The Réunion grey white-eye (Zosterops borbonicus) is a single-island endemic passerine bird that exhibits striking geographically structured melanic polymorphism at a very small spatial scale. We investigated the genetic basis of this color polymorphism by testing whether the melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R), a gene often involved in natural melanic polymorphism in birds, was associated with the observed plumage variation. Although we found three non-synonymous mutations, we detected no association between MC1R variants and color morphs, and the main amino-acid variant found in the Réunion grey white-eye was also present at high frequency in the Mauritius grey white-eye (Zosterops mauritianus), its sister species which shows no melanic polymorphism. In addition, neutrality tests and analysis of population structure did not reveal any obvious pattern of positive or balancing selection acting on MC1R. Altogether these results indicate that MC1R does not play a role in explaining the melanic variation observed in the Réunion grey white-eye. We propose that other genes such as POMC, Agouti or any other genes involved in pigment synthesis will need to be investigated in future studies if we are to understand how selection shapes complex patterns of melanin-based plumage pigmentation.