Cockatiels are exceptionally popular birds, owing in part to a host of new color mutations and their exquisite myriad combinations. The Whiteface color variety and the Pied produce the cross mutations described below. It should be noted that although each mutation is necessary in order to produce these crosses, in most cases both parents must visually display, or genetically carry the color as a split, in order to produce cross-mutation young in the first generation. In addition while hens may carry recessive colors known as heterozygous or split, hens may never be split to sex-linked colors.
The Whiteface cockatiel was first imported into the U.S. during the early 1980's by American aviculturist Dale R. Thompson. It is a popular favourite of color breeders and is now commonly seen at cockatiel shows around the county. The variety is fairly easy to obtain from most serious color breeders, and as prices drop, they should become increasingly available at pet stores. The Whiteface mutation lacks all yellow and orange lipochrome pigment, and for this reason, is dramatically different from any other cockatiel mutation ever produced. Neither the cocks nor the hens carry the usual orange ear covert feathers, or orange "cheek patches," typically found on other color varieties. Mature males develop the white facial mask, in contrast to the yellow face commonly worn by males of other varieties. Hens retain their charcoal face color, however, their former yellow facial markings found on the forehead, crown, lores and chin, are now replaced by white. Since neither sex now carries any yellow in the plumage, the corresponding yellow spotting on the underside of wing flights, and yellow barring on the underside of tail feathers, are all replaced by white. Even the body color of the Whiteface differs from a Normal Gray by producing a much richer and deeper, charcoal coloration. In fact, the birds were initially known as "Charcoals" where they were first bred in Europe. Since the Whiteface mutation is recessive in reproduction, both parents must be visual for Whiteface, or "split," (i.e. carrying the genes), in order to produce visual Whiteface young in the first generation. Breeders can tell instantly if a newly hatched chick will be a visual Whiteface, or Whiteface cross-mutation, since the young are born with white, rather than yellow, down. Although the structural pigment is incapable of producing the color blue in cockatiels, many aviculturists theorise that the Whiteface mutation is nature's equivalent to the color blue found in most other psittacine (i.e. parrot) species. Breeders know this is the key which has opened the door to many other exciting color combinations and may still yet play a role in future mutations.
The Pied pattern was the first recessive mutation to appear in cockatiels and was established in the United States in 1949. It varies in the degree of pied "wash," creating light, medium, heavy and extra-heavily marked Pieds. Raising Pieds is exciting, since like snowflakes, no two birds are marked exactly alike. In the Normal Gray Pied, the yellow or white pied "wash" colors the head, some wing flights, rump and central tail feathers, on lightly marked birds; to a more extensive wash throughout the chest, abdomen, back, wing flights and tail feathers, on heavily marked birds. Show standards require that Pieds be symmetrically marked, with one side of the bird being the mirror image of the other side. Depth and clarity of color in the darker pigmented areas, in the Gray or cinnamon melanin ground colors, is equally important. Ideally, breeders try to produce birds which carry a clear face mask, free from extraneous dark feathers or "bleeding" from the cheek patches, with completely clear tail feathers and wing flights, along with good depth of color and a perfect balance of markings. The most difficult challenge however, is in maintaining size, while producing well-marked birds.
This double recessive mutation, combining the Whiteface color with Pied markings, can be one of the most challenging to breed. Here, the Whiteface mutation has removed the orange cheek patch and all yellow lipochrome colouring found in the Pied mutation. Since Pieds are judged on their symmetry of markings, and ideally clear face, tail, and wing flights, it is recommended to use well-marked Pieds as foundation stock, along with good sized Whiteface stock. There are two drawbacks to this double mutation. First, when working with recessive colors, it is not unusual to find birds to be on the small side, especially with double recessives. However, there are breeders who have brought the Whiteface, Pied, and Whiteface-Pied cross-mutations, up to size. Usually such well bred birds come from breeders who work with exhibition stock. Secondly, the heavier the Pied wash, the smaller the size of the bird. Therefore, it is generally recommended to work with large Pied stock, along with good sized Whiteface stock. Special attention should also he paid to the depth of color, with the aim of selecting Pied and Whiteface stock of even, deep color, in order to avoid color dilution, or an unattractive, "marbling" effect.
The triple mutation, Whiteface-Pearl-Pied, is a popular and challenging variety to produce. In addition to the Whiteface-Pied markings, the sex-linked Pearl pattern has been added. If enough Gray melanin pigment or color is retained, the pearl "lacings" patterning the back can be quite striking. The objective in breeding Normal Gray Pearls, is to produce birds with individual, distinct, pearl "lacings," beginning at the face, and spreading down the neck, mantle, wings, and back, with lacings being more heavily concentrated at the shoulders. Depending upon the amount of white pied "wash" in the Whiteface-Pearl-Pied, individual birds will vary in the amount of pearl lacings they exhibit. It should also be noted, that in the Normal Pearl mutation, adult males will lose their pearl lacings upon maturity, although there are some lines which do keep their lacings longer. The same challenge exists for breeders of whiteface-Pearl-Pieds, to Produce cock birds who retain their pearl lacings throughout their lives. If such lacings are lost, these males become indistinguishable from adult Whiteface-Pied males. However, they are still genotypically Whiteface-Pearl-Pieds, and are able to pass these colors, when correctly mated, to their future offspring.
Another triple mutation, the White-face-Cinnamon-Pied combines the Whiteface-Pied markings, with the sex-linked Cinnamon color mutation. In the Cinnamon mutation, a modification of the Gray melanin pigment occurs, producing a more pronounced brown tone. The challenge in raising Cinnamons is to produce birds with a decidedly brown color, lacking any Gray overtones. The depth of color is again equally important, and any melanin reduction causing a "marbling effect," more often found on the backs of cock birds, should be avoided. Ideally, a Whiteface-Cinnamon-Pied should display a pied wash covering the face, wing flights and tail feathers, but retain enough melanin pigment, or Cinnamon coloration, to contrast the Pied markings. A more pronounced brown tone, lack of marbling on the back, and symmetry of markings, while maintaining size, is the challenge of this variety.
This quadruple cross-mutation can be stunning, but generally takes several generations to produce, unless one purchases birds which visually exhibit, or are correctly split, to all four mutations. In conjunction with the Cinnamon ground color, Pearl lacings, and Pied markings, the Whiteface mutation eliminates the orange cheek patch and any yellow lipochrome pigment usually found in Normal Cinnamons, Pearls, and Pieds. Adult male Whiteface-Cinnamon-Pearl-Pieds will acquire the white face-mask upon maturity and lose their Pearl lacings. Unless these birds are closed banded, they will be indistinguishable from Whiteface-Cinnamon-Pieds.
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