Pet birds come in a tremendous range of color variations, and cockatiel colors can be some of the loveliest. But which cockatiel color mutations are natural, which are the result of selective breeding, and which are the rarest cockatiel colors of all? Understanding the different colors of these popular pet birds can help you choose which color is best for your new feathered friend.
Natural Cockatiel Colors
All cockatiels, no matter what their plumage color, are the same species– Nymphicus hollandicus. They are also known as the common cockatiel, weiro bird, or quarrion, and are the smallest member of the cockatoo bird family, Cacatuidae. Wild cockatiels are native to Australia, but these birds have become one of the most popular pet birds all over the world.
The most common cockatiel color is the “normal grey” or “wild-type” cockatiel coloration. A typical cockatiel has an overall medium-grey body, with the chest and abdomen slightly lighter than the back. There is white on the edges of the wings, and the face and crest have a yellow or white wash. The cheeks have distinct round cheek patches in a bold orange hue. Male cockatiels have stronger coloration while females tend to be more muted or paler.
Three rare color mutations can occur in wild cockatiels:
Melanistic – These birds produce more dark pigments and may appear very dark grey, even black, though they may still show the white patches on the wings.
Leucistic – This genetic mutation creates pure white patches on the bird that often appear in symmetrical patterns across the body, tail, or wings.
Albino – This rare variation gives the bird an allover white or creamy color that may show faint yellow tones. The pale legs and reddish eyes are clues that the bird is an albino.
In the wild, these color variations are very rare. Because differently colored birds often have difficulty finding mates, the colors are not often passed along to future generations.
Cockatiel Color Mutations
Many pet bird breeders and aviculturists enjoy breeding cockatiels to deliberately encourage unique colors. There are a number of color variations that can be found in pet cockatiels, including: White-faced
– These cockatiels have the typical wild-type body coloration, but have a plain white face and crest, without the distinctive orange cheek patches.
Yellow-faced – These birds have the same body colors as wild cockatiels, but have much more yellow on the head and show yellow cheek patches instead of orange.
Lutino – A popular and eye-catching variation, lutino cockatiels are overall pale and creamy white or faintly yellow, with the common orange cheeks. These birds may also show yellow bars, dots, or stripes on the underside of the tail.
Pied – Pied cockatiels have blotchy white and grey plumage, though the color pattern is unpredictable and the extent of the blotches varies. In all pied cockatiels, the orange cheeks are still present.
Silver – One of the more rare cockatiel colors, silver birds have the normal pattern of color but are much paler overall than typical grey cockatiels, giving these unique birds a silvery appearance.
Pearl – Distinctive round spots or “pearls” of white or pale gray decorate the body, wings, and heads of these birds. These spots can be lost with regular molts, however, and the bird may eventually revert to more typical plumage.
Emerald – Also called olive or spangled cockatiels, these birds have less grey in their plumage, and it is blended with more yellow to create a somewhat green-grey tinge to the overall coloration.
Cinnamon – Also called fallow cockatiels, these birds have the typical plumage pattern but show brownish or faintly reddish tints to their body feathers, giving them a duller appearance.
Blue – One of the rarest cockatiel colors, blue cockatiels aren't actually blue, but have overall white plumage with darker gray or black wing markings, and a hint of blue-gray on the tail. These birds have no cheek patches or yellow wash on the head.
Cockatiels Of Any Color
No matter what different colors of cockatiels may be available from local breeders, it is important to note that all these birds are still the same species, with the same care needs as any typical cockatiel. When choosing cockatiel color mutations, investigate the breeder's reputation and check the birds for good health, personalities, and proper care to be sure your bird is healthy and comfortable. No matter what color you choose, your cockatiel can be a beautiful companion you will enjoy for many years.
BirdLife International – Latin names, family, wild range, Cockatiel Latin Name
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds – naturally occurring abnormal colorations, Colouration of Birds
Feisty Feathers, Cockatiel Color Mutations
PetKeen, Types of Cockatiels
Beauty of Birds, Cockatiel Mutations
AFA Watchbird Magazine Archive, Rare Cockatiel Color Mutations