The Complete Guide To All Cockatiel Mutations (2023)

Published by Joseph Calabrese on

“My cockatiel looks weird, what colour mutation are they?”

First of all, calling your cockatiel weird is rude.

Secondly, don’t worry, by the end of this article, you’ll know EXACTLY how to identify all cockatiel mutations…

Including your own!

Once you know what to look for, it’s more simple than you would think. 

One thing you should keep in mind is that mutations combine. 

2, 3, or even 4 mutations can combine within one bird, making them look very confusing. 

But we’ll also discuss how to identify those as well!

So, let’s dive in…

Disclosure: Most of the images used in this article do not belong to me and are used strictly for demonstration purposes only. In order to demonstrate the appearance of these cockatiel mutations, I must use images from various sources that I do not own. If any of the featured images are yours and you want them removed, please contact me and ask politely and I’ll do so ASAP.

All Cockatiel Mutations – Full List

Before getting into the description of each cockatiel mutation, I want to let you know of the mutations we’ll be covering in this article.

Today, we’ll be covering these cockatiel mutations:

  • Grey/wild-type (not even a mutation)
  • Pied mutation
  • Lutino mutation
  • Whiteface/charcoal mutation
  • Albino mutation
  • Pearl mutation
  • Cinnamon mutation
  • Fallow mutation
  • Yellowface mutation
  • Emerald mutation
  • Pastel-face mutation

These are quite literally ALL the known cockatiel mutations as of 2023. 

However, all of these mutations can combine with each other, making an infinite number of other mutations. But for the sake of keeping things clear, we’ll only be covering these base mutations and not the combined mutations.

Starting off with the regular grey cockatiel, which isn’t even a mutation…

Grey/Wild-Type Cockatiel (Normal)

  • This is the most common cockatiel colour & the only colour to appear in the wild. Simply a normal cockatiel “mutation” (not even a mutation).
  • Most of their plumage is completely dark grey, besides the head and white wing stripe.
  • Males have bright yellow heads while females and juveniles have grey heads (as shown in the image above).
  • Another way to determine their sex is by looking for markings beneath the wing feathers. Only female cockatiels will have markings beneath the wings while males have a solid colour.
Image source: Pixabay (The bright yellow head of this grey cockatiel indicates that it’s male)

More About This Mutation

Not much more to say about the normal grey cockatiels, considering how it’s not even a mutation. These grey cockatiels are the only ones you’ll find in the wild where mutations do not occur. The reason why other cockatiel colours are considered “mutations” is because they mutated from this original appearance.


Pied Cockatiel Mutation

Heavy cockatiel mutation pied
An example of a Pied cockatiel
  • The Pied mutation causes sections of white to appear on the cockatiel’s plumage where it would normally be grey. Makes the Pied cockatiel appear “patchy”.
  • Can vary from a heavy Pied to a light Pied. Heavy Pied cockatiels usually have most of their feathers mutated from grey to white, making them appear to be Lutinos. However, Heavy-Pied cockatiels will still have a few grey feathers, which differentiates them from the Lutino mutation. Light-Pied cockatiels only have a few white patches throughout the plumage.
heavy pied cockatiel
(Image Credit: Aussietiels on Youtube, This Heavy-Pied cockatiel is almost completely white except for a few grey feathers near the wing)
Cockatiel mutations
Notice the patches of white on my cockatiel’s back? This indicates the Pied mutation!
  • Face & head colours will remain the same throughout a Pied cockatiel’s whole life, even after the first and maturing moult. This is different to normal grey cockatiels who change plumage colour after the first moult, depending on the gender.
  • Due to how random Pied cockatiels can look, the normal gender “rules” do not apply to them. Females can have bright yellow heads like typical males and males can have markings beneath the wings, like a typical female. It’s all mixed up with this mutation!
  • When combined with other mutations, the Pied mutation gene can shine through via white patches on the plumage.

More About This Mutation

The Pied mutation was the very first mutation to occur in captivity, and it happened in 1949. The Pied mutation is also known to create another visual anomaly often called “dirty face”, which essentially creates dark patches around the face. The dirty face appearance can vary from very intense to just a slightly darker face. My cockatiel is a Pied, and he has a slightly dirty face.

Cockatiels can also be “split-to-pied”, which means they carry the Pied mutation gene without showing it. These split-to-pied cockatiels still normally have a white feather or two around the nape of the neck. Split-to-pied cockatiels can produce Pied cockatiel babies that show more of the Pied gene than their parents.


Lutino Cockatiel Mutation

  • Lutino cockatiels can be identified by their all-white/yellow plumage without any grey feathers. This mutation essentially removes all grey from the bird and replaces it with white/yellow, making them quite easy to identify.
  • Their plumage colour can range from an icy white to a very light yellow.
  • Lutino cockatiels can’t be sexed by looking at the head colour as both males and females have bright yellow heads.
  • You can sometimes sex them based on the feather markings beneath the wings, but this isn’t always accurate as even males can have the wing markings on rare occasions.
  • Lutino cockatiels have red pupils, which can be seen when a light source shines on their heads. Mutations that combine with the Lutino mutation will also have this feature. Their red eye colour can range from light to dark red.
cockatiel mutations

More About This Mutation

The Lutino mutation first occurred in 1958 in Florida.

If you’re having trouble differentiating between Lutino cockatiels and cockatiels with a heavy-Pied mutation, just look at the eyes. Only Lutino cockatiels have red eyes while Pied cockatiels have dark eyes, although you’ll likely need specific lighting to see the red hue. These red eyes are visible as soon as the cockatiel hatches, making them easy to identify from day 1. 

Another interesting fact about the Lutino mutation is that they often have a bald spot behind the crest. Go ahead, search up “cockatiel bald spot” and you’ll see that the majority of images are of Lutino cockatiels.

Lutino cockatiel mutation
(Image Credit: u/CiggyTardust, This lutino cockatiel has a bald spot behind the crest)

Whiteface/Charcoal Cockatiel Mutation

  • The Whiteface mutation is self-explanatory; It removes all yellow and orange colours from the plumage and replaces it with the white colour. This is why there is no orange cheek patch on Whiteface cockatiels and why their heads are white instead of yellow.
  • Can be visually sexed as males have white faces while females and juveniles have dull grey heads with no cheek patches. The markings beneath the flight feathers are also present on female Whiteface cockatiels (as shown in the image above). 
Male Whiteface cockatiel
Another male Whiteface
  • The difference between a normal grey female and a Whiteface female is that Whiteface females have no cheek patches.
  • The Whiteface mutation is evident shortly after hatching due to the lack of orange or yellow on the plumage. 

More About This Mutation

I personally believe the Whiteface cockatiel mutation is one of the most attractive mutations to occur. It’s just so unique compared to all the other cockatiel mutations. Lots of people think this as well, which is why cockatiel merchants will often sell this mutation for a higher price than the others.

When the Whiteface mutation mixes with the Lutino mutation, the occassional result is a completely white cockatiel, often referred to as an “Albino” cockatiel. 

The Charcoal mutation first occurred in Europe in the late 70s and has since become a favoured cockatiel mutation.


Albino Cockatiel Mutation (Whiteface x Lutino)

A video of an Albino cockatiel
  • The Albino mutation is arguably the easiest cockatiel mutation to identify as their plumage is completely white.
  • Since the Lutino mutation genes are present within all Albino cockatiels, the all-white bird will have red eyes, just like a Lutino. This is yet another way to identify Albino cockatiels as if the full white colour wasn’t enough 😂
  • Due to the Whiteface mutation genes, the Albino cockatiels have no cheek patches.
albino cockatiel mutation
(Image Credit: Pet Van Java, Couple of albino babies)
All cockatiel mutations. Albino
Image source: Drew Avery
  • This mutation cannot be visually sexed as both male and female Albino cockatiels have the same head colour and no markings beneath the wing feathers.
  • Whiteface Lutino cockatiels are one of the rarest mutations to occur in captivity, which means they’re sold for a lot more than most other mutations.

More About This Mutation

While the term “Albino” is commonly used to describe this mutation, it’s an inaccurate term. The official name for this cockatiel mutation is “Whiteface Lutino” as it’s a mix between those two mutations.  

Due to the Lutino mutation genes, the Albino mutation can sometimes hatch with a bald spot behind the crest. Lutinos have this feature, so of course some Albino cockatiels will too. 

Since the Albino mutation removes any visual sex markings, the only way to determine their gender is through a DNA test.


Pearl “Opaline” Or “Laced” Cockatiel Mutation

  • The Pearl mutation causes patterns/markings to appear on individual feathers across the cockatiel’s body. The pattern within each individual feather could be described as a “Pearl” pattern, hence the name for this mutation.
  • The specific pattern on Pearl cockatiels looks like a yellow or white patch within a grey feather outline. However, this could be reversed by looking like a grey patch within a white or yellow feather outline.
Image source: PublicDomainImages
pearl cockatiel female
(Image Credit: Chris Logothetis Games, the pearling on her wing is symmetrically beautiful)
  • Pearling patterns often occur on the back of the neck, the nape, the wings, and sometimes the chest of the cockatiel. But the pearling doesn’t have to occur in all of these places at once, it can sometimes occur in just a few places.
  • Most identifiable Pearl cockatiels are females because the pearling patterns often disappear from the males after their first moult. However, this doesn’t always apply as some males will retain their pearls.
  • Some male Pearl cockatiels will have a slight yellow colour at the base of each tail feather, which is another way you could differentiate them from normal grey cockatiels.

More About This Mutation

The Pearl cockatiel mutation is one of the easiest to identify as no other mutation causes such patterns along the feathers. So, if you ever see a cockatiel with an exaggerated feather pattern instead of plain plumage, you can be sure that it has the Pearl mutation.

cockatiel mutations
Image source: Kelly2357. Beautiful pearling pattern on the back of this cockatiel’s neck

Additionally, when the Pearl mutation combines with other mutations, it’ll simply cause the cockatiel to develop patterns on the wings. For example, a Whiteface x Pearl cockatiel will still have the whiteface colours, but they’ll also have Pearl patterns along various parts of the plumage. 

Pearl cockatiels were first discovered in 1967 in West Germany.


Cinnamon Cockatiel Mutation

  • The “Cinnamon” name is very fitting for this cockatiel mutation as those with the mutation have a tan/brownish plumage colour, just like cinnamon!
  • Could be described as a normal grey cockatiel with a slight brownish/tan overwash. The shade of brown/tan can vary from a super light brown all the way to a very obvious dark brown.
  • Cinnamon cockatiels can be visually sexed like a normal grey as males have yellow heads while females and juveniles have dull grey heads. The markings beneath the wing feathers are also visible on female Cinnamon cockatiels.
  • This mutation also combines well with other mutations, such as the Pearl and Pied. When combined with these mutations, it’ll simply cause the plumage colour of the cockatiel to be slightly browner than normal, which is very attractive.
Cinnamon cockatiel
Image source: The.Rohit on Flickr

More About This Mutation

There’s not too much to say about the lovely Cinnamon mutation other than the fact that it turns the cockatiel’s plumage colour from dark grey to a slight tan/brownish colour. 

They just look like a normal cockatiel who got a slight sun tan!

Cinnamon cockatiels first appeared in either 1950 or the late 1960s.

Here are some cute baby Cinnamon cockatiels, who seem to also have the Pearl mutation:


Fallow Cockatiel Mutation

  • Similar to the Cinnamon mutation, Fallow cockatiels tend to have a slight brownish/tan plumage colour as opposed to the normal dark grey.
  • Male Fallow cockatiels tend to have a darker shade of brown in their plumage compared to females, who often have a light shade of brown. However, the shade of brown can vary regardless of gender. 
  • Fallow cockatiels have a dark red hue in their eyes, which instantly separates them from the similar-looking Cinnamon mutation. This is the easiest way to differentiate between Fallow and Cinnamon cockatiels.
  • Both male and female Fallow cockatiels often have bright yellow/golden heads, which is different to most other mutations. In most cases, you can visually sex a cockatiel by looking at the head colour, but not with Fallows.
  • Fallow cockatiels can be visually sexed by looking for markings beneath the wing feathers, which are visible in females. 
Fallow cockatiel mutation
(Image Credit: Mathew Yatco Cockatiels) Notice how this bird not only has a slightly brown overwash but also red eyes.

More About This Mutation

Since the Fallow mutation is recessive, it takes two Fallow parents to produce a Fallow baby cockatiel. In other words, you can’t get a Fallow cockatiel without having both parents also having the Fallow mutation.

If you’ve narrowed your cockatiel down to having either the Cinnamon or Fallow mutation, the best way to differentiate between the two is by looking into the eyes. Cinnamon cockatiels have normal dark eyes while Fallows will have a red hue in the eyes, similar to a Lutino, except a bit darker. 

Fallow cockatiels were first developed in the early 70s in either America or Europe.


Silver Cockatiel Mutation

  • The silver mutation is a bit confusing, but I’ll try to explain it as clearly as I can. Well, there is a Dominant Silver mutation and a Recessive Silver mutation. The Dominant Silver can either be Single-Factor or Double-Factor, depending on the genes.
  • All Silver mutations can be visually sexed by looking at the head colour, with males having a yellow head while females and juveniles have dull grey heads, nothing new there.
  • Silver mutations mainly affect the plumage colour, not the head colour, unless combined with another mutation.
silver cockatiel mutation
(Image Credit: TielZone, Silver x Pied cockatiel)

Alright, now let’s cover both the Dominant and Recessive Silver mutations:

Silver Cockatiel Mutation (Dominant)

all cockatiel mutations identified
Image source: Duke+Cockatiel=Dukatiel (Notice the darker patch on the back of the neck? This indicates the Dominant Silver mutation, but it also appears to combine with the Whiteface mutation.
  • Dominant Silver cockatiels, especially the single-factor variation, are a darker shade of silver across the plumage when compared to Recessive Silvers. But Dominant Double-Factor Silver cockatiels look very similar to the Recessive Silver mutation.
  • Double-Factor Dominant Silver cockatiels are a light shade of grey, lighter than the normal grey cockatiels.
  • This Silver variation is also known for the dark “skull cap”, which is an area near the nape that’s a lot darker than the rest of the plumage. This is one of the most telling signs of a Dominant Silver cockatiel. 
  • Dominant Silver cockatiels have dark eyes, which is normal for most mutations.

Silver Cockatiel Mutation (Recessive)

  • Recessive Silver cockatiels have red eyes, similar to lutinos, which is a great way to tell them apart from the Dominant Silver variations. 
  • Can be identified by the light silvery plumage that is a lot lighter than normal grey cockatiels. Yes, you noticed correctly, both the Dominant Double-Factor Silver and Recessive Silver have a very similar plumage colour of light grey. 
  • The Recessive Silver mutation does not feature the dark “skull cap” near the back of the neck, which instantly differentiates itself from the Dominant Silver variations.       
silver cockatiel
(Image Credit: TielZone, Slightly pied silver cockatiel)

More About This Mutation

Many people get confused about the Silver mutation, which is completely understandable. However, the best way to tell them apart from normal greys is that Silver cockatiels are a much lighter shade of grey. 

Although Dominant Double-Factor Silvers have a similar shade of grey as normal greys, they also feature a darker spot near the back of the head. Normal grey cockatiels do not have this “skull cap”, which is how you can tell the difference. 

As mentioned above, the Recessive Silver will have a red hue in their eyes, unlike the Dominant Silver variations that have dark eyes. If you’re having trouble telling the two Silver variations apart, just look into the eyes. 

The first Silver cockatiel mutation occurred in the late 60s in Europe.


YellowFace Cockatiel Mutation

  • Yellowface cockatiels are fairly easy to identify as the mutation turns a normally orange cheek patch yellow. Hence the name of this mutation is “YellowFace” because cockatiels with this mutation have yellow cheek patches.
  • The shade of yellow in the cheek patch can vary from dark yellow all the way to a nice golden colour. 
  • Since some Yellowface cockatiels have extremely light yellow cheek patches, it blends in well with the bright yellow head of a male cockatiel, making them appear like they have no cheek patch at all.
  • Yellowface cockatiels can be sexed visually by looking at the head colour and markings beneath the wings (female). Males have yellow heads and females have grey heads, just like normal cockatiels.    
All cockatiel mutations
(Image Credit: Cockatielgenetics.com) Look at that cheek patch. It’s not orange, it’s actually golden, indicating the Yellowface mutation.

More About This Mutation

Not much else is known about the Yellowcheek/Yellowface cockatiel mutation other than the fact that it turns the cheek patch yellow. This mutation can combine with other mutations, which simply turns the cheek patch yellow on those birds too. 

A Pearl cockatiel with the Yellowcheek mutation will still look like a normal Pearl, except it’ll also have that beautiful yellow cheek patch.

Probably one of the most unique cockatiel mutations I’ve ever seen!

Here’s a video of a young Yellowface cockatiel:


Emerald “Olive” Or “Spangled” Cockatiel Mutation

  • Often described as the lighter version of the normal grey cockatiel thanks to their light grey plumage colour. But to differentiate it from the Silver mutation, it also has a slight yellowish overwash. So, the Emerald mutation causes a greyish-yellowish colour on the cockatiel.
  • The Emerald mutation can be identified from the darker shade that often outlines each flight feather. The outer edges or rim of each flight feather are often darker than the inner section of the feather, which gives the feathers an outlined appearance. But this doesn’t always occur.
Cockatiel mutations
Image source: Think About on YouTube
You can clearly see an outline on each of the feathers on this Emerald cockatiel
  • The unique colour of the Emerald cockatiel can vary in shade. Some appear very light grey while others can look somewhat similar to a Cinnamon. Some even look as grey as normal cockatiels. Look out for those dark flight feather outlines to spot an Emerald cockatiel. 
  • Emerald cockatiels can be visually sexed by looking at the head colour and markings beneath the wing feathers, which are featured on female cockatiels. 

Pastel-Face Cockatiel Mutation

  • The Pastel-Face mutation simply dulls the bright yellow head of male cockatiels as well as the orange cheek patch. Instead of having a bright, vivid yellow head, male Pastel-Face cockatiels will have a pale/light yellow head.
  • Since this mutation only affects the head and cheek patch colour, it’s a lot more noticeable in males. To spot a female Pastel-Face, you must look for a slightly duller cheek patch colour.
  • Unless other mutations are present, the Pastel-Face cockatiel could be described as a normal grey with slightly duller face colours. 
  • This mutation has no effect on the overall plumage colour of the cockatiel, it only affects the head and cheek patch colours. 
All cockatiel mutations
Image source: Busy Bird’s Aviary (You can see that the cheek patch and head colours are very dull, especially compared to a normal grey cockatiel. This is a Pastel-Face!)

More About This Mutation

Since the Pastel-Face mutation only affects the facial colours, it’s more noticeable in males compared to females. The mutation will dull the bright yellow heads of the males and also dull the orange cheek patch colour of both males and females.

This mutation is a lot more noticeable when standing side-by-side with a normal grey cockatiel. When compared directly, you’ll see that the Pastel-Face cockatiel has much duller/lighter facial colours than the normal grey cockatiel.      

The origins of the Pastel-Face cockatiels are uncertain, but one of the first spottings occurred in 1989 by Bob Crossley in England.


Answering Common Cockatiel Mutation Questions 🤔❔

Now that we’ve covered the main cockatiel colour mutations, I want to quickly answer some common questions before wrapping up this post.

Below I answer some of the most frequently asked questions about cockatiel colour mutations.

What Is The Rarest Cockatiel Mutation?

The rarest cockatiel mutation is the Whiteface x Lutino (Albino).

Rarest cockatiel mutation?
Image source: Kroon78 (Remember, an all-white plumage colour indicates an Albino, as this image does)

While the Whiteface mutation is quite rare itself, the production of an all-white cockatiel by breeding the Whiteface with a Lutino is even rarer. According to Dale R. Thompson, the odds of producing the Albino cockatiel is 1:16.

In other words, 1 out of every 16 babies born from the two mutations might be Albino.

Dale R. Thompson also states that most Albino cockatiels turn out female.

Due to its rarity, a fully white cockatiel is priced far higher than any other type of cockatiel.

Are There Blue Cockatiels?

To put it simply; No, blue cockatiels don’t exist. 

This is an internet myth.

I mean, just look at this fake video:

Some people are just out here looking to spread misinformation.

And they’re not even TRYING to make it look anywhere close to convincing.

Here’s the truth:

Blue is not present within a cockatiel’s genetic code, so there’s no chance of even a single cockatiel feather turning blue. Some mutations that cause an odd colour mix may appear slightly blue, but it’s not actually blue.

You definitely won’t find a cockatiel as blue as a hyacinth macaw, unless it’s photoshopped.

Does The Colour Mutation Even Matter?

The mutation of a cockatiel will only matter if you place value on its appearance.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a specific cockatiel mutation due to their nice appearance, but it changes nothing in terms of how to care for them. All cockatiel mutations require the same diet, living conditions, and socialisation needs.

The only exception that I can think of would be the Silver mutation.

According to Dale R. Thompson, Silver cockatiels are noted for their poor eyesight, some are even born blind.

Read next: 9 Key Differences Between Male & Female Cockatiels

Sources


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