Partial albinism and natural selection in the hooded crow Corvus corone cornix

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Abstract

We studied the frequency of partial albinism amongst hooded crows in Norway, mostly in a population at Trondheim. A total of 3461 birds were collected from the field. About 5% of fledged young showed albinoid markings on their third right-hand primary; the frequency decreased to 2% among yearling birds and to only 1% among birds that had acquired their adult plumage. No significant difference was found in relation to sex. The partially albinoid birds were typically small-sized, both as regards their bone structure (ulna, tibia, tarsus) and feathers (wing, tail). Their feathers bore more defective markings than those of birds of normal plumage coloration. A study of the plumage of preserved specimens of hooded crows in the collections of Natural History museums in Norway also indicated that a differential mortality takes place in the wild, such albinoid birds disappearing rapidly from the population.

Experimental interchanges of eggs and hatchlings between nests indicated that the occurrence of partial albinism may be related to the feeding conditions during the nestling stage, rather than to any genetical differences. It is not known, however, whether the former was due to starvation, to an unbalanced diet, or to eating poisonous food.

Ancillary