Annemaree in Karamea contacted us at WekaWatch with photos of a friendly weka that is turning white. Here is her story…
Here on the West Coast of the south island we are lucky to have plenty of these cheeky birds around – not a day goes by without seeing at least several! With the exceptionally mild winter we had – we even had families of young ones during June and July. But one in particular has been of interest. It was one of this year’s chicks, and started off ‘normal’ with brown and black feathers and dark beak and legs, then one day it looked like it might have had something on its head – on closer inspection it appeared to have a few white feathers on its head – well the photos say the rest .
Its original tail feathers are all gone, and new tail appears to be growing back completely white – “Google” tells me it’s a lack of melanin and not uncommon in birds – but it’s not every day you see an almost white weka and I thought you might be interested. Guessing from the way it’s changing – I wouldn’t be surprised if he/she ends up totally white.
We sent the photos to our DOC advisor Tony Beauchamp whose response is…
White feathers are seen on weka associated with injury of the follicles (after the feathers and underlying structures are damaged?) The white feathers appears to be appearing on head which is moulted at about 120 days and the tail (which should not be replacing unless the feathers have been pulled out in scraps). They may revert to normal colour in a following moult.
[In this bird] the soft parts (bill and legs) are all lacking colour as well.
Weka on the South Island west coast appear to throw white weka every 5 years of so. The genetics behind that has not been investigated
Tony Beauchamp DOC