8 Chapter 8

Dominant Silver

(Dominant Edged, Dominant Dilute, Ashen Dilute, Blackhead)

Dominant, Double Factor (DF)

Co-dominant, Single Factor (SF)

Common Abbreviation:  DS

Origin:  Dominant Silver is the eighth established mutation. The Dominant Silver mutation was discovered by Terry Cole in a pet shop in the United Kingdom in 1979.

Dominant Silver cannot be visually detected from a Normal in the nest until they start to feather up. Dominant Silver will appear paler, with a brownish wash to their plumage. Their eyes are brown and the beak and legs are charcoal to black. The silver coloration is darker on the nape of the neck extending up onto the head, creating a hood-like effect. This is commonly referred to as the skullcap, and is a result of additional melanin deposits. The skullcap is present on both sexes in varying degrees. The normal variation of Dominant Silver will have the yellow barring, and orange cheek patches similar to a Normal Grey.  Sometimes a dark-toned baby may not show any of the visual dominant silver traits.

I have learned that as the baby pinfeathers to look at the density or sparseness of the pin-feathered pattern behind the crest. I have noticed that the visual babies will have a sparse pattern, and the non-visuals will have a dense pattern.

Adult coloration is gradual, and may take 3-4 molts to attain the birds’ final coloration. With each molt the bird will lighten up in color. The cocks tend to get lighter with each successive molt. A Dominant Silver that feathers out very dark can take anywhere from 1-3 molts before they lighten up. Usually by the time a SF Dominant Silver cock is 3-4 years old he will have molted out as light as he is going to get. The hens do not lighten up as much as the cocks. Most will be the same color when adults as they were as they were when they were young. The hens that do lighten up will only go a shade or two lighter, with a warm chocolate colored shade to their plumage.

Hens do not change much in coloration. They may always look like a normal gray mutation that has a chocolate wash. The hens will always remain darker than cocks.

The Single Factor Dominant Silver (SFDS) can sometimes be mistaken for a light toned Cinnamon because of the slight brown wash to the grey. Selective breeding may lead to the establishment of paler lines without the tan/brown wash.

Genetically the Cinnamon-toned  Dominant Silver are not a result of the sex-linked Cinnamon, yet will look very similar, but the bird should still exhibit several of the  Dominant Silver traits such the darker skullcap, and diluted centers and dark edging to the wing flights.

Single Factor (SF) and Double Factor Dominant Silver (DF) cockatiels can be visually identified by their coloration. As shown the depth of coloration can vary per bird.  Double factor birds are significantly lighter than Single Factor birds, appearing similar to a Lutino, but with a greyish beige wash to a pale mocha color. They will retain the dark skullcap, and the black coloration of the eyes and feet. This mutation is quite striking when crossed with Whiteface.

Dominant Silver is an interesting mutation to work with. Since it is a dominant mutation it can be put with any normal (orange cheek patch bird) or a Whiteface and you will get some Dominant Silver babies in each clutch. All you need is just one Dominant Silver of either sex to produce a visual.

Dominant Silver can be in either Single Factor (SF) or Double Factor (DF). A SF Dominant Silver can vary in color from looking very similar to a normal (orange cheek patch bird) or normal Whiteface to a dilute grey or dilute Cinnamon-Fallow color. The color shades can vary within a clutch.

The Double Factor Dominant Silver (DFDS) tend to run on the small side. This is very characteristic of this mutation. Most breeders have found that it has been very difficult to get size up on the DF, and will focus more towards nice conformation and color. When breeding for Double Factor it is preferable to pair two large Single Factors together. Please be aware that even though both parents are healthy, that this pairing can result in a higher loss of chicks in the nest. If there are any visual Double Factor offspring, they should not be paired with a Dominant Silver when they mature. Always pair a Double Factor with a large Normal or WF Normal that has good conformation and other desirable traits. There should be at least 1-2 generations of outcrossing to a Normal, or Whiteface mutation before another pairing for Double Factor offspring. In doing this it helps this mutation to maintain and improve on size, vigor and health.

When working with this mutation I have learned there are a few mutations that can affect the Dominant Silver visually. What contributes to this mutation being so unique is the unusual color, the skullcap, and the diluted silvery dark edged wing flights.

When working with this mutation I have learned there are a few mutations that can affect the Dominant Silver visually. What contributes to this mutation being so unique is the unusual color, the skullcap, and the diluted silvery dark edged wing flights.

Mutations such as sex-linked Cinnamon can mask these distinctive traits, resulting in a Dominant Silver that will visually look like a Cinnamon. Genetically it is still a Dominant Silver, even though it appears sex-linked Cinnamon. Lutino will also mask the Dominant silver traits. Some of the Dominant Silver color may bleed thru giving the bird a color tone similar to a Lutino Cinnamon. It most instances Lutino can totally mask the Dominant Silver coloration, thus a Lutino or WF lutino appearing bird. Pied will also mask many of the identifiable traits, such as eliminating the skullcap, and masking the dark edging and diluted centers to the wing flights. I have learned that since Pied can mask all the classic Dominant Silver traits a few clues may be present on the bird. As the Pied Dominant Silver matures the beak may turn black. Other clues would be black toenails, and if normal a brownish wash to the dark grey patches of the plumage.

When there are not any Cinnamon undertones to the Dominat silver coloration, or actual Cinnamon masking the traits the coloration is more of a light silvery grey tone. Bear in mind that EACH bird of the Dominat silver mutation can vary in coloration.  Many times this can even be seen within the clutch.

When the Dominant Silver is a Pearl it may look like a Normal or Cinnamon Pearl when it first feathers, especially the hens. If the distinctive traits are not apparent then you will have to see if there are any changes as the bird molts. The dark grey/black areas of the pearl pattern will molt in brown.

The center of the wing flights will get more diluted looking with each molt. The black is replaced with chocolate brown. At first glance the bird can be mistaken to be a Cinnamon Pearl. If it is a cock, he will get a scalloped or spangled pattern to his back.

A Normal Single Factor Dominant Silver (SFDS) and an Emerald look very similar which can make it harder to distinguish between the two mutations. When in doubt it is best to test breed the bird.  Dominant Silver is a dominant mutation, thus when paired with a normal there should be at least 1-2 visual offspring. Emerald is a recessive mutation, meaning both birds must carry the gene to produce visual offspring. When paired with a Normal, if the bird is an Emerald there will be no visual offspring.

During the early 2000’s it was the trend of breeders that worked with the rarer color mutations to try and get as many color combinations on the Dominant silver as possible. The end resulted in making it harder to recognize what the mutation was. Shown are some examples of birds that are visually showing Dominant Silver and another mutation such as Emerald or recessive silver. Emerald shares many of the same visual identifying traits as Dominant Silver.

When Recessive Silver and Dominant Silver are visually showing on the bird, if you do not know the background of the bird it can easily be mistaken to be a fallow.

When working with the Dominant Silver the best results are obtained from pairings with Normal or Normal Whiteface with no splits to Pearl, Pied, Cinnamon or Lutino. Try to breed out any splits so that you work backwards towards the true basic mutation. In doing so,  I have also found that an added bonus in doing this is that the offspring that are not visual Dominant Silver, are Normals and good to hold back. They will be one step closer to a Normal or Normal Whiteface with no splits. The color of the normal offspring will be darker, with a dark band across the chest, and very dark to black feet and beaks.


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


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