Unlike other parakeet species, cockatiels come in a palette of vibrant colors. Throughout the years, professional bird breeders have successfully discovered a variety of cockatiel color mutations.
The exciting colors of the cockatiel have fascinated many bird enthusiasts for a long time.
For first-time owners, it might be overwhelming to choose from these unique hues. At the same time, it’s fun to know how these beautiful birds exhibit them.
In this article, I’m going to discuss all cockatiel colors. If you are planning to own one yourself, choosing a color is an excellent place to start.
What Is Cockatiel Color Mutation?
Due to specific cockatiel breeding practices done by experts, color mutations started to pop up.
These occur when a pigment gene is altered or muted, resulting in different colors. There are three known types of cockatiel mutations.
The first type of mutation is sex-linked. In this type, the color of the cockatiel is determined by the sex of the bird carrying the mutation.
Female cockatiels can only carry the gene visually, while males can possess it in two ways. They can either exhibit it visually or just carry the sex-linked gene without showing the color.
The sex-linked mutations include pearl, cinnamon, lutino, and yellow-faced. These colors will be discussed later in the article.
The second type of genetic mutation is called recessive. In this case, the offspring should have two copies of the gene to exhibit a particular color.
This means that both parents should carry the gene. Both males and females can split the recessive mutation. The recessive mutations are pied, whiteface, fallow, recessive silver, and yellow-cheeked.
The final mutation we’ll be discussing is called dominant. As the name suggests, the color of the cockatiel is a result of having a dominant color gene. Only one parent needs to carry the gene to pass it to their offspring.
Dominant silver and dominant pastel-face are the colors resulting from dominant mutation.
10 Different Types of Cockatiel Varieties and Color Mutations
Cockatiels are considered superstars of the aviary due to their colors. It’s hard not to be mesmerized by their looks alone.
If you are considering a cockatiel as your next pet, you might want to choose from the myriad of colors they have.
This section will discuss in detail the different color variations of the cockatiels. Of course, it’s paired with some photos to help you visualize their appearance better.
Normal grey cockatiel, or simply “grey cockatiel,” is the most common color for cockatiels. Birds with this color have dark grey feathers over their entire bodies and yellow or white markings on their wings and tails. Typically, a normal grey cockatiel will display orange cheek patches.
An adult female grey cockatiel usually has a few yellow streaks of feathers on the head that contrast their dark grey body. Adult males, on the other hand, tend to develop a full yellow head.
Both sexes have white barring on each side of their wings. The tail may also have a white or yellow barring.
Normal grey cockatiels are also called wild-type cockatiels and are considered the origin of all cockatiel color mutations.
A pearl cockatiel is another color mutation marked by a unique scalloped pattern of white spots on the body, wings, and head.
These spots are referred to as pearls, thus the name. These birds also display bright orange cheek patches and may have a light yellow coloring on their face.
As part of the pearl mutations, female pearl cockatiels retain the spots throughout their lifespan. However, males lose most of their spots after their first molt or shedding.
After some time, the pearls will be gone, and they will look like normal cockatiels.
The first captive breeding of pearl cockatiels happened in 1970. Most of them are female since they can retain the pearling pattern until old age.
Pied cockatiels are a result of a recessive gene mutation. These birds develop pied patches on areas where melanin is absent.
They also have darker eyes and lighter legs than a normal grey cockatiel. Some may develop a dark talon or the entire toe.
A pied cockatiel with a single copy of the pied gene is expected to show a streak of white or yellow feathers on the nape or a single light nail or wing feather.
Regardless of how many copies of genes they possess, no two pied cockatiels look alike.
Most of them have body areas with white, yellow, or gray feathers. It is estimated that a light pied cockatiel has only 10% pigmentation while a heavy pied has 75% of its body melanin-free.
If a pied has a few to no dark feathers on the face and chest, the cockatiel is called a clear pied.
Pieds are also the first mutation of the normal grey cockatiel. This occurred in the United States around 1951.
Watch this video if you want to see a pied cockatiel sing:
White-faced cockatiels lack the orange cheek patches distinct to their species. This is the effect of the mutation that causes the lack of orange cheek patch and yellow feather pigmentation.
The result is a bird with a solid white mask with streaks of grey feathers on the body. All the yellow and red tones of young cockatiels are muted to a dull white.
Males tend to have completely white heads, while females can develop a completely grey face.
White-faced cockatiels were first bred in 1964 in Holland and are known as the seventh mutation discovered.
When a cockatiel produces no pigment whatsoever, it is called an albino. These birds have a pure white appearance and red eyes.
However, no cockatiel is considered a true albino since the albino mutation doesn’t occur in this species, and they don’t carry the blue gene. It is more appropriate to refer to them as “white-faced Lutinos.”
Female albino cockatiels are distinguishable by males through a barring visible on the underside of their wings.
An albino cockatiel is actually produced from the combination of both white face and Lutino cockatiels which means it’s a double mutation.
Another eye-catching color variation of the cockatiel is silver. Generally, their body color is light, silvery grey, and their eyes are red.
However, there are cases when the intensity of the feather color and eyes differ depending on multiple genes affecting the grey coloration.
Cockatiels with a single-factor dominant silver have darker metallic silver feathers, orange cheek patches, black eyes, beaks, and feet. Those with a double-factor dominant silver have light metallic silver feathers.
Both dominant and recessive silver can be mutated with other colors, giving such pearl and white faces.
Instead of having a normal grey body, cinnamon cockatiels have a cinnamon brown color, giving them a muted look.
Their dark eyes complement their brownish-grey color. It is also a prevalent color among cockatiels.
Like normal greys, a male cinnamon cockatiel develops a bright yellow mask and bright orange cheek patches after molting.
On the other hand, females have dull cheek patches, and their face doesn’t become yellow at all. They also have white or yellow coloring on their tail feathers.
Other variations of cinnamon cockatiels include cinnamon pied, cinnamon pearly, and cinnamon pearly pied.
A cinnamon pied has a combination of cinnamon and yellow body feathers. A cinnamon pearly has pearled cinnamon feathers with yellow outer edges, while a cinnamon pearly pied combines the two variations.
The next color mutation in this list is the fallow cockatiel. At first glance, they might be mistaken as a silver cockatiel, but the exact color of these birds is a muted cinnamon with a yellow-brown tinge.
Despite the pastel silver look, the body of a fallow cockatiel is suffused with yellow, and the eyes are red.
You can also notice that their beak and legs look pinkish beige. Fallows and cinnamon cockatiels are sometimes considered similar because both mutations cause the normal grey to be suppressed.
Fallow cockatiels are a relatively recent color mutation that was developed in 1971. Unfortunately, this color variation has been subject to inbreeding which causes vision impairment in most birds.
In Lutinos, only the orange and yellow pigmentation is exhibited. These birds have bright yellow faces and orange cheek patches. Their red eyes contrast their white-feathered bodies.
Balding also occurs behind the crest of a Lutino cockatiel. These bald spots were visibly noticed when the first Lutino mutation was done.
It was observed over subsequent years of breeding and became a distinct feature of these birds.
Cockatiel breeders are working hard to reduce and eventually eliminate the undesirable trait of Lutino cockatiels to this day.
Unlike other color mutations, immature males and females are hard to distinguish from each other. However, you may sometimes notice yellow barring on the underside of an adult female’s tail.
Other variations include the lutino pearl with darker yellow pearling and a striking mix of white and light or dark grey. Another lovely variation is the white face lutino with pearling visible only on some portions of the wings.
Much like real olives, olive cockatiels have a greenish appearance. They have light grey bodies with a yellow tinge, which also gives a subtle mustard-brown hue. They are also known as emerald cockatiels.
Since cockatiels can produce only yellow, orange, and melanin pigments, having bright green feathers is impossible.
The greenish color of olive cockatiels is due to a dilute gene that reduces the amount of melanin. It also causes the hidden yellow pigmentation to become visible.
The suffused yellow and gray feathers combine to form a beautiful spangling pattern which gives them a distinct look. They first appeared in the 1980s and were established as the 13th cockatiel color mutation.
READ NEXT: How Much Does a Cockatiel Cost? Cockatiel Prices & Expenses
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Most Expensive Cockatiel Color?
The most expensive cockatiel color is the white-faced cockatiel. The price of a white-faced cockatiel ranges from $200 to $300.
The price is even higher for birds coming from a great lineage and if they have any special markings.
What Is the Cheapest Cockatiel Color
The cheapest cockatiel color is normal grey since they are the most common. This bird can cost around $80 to $150 at your local pet store. You can also get one at an aviary rescue for an affordable adoption fee.
Does Cockatiel Color Affect Its Health and Personality?
Colors only change the appearance of a cockatiel. Their health and personality will significantly depend on other factors.
Cockatiels that are given a healthy diet are expected to grow up with no health issues. Those that are trained early and raised in a positive environment will have great personalities.
What Is the Rarest Cockatiel Color Mutation?
The rarest cockatiel color mutation is white face. This is one of the variations that lack orange patch cheeks both in mature male and female birds.
They are the opposite of normal grey cockatiels in the sense that they produce a richer, coal-like coloration.
Final Thoughts: Which Cockatiel Color Is the Best?
There are many cockatiel mutations you should be aware of before choosing your pet.
Now that you know all about them, you might be wondering which is the best. The answer to this question relies solely on your preference and budget.
If you prefer a more affordable option, you can get a normal grey cockatiel. If you want rare colors, you should buy a white-faced, albino, or silver cockatiel.
If you are simply considering appearance, each color mutation is beautiful in its own way. You might also want to consider the availability of rare cockatiel colors in your location.
There might be a limited number of breeders that offer such colors. You can also read forums online for cockatiel owners to get some reliable tips and advice.
My name is John Carter and I absolutely love pets, especially cats and dogs. I’ve got a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and have several years’ experience working in animal shelters and rescues. My passion for animals started at a very young age as I grow up on a farm with several horses, cows, cats, chickens, and dogs on our property.
Tuesday 19th of July 2022
As a starter or first-time bird owner, which one I should go with? Please suggest.
Friday 24th of June 2022
I adopted a cockatiel that was part of an animal rescue from a drug seizure. Monroe (named by my son) suffers from night fright and seizures. How can I best help him when he has an episode?
Wednesday 30th of March 2022
Thank you for your very informative post! Main criteria for me is male so hopefully there will be signs in a baby handled bird. Any suggestions to help clarify?