angels19's picture

black animals and birds

I live in N. Yorks twixt moors and dales and am on one or the other at least once or twice a week, and so see quite a bit of wildlife, Red Kites and the like, but in the last 6 months I have noticed quite a few all black animals and birds, black rabbits, black pheasants being prevalent, is this normal or is this a new phenomenon, the rabbits range from kits up to full grown adults



the naturalist man's picture

Black animals

You can think of black animals as being similar to albinos, just black instead of white. As albinos have a lack of melanin pigment in their skin, fur etc. so black animals have too much and are referred to as melanistic.

It is a genetic 'mutation' in the same way as albinism, therefore, is rare except where melanistic or albino animals get to breed with other similar ones then you can get mini populations.

However, with pheasant they are specifically bred and some estates like them as being something unusual to shoot and others don't. In rabbits they are born all sorts of colours however, the non-camouflaged ones rarely grow to adulthood as they are picked off by predators - "The Rabbit" by Ronald Lockley is an excellent discussion of this phenomenon as he studied the rabbits on Skomer where there were no predators and you got all sorts of colours and patterns.

Graham Banwell

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