10 Chapter 10

Patterns:  Are mutations that have an altered or disrupted pattern to the body plumage.



Note: The names of the mutations are in bold type, and are what is commonly used in the US. In parenthesis ( ) will be the following information: First, there will be the gene name, and then past or other names that might be used. Example: Pearl (Opaline, Laced, Lacewing, Gesperlt)


(Recessive Pied, Harlequin, Variegated, Dominant Pied,

ADM pied (which means an AntiDiMorphic Pied)

Recessive (Autosomal)

Common Abbreviations: pD, pp, Pd

Origin: Pied was the first mutation to occur in captivity in California, USA in aviary’s of Mrs. R. Kersh and D. Putnam in 1949. Mrs. Kersh continued to work with the pied mutation until 1979.

Pied is when the normal wild-type body colors are replaced with yellow or white in varying degrees. The most significant change to occur with the Pied is the distribution of Melanin (grey or dark) pigmentation that is deposited randomly on select areas of the body. Combined with the distribution of the Lipochrome (yellow) on the body and crest, contributes to a variegated look to the plumage.

When both the melanin (dark) and Lipochrome (yellow) are suppressed, the result is the Pied areas appearing almost white. The amount of lipochrome (yellow) expressed can vary per bird, and the more that is expressed the yellower the pied areas on the body.

Interestingly, when working with Pied no two birds are marked exactly alike. This makes breeding them fun and a challenge. The amount of pied (yellow) on a bird can vary, thus the terms: light, heavy, and clear Pied.

When you hear the word Pied think of ‘clear’ or the yellow/white areas on the bird. These are the areas that are devoid of the melanin (dark) pigment. A Pied feather will have no dark pigments, but it may contain varying amounts of the lipochrome (yellow) pigments.

Pied is easy to identify as they start to pinfeather in the nest. The toenails will appear white/clear, the crest is yellow, and several (or all if a heavy pied) of the wing flights will be light colored.

A Pied bird will visually show clear areas on the body, and the dark areas can be any mutation that occurs in the solid color variations, or a pattern mutation such as pearl. For example, Normal Pied is a bird that consists of random patches of clear feathers and grey feathers. It was not until the early 1980’s that cross mutations of Pied were bred, which were birds that showed another pattern such as a Pearl Pied. The Whiteface pied and other Whiteface Pied variations appeared in the late 1980’s.

Each Pied is different, and the amount of pied areas on the body will vary. If someone uses the terms ‘heavy’ or ‘light’ Pied they are referring to the amount of light or ‘clear’ feathers on the body.

Light Pied can have as little as 1 (one) wing flight or tail feather that is a solid yellow/white, up to 25% of the plumage being yellow/white. A symmetrical light Pied is very valuable towards breeding for heavier nicely marked pied. Over the years there has been several arguments and viewpoints expressed on what would be considered a Light Pied bird. When in doubt of if the bird is a light Pied or a split to Pied test breed it with a visual pied. If there are any normal babies in the clutch the bird is a split to pied, and 100% offspring will confirm the bird is a pied.

Heavy Pied means that more of the yellow/white plumage shows. This can include a bird that is predominately yellow with just a few dark feathers present on the back, wing flights or tail.

Clear Pied is a bird that exhibits no dark feathers to the back, wing flights or tail, with light colored feet and beak, with dark eyes. Since Pied is a patterned mutation, in order to be considered clear, it should not show any dark feathers on the back that can be misconstrued as a pattern.

A clear Pied can be mistaken for a Lutino because both mutations look the same. Shining a flashlight indirectly to the eye will reveal the pupil and iris colors. If the bird does not reflect back red in both the iris and pupil then it is a clear Pied. A clear Pieds eyes will have a black pupil and a brown iris, and a lutino will have a ruby colored iris and red eyes.

The exception to the pupil color will be the Cinnamon mutation, which will reflect back a deep wine color, with brown iris color.

Of all mutations Pied are the most difficult to sex. The mutation is sometimes referred to as ADM Pied, meaning anti-dimorphic. The random distribution of melanin (dark) and lipochrome (yellow) feathers many times obscure the usual differences between the sexes. Many cocks can retain the typical barring to the tail and dots to some wing flights throughout several molts or for several years.

If the pair is a Sex-Linked (SL) pairing, meaning the cock is either a visual SL pied or split to a SL mutation, and the mother is not a SL mutation then the visual SL mutations will be females. For example, A Cinnamon Pearl Pied cock paired with a Normal pied hen. All offspring that visually show Cinnamon and/or pearl are hens and the offspring looking like the hen are cocks. Pied, like Whiteface Lutino, is one of the few mutations that it is best to have DNA sexed. The cocks, like with all other mutations will exhibit, beak banging, heart-wings, and whistle, which can be a good indicator of the sex. A less reliable form of sexing is Wing-Spot sexing.

Pearl Pied cocks may retain some of the pearled feathers on their shoulders for several years or their entire life, but the pattern will appear diluted or washed out looking.

Pied is also one of the few mutations that will show that a mutation is split to Pied. If a mutation has a patch or a few light colored feathers on the nape of back of the head it is a good indication of split to pied. Other signs of a bird being split to Pied are light colored toenails, variegated (light and dark pigments) toes, a dark stripe on the beak, light colored patches on the body, and with the pearl mutation elongated shaped wing spots.

Interestingly when a Lutino is split to Pied, as they mature the iris of their eyes may change to an amber, blue, or blue-white color. A Lutino Pied will retain the pale pink eyes.

Sometimes descriptive words are used to describe pied such as:

Primrose has been descriptively used for describing a Pied that has a high content of deep yellow over the body. Many times when this is first seen a person may assume that the yellow is a result of liver disease. If the yellow is a uniform color, with no blotching, then it is the coloration of the pied areas on the body.

Saddle back, Butterfly back or Angel wing is descriptively used for describing the pattern of dark feathers on the back of the cockatiel.

Reverse pied is descriptively used for describing a clear Pied or very heavy Pied.

Bulls-Eye is descriptively used as another term for clear pied.

Dirty faced is used descriptively to describe the smudges or dark feathers on the face.

Some common questions when breeding pied

How can I tell if my bird is a visual Pied or a split to Pied? In order for a bird to be a visual Pied mutation it must have at least one clear (solid colored) wing flight or tail feather. If not, then it is a split to pied. Note: This is a point of contention between breeders on if this is true or not. I am writing from my own personal experience. The collages above will illustrate what to look for in determining if the bird is a split or lightly Pied.

How do I breed out the dark chest and dirty face?: When breeding Pied it is desirable to strive for a bird that is evenly marked with no dark feathers present on the face (clean faced), chest, wing flights or tail. The easiest way to do this, but it takes a couple generations, is to start with 1 normal bird that has no splits to Pied, and pair it to a Pied that has a clean face, and chest. Hold back the split offspring, and then pair them with the Pied that you want to be clear of these traits (dirty face, and dark band across the chest)

How can I breed for symmetrical, nicely marked Pied? I have found that the most valuable Pied to breed for heavy symmetrical Pied is a very light Pied, that just has 1-2 clear (light colored) flight feathers on each wing, located in the same place on each wing. Or even a light Pied that has just the 2 center tail feathers that are clear. The first thing I would suggest is to pair this light Pied with a Normal that is not split to Pied. Hold back these splits, and pair them with a 50/50 (equal amounts of light and dark colors) Pied, and some of the offspring will be nice heavy symmetrically marked Pied. From personal experience my first clear Pied were from a of pairing 2 splits from very lightly symmetrical Pied.

Why must I use a male that is not split to Pied to breed for offspring that are split to Pied? The reason why you do not want start with a bird that is split to Pied is because if you do not know what pattern or faults the pied split carries. Patterns and/or faults can be passed to the next generation. Ideally what you want to do is pair a Normal with a Pied that visually exhibits the desired traits. For example, a Pied with a clean face, chest, and/or symmetrically place flight feathers, paired with a Normal with no splits. You then have offspring that are carrying the traits you working towards.


COCKATIEL MUTATIONS, A Bounty of Color Copyright © by srtiels. All Rights Reserved.


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