Your guide on all cockatiel mutations currently bred
Cockatiels are one of the best birds to keep as pets. They are beautiful, affectionate, intelligent, and known for a relatively long life. All mutations of cockatiels are great picks as pet birds.
It’s their largely bright and colorful appearance that makes them so popular. However, did you know that these beautiful birds weren’t always available in so many colors?
Cockatiels originally used to be grey, but specific breeding helped create several cockatiel mutations over the decades, to the point now that we have 18 (or even more) color options.
This article will tell you everything you should know about the various cockatiel color types.
If you have decided to get yourself a cockatiel, prepare to be bamboozled by the amazing variety of colors and mutations these birds are available.
Starting with the normal grey, you have your pieds, cinnamons, lutinos, pearlies, white faces, silvers, and even albinos.
More recently, a new orange-crested cock with an orange cheek patch extending into the face and crest has been created, another addition to the family.
In the sections that follow, we will try to demystify these mutations with the help of descriptions and pictures.
Upon reader request, we have also added a section at the end about sexing the birds; though there is really no exact science for doing it, there are some tips that can come when trying to tell a male cockatiel from a female.
We start below with the original – normal grey variation.
Normal Grey Cockatiel
The Normal Grey is the original bird native to Australia. The male Normal Grey has grey feathers over his entire body, with the exception of the white wing bars, yellow face, and bright orange cheek patches.
Both sexes have those broad white bars along the edge of each wing.
Females and young cockatiels (before the 1st molt) have dull orange cheek patches; their faces are not bright yellow but greyer with some yellowish infusion.
The tail feathers have a white or yellow barring on the underside.
If your normal grey cockatiel has a few white or yellow feathers on the back of his or her neck and head, it is a recessive pied mutation.
Recessive pied mutations break the melanin pigmentation in such a way that there is no clear coloration all over the body.
The Lutino is a yellow-white bird with orange cheek patches and red eyes.
In lutinos, baldness can occur behind the crest. In the early years of this mutation, these bald spots were very pronounced. They happened primarily because there was a lot of inbreeding.
However, this does not in any way mean that the cockatiel is a bad pet; it’s just that people do not prefer to have the bald patch on their birds.
Breeders have been working on reducing/eliminating the bald patch and have shown great success in doing so.
While it is hard to distinguish hens and cocks in this case, you might be able to see a yellow barring on the underside of the tail for most females in this mutation.
The lutino pearls are one of the most popular mutations among cockatiel fans. These birds are a cross between pearl and lutino mutations, and they are also known by the colorful name “lacewings”. They have distinctive white plumage with dark yellow pearlings.
How To Identify Male and Female Lutino Cockatiels
The easiest way to differentiate males and females is to observe them as they molt.
The distinctive yellow pearlings are clearly visible in the males immediately after the first molt, but they take a while for the females to show it. If your tiel is already an adult, then it is harder to figure things out.
However, most females have a barring pattern on their tails – cream on yellow or vice versa. This can be one thing to look out for.
Females also have bright yellow feathers under their flight wings, which the males don’t have.
However, if your lutinos are very pale, this sexing process can be harder. For the very pale varieties, the markings aren’t very prominent.
You’ll have to hold up the tail feather in front of a strong light to see if the patterns are there.
Sexing the lutino pearl cockatiel also presents a similar problem. Many of the male lutino pearls retain their pearls for multiple molts.
In both males and females, the tail bars and the underwing spots may or may not be present. Hence none of these are sure shot ways of sexing the birds.
The development of the patterns also depends on the extent of pearling.
One last piece of advice – if you have a lutino pearl cockatiel that initially had those markings but lost it during a juvenile molt, it’s very likely that you have a male. The same goes for almost every adult lutino pearl that’s devoid of such patterns.
Pieds were the first cockatiel mutation to have been bred. The first breeding happened in the 50s.
Pieds have a striking combination of yellow or white with light or dark gray colors. Lutino Pieds also have darker yellow “splotches.”
How much and where the colors can be seen varies a lot. From a pet perspective, tiel owners usually prefer pieds with even and symmetrical markings, which is why they are more expensive.
A clear pied looks identical to a Lutino or even a White-face lutino. The only major difference is that a clear pied does NOT have red eyes, whereas Lutinos and Whitefaces have them.
Pearl pieds have similar colors as pied ones, but their pearling is only visible on portions of their wings. The head is either yellow or white, and there is grey color over the rest of the body.
The males of the yellow cheek mutation have yellow faces with golden cheek patches. The cheek patches are more vibrant in the males as compared to the females. Moreover, their facial feathers are denser.
Sex-Linked Yellow Cheeks (SLYC) have a yellow cheek patch due to their specific mutation, which inhibits psittacofulvin.
This mutation is similar to normal grey, with grey areas replaced by tan to cinnamon brown color. The cinnamon cockatiel mutation gets its name from the cinnamon color, which is basically a brownish-grey color.
The male cinnamon cockatiel develops a bright yellow face (also known as the mask) and bright orange cheek patches after his first molt.
Female cinnamon cockatiels retain their dull orange cheek patches. Their faces do not turn yellow, and they have either white or yellow barring on the underside of their tails.
Cinnamon pieds, as the name suggests, are from the breeding of a pied and a cinnamon cockatiel. Their plumage becomes a combination of cinnamon brown and yellow due to the colors present in their gene pool.
Just like other pieds, these birds have varying intensities of color and placement of markings over their bodies.
Cinnamon pearls have yellow-edged feathers and have various shades of cinnamon all over their bodies.
Cinnamon Pearly Pieds
This mutation is similar to pearly pieds, with the trademark cinnamon brown color spread out on their bodies in places where you would expect grey.
Pearly / Lacewings
The term “pearly” refers to lacings or pearl spots of yellow or white on the backs, nape, and wings of these birds. As mentioned earlier, this mutation is also commonly referred to as “lacewings.”
Pearlies are available in many colors, such as yellow, white, and even grey.
Yellow pearls are sometimes also called golden pearls, and white pearlies are known as silver pearls.
Pearling in whiteface cockatiels is white, with large and consistent lacings all over. You may also come across the grey pearl cockatiel, which is a mix of dark and bright colors.
From a sexing perspective, female pearlies retain their coloration into adulthood, while males lose their pearlings after their first molt (turning into a pied cockatiel, rather than a pearly pied).
Fallows are the latest mutation in cockatiels and have only been around since the 70s.
Their color is light silver, which can sometimes be confused with the brownish-grey of cinnamons. Their faces are yellow, with red eyes. Fallows and cinnamons are often very difficult to distinguish from each other.
Male fallows are slightly darker than the females, and hence the females are usually more expensive. The juveniles of this mutation have pinkish eyes at the outset, but as they age, the eyes become redder.
Emerald / Spangled / Olive Cockatiels
The Emerald Cockatiel, also known as the Spangled Cockatiel or Olive Cockatiel, has small patches or splotchings of varying yellow to grey colors.
Emeralds are the thirteenth official cockatiel mutations. They are usually very soft birds, who will easily step onto your fingers at the slightest prompt.
When most people think of the emerald color, they imagine a dark greenish tinge. Unfortunately, cockatiels lack the pigments that are required to produce a green color.
Instead, the yellow vs. gray contrast on these birds’ bodies create the illusion of a green shade.
White face cockatiels, as the name suggests, lack the distinctive orange cheek patches and yellow pigmentation of their brethren.
Mature adults with this mutation have a completely white face.
There are several combinations of white-faced cockatiels, some of the more beautiful ones of which are Albino (all white), Pied Whiteface, Cinnamon Pied Pearly, Pearly Whiteface, and several others.
Pastelfaces are also a part of this mutation. Pastelfaces have male birds that have yellow faces with peach cheek patches, unlike other whitefaces.
These birds have an almost pure white all over the body, with no color whatsoever. Their eyes are red. In females, barring is visible on the underside of the tail.
Interestingly, cockatiels do not have a true “albino” mutation as they don’t carry the blue gene. While they are commonly referred to as “albino cockatiels” because of their pure white color, they should more appropriately be called “White-face Lutino.”
Albino cockatiels with red eyes are one of the rarest cockatiel mutations, which also makes them quite expensive.
Lutino vs. Albino cockatiel – are they the same?
As lutino cockatiels have white feathers, they’re sometimes confused for albinos and vice versa. This confusion is especially likely with the pale lutino cockatiels due to their yellow shade being very light.
The albino cockatiel is actually a hybrid of lutino and white-faced cockatiels. The lutino gene removes the black and grey pigments, while the whiteface gene takes away the yellow and orange.
This is why albino cockatiels look almost pure white, besides their red eyes.
The silver mutation, or the dominant silver, is the only dominant mutation that does not recede back to the Australian gray if not bred. It was created in the 80s in the UK.
These cockatiels have light, silvery grey plumage and red eyes. There are two types of silver cockatiels: single-factor and double-factor ones.
Single-factor dominant silver
The feathers of the single-factor silvers are dark metallic silver, with orange check patches and black eyes, feet, and beaks.
Silver pieds, however, have flesh-colored feet and beaks.
These birds also have dark pigmentation on their head, which makes it look as though they have a skullcap.
Double-factor dominant silver
The double-factor dominant silvers look nearly the same as single-factors, but their feathers are a lighter shade of metallic silver.
Double-factor dominants are basically diluted forms of single factors. Apart from the slightly lighter color, they have the same skullcap, black eyes, and dark-colored legs.
Cockatiel Gender Identification
As you might have noticed in our discussion so far, sexing is usually quite difficult in adult cockatiels. In fact, immature males and females look almost alike and cannot be visually sexed.
Once cockatiels have gone through their first molt (at six to nine months), the adult coloration starts to show, but even then, they don’t attain their final (adult) coloration.
Still, after the first molt, the birds have enough coloration to make some sexing possible.
Other than the visual IDs that can be performed on mature birds, some breeders also check the pelvic bones as means of sexing a bird.
The basic idea is that the pelvis of female cockatiels are more flexible and further apart, as the egg has to be able to pass through it.
It is similar to the difference seen in human males and females. Females usually have wider pelvic bones than males.
However, this method is not always a good way to sex your birds.
Just as is the case with humans, females can have “boyish” figures with narrow hips; and some males might have wider hips.
Moreover, immature birds usually have wider pelvic bones.
One way to differentiate adults is to check the barring on the underside of the tail. Only females and young birds have this barring.
Even the lutino or albino hens have this barring (although it is less visible). In lutinos and albinos, the barring is more of a shading. If you hold your bird upto a light source, these shadings should easily be visible.
Apart from physical differences, there are personality differences between males and females that can help you distinguish them indirectly.
- Males tend to be more vocal than females, whistling more often than their female counterparts.
- Males tend to strut around – they lift their wings slightly, stick their chest out and parade and strut, normally calling at the same time.
- Females are quieter and are more likely to hiss and bite.
Answers To Frequently Asked Questions
What is the rarest mutation of cockatiel?
The whiteface cockatiel is the rarest mutation of the species. These cockatiels are the exact opposite of the regular grey cockatiels known for their coal-like coloration.
The whiteface is also one of the very rare cockatiel morphs to lack orange patches on the cheeks.
How many mutations of cockatiels are there?
There are about 18 different mutations of cockatiels, with varying colors and patterns. Many of them are the results of interbreeding other mutations.
Our cockatiel mutation chart can help you find out which mutations arise from which combination.
What are the different mutations of cockatiels?
Current cockatiel mutations include lutino, lutino pearl, pied, pearly pied, cinnamon, cinnamon pied, cinnamon pearly pied, pearl/lacewing, fallow, olive, emerald/spangled, whiteface, albino, and silver.
With breeders constantly experimenting by interbreeding different types of cockatiels, more might emerge in the future.
How do you identify a cockatiel mutation?
You can identify different cockatiel mutations based on their appearance. After all, creating cockatiels of different color combinations is the whole reason why breeders decided to create them.
As described in this article, each cockatiel mutation has its own identifying features. Even the ones of similar color have other differences, such as markings and patterns.
If you’re out shopping for a cockatiel, you indeed have plenty of options. You might have noticed different cockatiel colors having different price tags if you have started shopping around.
The key difference is the rarity of the mutation and of course how beautiful the colors are. However, regardless of which cockatiel mutation you buy, they are all excellent pets.
Hopefully, we have covered most of your questions about cockatiel mutations and sexing. Let us know if we missed something!
Thank you for reading.