cockatiel colours



Cockatiels colors

The science of genetics cockatiel colors discusses the heredity of color variation in feathers cockatiels, Nymphicus hollandicus. Color mutations are a natural but very rare phenomenon that occurs in captivity or in the wild.

Cockatiel colors: Gray Cockatiel, Yellowface Cockatiel, Whiteface Cockatiel, Pearl Cockatiel, Silver Cockatiel, Fallow Cockatiel, Pied Cockatiel, Lutino Cockatiel, Blue Cockatiel.


  • Size and weight: L: 29-35cm; Weight: M: 80-100 g
  • Longevity: 15 to 20 years
  • Tail: 14 to 16 cm.
  • Sexual maturity: at 8 or 10 months. It is preferable that the male is 1 year old, and the female 1 year and a half to start a first brood (risk of spawning disease otherwise).
  • A number of eggs per clutch: 4 to 6 sometimes more.
  • Laying: every two days during the breeding season.
  • Start of brooding: from the second egg, sometimes from the first.
  • Brooding time: 19 to 21 days. The chicks are in the nest for 32 to 35 days.

Description of the bird:

The Cockatiel Parakeet (or Elegant Parakeet) is native to Australia and is part of the Cockatoo family.
She frequents arid and semi-arid areas and appreciates the proximity of water points. Very sociable, she lives in a group of around fifty individuals. The hooked bill is dark gray. The eyes are dark brown. Legs and feet are gray. (Legs and beaks are pink when young.)
Cousin of the cockatoo the cockatiel has the ability to reproduce sounds and melodies to perfection! It also happens to meet subjects who say a few words.
The Cockatiel’s puff lets guess its mood. Indeed, when it is peaceful or concentrated its erectile crest is pressed back. Conversely, it stands up to mark surprise or fear. When cold, the Parakeet inflates its wings. She has a long, slender tail.

Cockatiels colors with name

SOURCE:Swamy Birds

Cockatiel Mutations:

Many mutations exist, the most common being wild type. Males generally have a larger puff than that of the female, have more pronounced orange cheeks, and a more conspicuous yellow mask (the female has more gray).

Opalines (pearls), can be differentiated from the first molt, the males lose their pearls. The song is also an indicator, but for certain mutations (variegated for example), a DNA test is obligatory.

The mutations

There are so-called “basic” mutations that can be combined with each other. I will present the main ones to you, and some associations of mutations.

For some, we can distinguish the male from the female thanks to different criteria, and this is after the juvenile moult (which comes between 7/8 months & 10/12 months). For others, it will be necessary to rely on posture, song, or behavior. Otherwise, there are DNA tests.

The wild type mutation:

The mutations

This mutation is characterized by gray colored feathers. A pronounced yellow mask and orange cheeks are characteristic of the male, moreover, this one has the underside of the tail united.

The female, on the other hand, has a much less yellow mask, it is generally a little gray, and has the underside of the striped tail. They also have pearls under their wings. In the photo above, you have a male on the left and a female on the right.

The variegated mutation:

The mutations

This mutation alters the melanin of the plumage. This is why it appears as spots of white or yellow. There is no visual difference to recognize a male from a female. In the photo, it is a cockatiel with a lot of melanin damage.

The cinnamon mutation:

The mutations

This mutation turns the gray of the wild type into brown/brown because it prevents the oxidation of melanin (responsible for the gray). The physical characteristics for males and females remain the same as for the wild-type mutation.

The white face mutation:

The mutations

As with the wild type, young subjects of this mutation cannot be sexed from an early age. It removes all psittacins (yellow and red pigments). In adulthood, the female, therefore, has no mask and a striped tail. The cockatiel male has a plain tail and a white mask.

The lutino mutation:

The mutations

This mutation removes all melanin. It will let psittacin appear on the entire body, which will therefore be yellow (more or less sustained) and white.

The underwing band (pearls) and the caudal striations are present in female lutino, but not very visible. These peculiarities are, once again, reliable after the first molt. (photos here)

The albino mutation:

The mutations

This mutation is a combination of ino (melanin suppression) and white face. Females do not have streaks under the tail or pearls under the wings.

The pearl mutation (or opaline):

The mutations

This mutation is always in “addition” to another and is characterized by beads on the back. The simplest combination is wild-type opaline. Young cockatiels cannot be sexed.

The males are recognizable because they lose their pearls from their first molt. There are other combinations, such as opaline variegated, or cinnamon opaline or even opaline white face.

Cockatiel Colors

Cockatiel colors explained – mutations and genetics


The different mutations in cockatiels


– Phenotype: external aspect of the bird. It is governed by different genes which are expressed on pairs of chromosomes found in the nucleus of cells. There are pairs of identical chromosomes: autosomes; as well as a pair of sex chromosomes: ZZ in the male, ZW in the female.
– Genotype: genetic inheritance which is not visible but which is transmitted to the descendants, half of the heritage coming from the mother, the other half coming from the father.
The wild type or grey cockatiel: it is the cockatiel as it is found in nature. It is therefore not a mutation but it can be considered that the wild type “wins out” over the recessive mutations.
There is a strong sexual dimorphism:
The male has gray plumage, a yellow mask, red cheeks, united underwings, and a tail.
The female does not have a mask, on the other hand, she has yellow spots under the wings and streaks on the tail.
The juvenile is identical to the female until the moult (6 to 9 months).

Male and Female Cockatiel

Grey Cockatiel

Female& male grey cockatiel

What is a mutation?

– What can be seen: it is a sudden and unexpected change in the offspring not caused by an external factor.
– What happens: it is a modification relating to the number or the shape of chromosomes (chromosomal mutation) or due to the alteration of a gene (genetic mutation).
We will use the term mutant to designate a bird whose phenotype has been modified by selection in breeding; and the term carrier to designate a bird whose genetic background has been altered without this being visible (the sign “/” is used to indicate what the bird is carrying).
Autosomal recessive mutations: variegated, white-faced, pale-faced, ashy fallow, bronze follow the mutant character is carried on a pair of identical chromosomes (autosomes).
The sex of the bird is not involved in transmission. Both males and females can be carriers or mutants. For a recessive mutation to be expressed, both parents must provide the gene (whether they are mutants or carriers).
If both parents are mutants, we will get 100% young mutants.
If you mate a mutant bird with a carrier bird, you will get 50% young mutants and 50% young carriers. On the other hand, if only one of the parents brings the gene, there will only be carriers in the first generation:
Let’s pair 2 pure subjects, one gray and the other white face:
– In the 1st generation, all young will be gray/white face
– In 2nd generation, if we cross these subjects between them, we will obtain 25% gray, 50% gray/white face, and 25% white face

Variegated mutation :

certain areas of the plumage turn yellow due to the disappearance of melanin. The blending can range from 5 to 99%. The variegated mutation is anti-dimorphic: it is impossible to visually sex the variegated, the usual criteria (streaks under the tail, spots under the wings) do not apply.

The face-white mutation :

the plumage is entirely gray-black and white because of the complete disappearance of psittacins (yellow and red pigments). At birth, the chicks are recognizable by their white down and not yellow.
Male face-white cockatiel mutation

male face-white mutation

Female face-white cockatiel mutation

femal face-white cockatiel mutation
Young male
face-white cockatiel mutation

young face-white mutation


The pale-face mutation :

the yellow and red colors are less intense than in the wild type, the cheeks are orange and the yellow is lighter due to a decrease in the level of psittacin.
Be careful, this mutation is dominant over the white face mutation: a pale face bird can carry a white face but the opposite is impossible.

Pale-side x white-side -> 100% pale-side / white
-side Pale-side / white-side x white-side -> 50% pale-side / white-side and 50% white-side

Cockatiel colours

pale-face cockatiel mutation

The bronze-fallow mutation :

the body is brown, the eyes red due to non-oxidation of eumelanin.

bronze-fallow cockatiel mutation

The ashy fallow mutation :

the body is silvery, the eyes red due to a decrease in the level of melanin.

ashy fallow cockatiel mutation


Recessive sex-related mutations: cinnamon, yellow cheeks, opaline, and ino

The mutant character is carried on the pair of sex chromosomes. Here, the sex of the bird is very important since the mutant gene is transmitted only by the Z chromosome.

A recessive mutation linked to the sex is transmitted visually from the father to the daughter. The female ZW cannot be a carrier, she is a mutant as soon as she receives the gene from her father.

The ZZ male can be a carrier. On the other hand, he only expresses the mutation if he receives the gene from both parents (from a carrier or mutant father, from an obligatorily mutant mother). If he only receives the mutant gene from one of his parents, he will be a carrier.

Genetic nest sexing

Their mode of transmission allows, in certain cases, the sexing of the young from the growth of the feathers, even from birth (in orange the birds sexable in the nest):

Case 1: mutant male x normal female -> 100% carrier males , 100% mutant females
Case 2: mutant male x mutant female -> 100% mutants in both sexes
Case 3: carrier male x normal female -> 50% normal males, 50% carrier males, 50 normal females, 50% females mutants
Case 4: carrier male x mutant female -> 50% carrier males, 50% mutant males, 50% normal females, 50% mutant females
Case 5: normal male x mutant female -> 100% carrier males, 100% females normal

In the first case, our pair allows to sex 100% of the young in the nest and in the third case, it allows to sex half of the females.

A concrete example: if we breed an ino male with a wild-type female, we will have young wild-type males carrying ino (yellow down and black eyes at birth) and young ino females (yellow down and red eyes). You don’t even have to wait for the feathers to grow, we know for sure the sex of our chicks.

This method is also valid with combinations of mutations, it is very useful for sexing variegated birds without having recourse to DNA sexing.

The ino mutation:

the plumage goes from bright white-yellow to bright yellow sustained, the cheeks are red, the eyes purple because of almost total disappearance of the melanin pigments (brown and black).

Sexual dimorphism exists but it is difficult to spot: dark yellow streaks on the tail of the female, slight brown veil on the wings of the male.

cockatiel ino mutation

The opaline mutation :

the face is slightly grayish-yellow, the crest may be dotted with yellow, the belly is light to medium gray, the tail feathers are yellow slightly streaked with black and there are more or less large pearls on the top wings, due to a change in the distribution of melanin.
During juvenile molting, males shed their pearls and visually approach a wild-type bird. Genetically, it doesn’t change anything.


Female opaline mutation cockatiel

female opaline cockatiel mutation

Young opaline mutation cockatiel

The cinnamon mutation :

the plumage varies from dark brown to light brown due to the non-oxidation of eumelanin which remains brown instead of becoming gray-black. This color is influenced by exposure to sunlight which results in uneven discoloration of the plumage. Newborns have yellow down and brown-purple eyes.


Male cinnamon cockatiel mutation
Male cinnamon cockatiel
Female cinnamon cockatiel mutation
female cinnamon cockatiel


The yellow cheek mutation: only the color of the cheeks changes, they become yellow slightly orange due to a reduction in the level of psittacin in the cheeks.


male yellow cheek cockatiel mutation
male yellow cheek cockatiel mutation
female cinnamon cockatiel mutation
female cinnamon cockatiel mutation
Young cinnamon cockatiel mutation
young yellow cheek cokatiel mutation


Dominant mutation incomplete: edged

This mutation has a very variable hue from one subject to another, which is why we can speak of Light Type, Medium Type, and Dark Type.
We also distinguish the single factor (SF) from the double factor (DF)
Single-factor: center of the feathers lighter than the edges (scale aspect), the head is slightly too much darker than the body.
Double factor: the plumage as a whole is lighter than in the “simple factor” until obtaining subjects “dirty white” wear the mask of the male is hardly detectable.
The melanin is pushed back towards the edge of the feathers, the head is generally less affected by this phenomenon.

Transmission :
Edged SF x normal: 50% edged SF, 50% normal
Edged DF x normal: 100% edged SF
Edged SF x edged SF: 25% edged DF, 25% normal, 50% edged SF
edged DF x edged DF: 100% edged DF
A bird cannot be a carrier of this mutation, it is mutant or not.



Dominant mutation cockatiel incomplete edged

cockatiel Dominant mutation incomplete edged

Combinations of mutations: With a
few exceptions, all mutations can be combined. Certain combinations are not judicious, like the mixture of white face and yellow cheeks for example (the mutation yellow cheeks would not be visible). It is also not recommended to mate together two lutino subjects (risk of obtaining young puny, with baldness) or two subjects yellow cheeks (brooding problems).
Some common combinations :
Ino face-white (albino) :
the body is entirely white, the eyes red. There is a total disappearance of melanin and psittacin. Dimorphism is visible to an informed eye: the male has a light brown veil on the wings.


Female cinnamon white face

Ino face-white albino cockatiel

Female pearl white face white

Female cinnamon cockatiel white face

face cinnamon cockatiel

cockatiel face cinnamon

Male bronze fallow white

Male bronze fallow white cockatiel

Male white face pearl

cockatiel Male white face pearl

Female pearl cinnamon

cockatiel Female pearl cinnamon

Female cockatiel pearl lutino

cockatiel Female pearl lutino



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