
On a visit to the Bivane Dam 40km east of Vryheid on the 28th December 2006, Linda and I flushed a single, very pale Bronze-winged Courser Rhinoptilus chalcopterus from the track leading to the old Blondin crane site just above the dam wall. The dam is reached via a 12km long maintained dirt road leading off from the tar R69 Vryheid/Louwsburg road, turning north just after the village of Coronation. The dam is the largest privately owned one in the southern hemisphere, and the surrounding area is protected.
The pale courser was alone and unafraid, allowing for reasonable photographs of the bird whist on foot. It was found in amongst rocky, lightly wooded grassland and once flushed it settled in a recently burnt patch, hence the resulting green and black backgrounds in the photographs. Most of the bird’s plumage was a pale cream colour, with whiter blotches scattered throughout. The wings were very white. The distinctive chest-band and head stripe were noticeably paler, but still evident. The bold facial markings of a typical adult were very diluted, but the white throat and ear-patch were still visible.
The bird was displaying what is presumed to be leucism, or partial lack of the pigment melanin. Albino birds show no pigment whatsoever, and this individual certainly was not all white. It also lacked the pinkish appearance of the eyes and bare skin displayed by albinistic birds. On researching this phenomenon, I could find no reference of leucism in this species, and this may well be the first documented occurrence of this mutation in Rhinoptilus chalcopterus.
The bird remained in the area when we passed by later that day, but was not seen again and its fate is not known. It was certainly an unusual specimen for Linda to tick as a lifer!