Welcome to the world of Cockatiel Mutations!
My journey into cockatiels began with Boogs and Sweet Pea, shown above. I am going down memory lane now. Way back in the fall of 1993, a person I was dating told me he had a friend that to get rid of all of her birds, and would I want any. NO WAY! I did not know anything about birds, and cared less on learning about them. Well he got them and brought them to the house, to my displeasure. My two young daughters (which I think he coached them to do) started in: “Mommy, pleeease!, can we keep them?”
The kids were supposed to take care of the birds, and they did not so I wound up taking care of them. Then eggs started to appear. I thought, ‘Oh crap, what do I do?’ I got on the phone and learned the experienced breeders would not divulge any helpful info, and shopkeepers just did not know anything, except to sell me a book.
The book had a small chapter on breeding, but NO illustrations. I winged it with a cardboard box and shredded newspaper. After a few false starts (layed but did not sit) there were finally eggs, then babies. The book said not to interfere with the nest when they had babies. Back then, I was better at following advice rather than common sense. When I finally pulled (term I learned from the book, which I later built a bonfire and burnt) the babies when they started peeking out of the box I noticed two had legs sticking out sideways. I went to a vet to find out what was wrong with the legs. I learned that this was spraddle leg, and it was too late to fix them.
Another baby had strange speckled feathers and I thought it had a feather disorder or something. I raced to the pet shop to ask what was wrong with it. I will not describe her look, but she told me it was a pearl. She asked what color the parents were and told me it was a girl, and sold me 2 more books. We named the pearl George. She generated my curiosity on learning about mutations. I was confused because the baby did not look like either parent, and wanted to learn why.
This was in 1993, before there was the abundance of information available today about genetics and mutations. I bought several books to learn more. I read the information contained within the pages of the books to increase my knowledge. I joined cockatiel societies to read and learn more species-specific information about cockatiels. As time went by, I discovered to internet, with mailings lists and forums exclusively about cockatiels.
At the time, I was a single mother with two young daughters. I had always been self-employed and at the time was experiencing burn out. I had the bright idea to get into breeding cockatiels professionally. I am a sink or swim type of person, thus when I decided to do something I plunged right in. I sold off most of the inventory of my prior business to have the funds to purchase cockatiels. Within six (6) months I had about 150 cockatiels. In addition to the expense of the birds, I learned how to make my own cages, nestboxes and walk-in flights.
During this time, I also learned that many of the long time breeders were not willing to share their experiences with breeding. Aside from the normal grey, the fancy (term used at the time for color mutations) cockatiels were more expensive and harder to find. Those that did have a flock of color mutations wanted a premium price, or just would not sell to me.
The bulk of the cockatiels I had were Normal Greys. My first challenge was to visually determine the difference between a male and female. Once mastered, then I would pair them up. It was through actual breeding my cockatiels taught me the knowledge I have today. The best lessons taught were the surprises they gave me in the nest.
Boogs and Sweet Pea were very prolific. Rick Ventura (now deceased) had visited one day, and said he went to cockatiel shows and he really liked Boogs and Sweet Pea because they had perfect toplines, but they were small. By small, I mean miniature cockatiels sized. Even though small they did have other positive traits and I learned to work with them. A bird with a perfect topline IS invaluable! Each of Boogs and Sweet Peas offspring inherited that perfect topline. I learned that I could pair one of Boogs offspring with a larger bird that had a not so good topline, and the size increased along with a good topline. Then I started pairing Boogs offspring with birds that had crossed wings and other faults, and with the next generation, those faults were not there. When I started, learning and working with mutations, many of Boogs descendants contributed to their nice straight topline, and helped to breed out minor faults.
I started with Normals years ago, and it seems I have come full circle and will be starting again with Normals. I am forever grateful and in debt to Boogs and Sweet Pea and all my other birds for all they had taught me over the years. This book shows many of the past birds I had worked with and illustrates much of what they had taught me.
My apologies in advance to the purists and geneticists reading the context may prefer that the “correct” terminology should have been used. Unfortunately, after being on quite a few cockatiel forums and lists for several years, I have learned that the majority of those seeking advice prefer simple answers, and illustrations or photos when available. I have learned that a person can learn just as much by observing as they can by reading.
I have tried to keep the context of this in simple, easy to understand terminology. Frankly, reading about chromosomes, alleles, locus, and genome leaves my mind numb and my eyes crossed. When it comes to understanding the Punnett square, forget it! For those that do like or prefer this type of information the following link is very helpful: http://tinyurl.com/9a695mk
There is a wonderful book available, with excellent photos, and goes into detail of breeding and genetics. This book also has photos of the mutations, especially many of the Australian mutations. I highly recommend this book as an additional resource in regards to Cockatiels and Mutations. A Guide to…Cockatiels AND THEIR MUTATIONS AS PETS & AVIARY BIRDS, by Dr. Terry Martin BVSc & Diana Andersen: http://tinyurl.com/8d5dowa If you do a search at www.amazon.com you can also find a used copy of COCKATIELS! Pets-Breeding-Showing by Nancy A. Reed
The majority of the information presented is from my own personal experiences and observations. I have worked extensively with all the mutations with the exception of SLYC, Gold Cheek and Creamface. Sadly, I have little information in those chapters, aside from what I have either read or heard in discussions with other breeders.
Breeding was a very rewarding experience and each day I looked forward to being around my birds and working with then. Over the years my birds have taught me allot. In my early years, I read information on mutations, but when working with the mutations I learned that not all available information was accurate or complete. At the time there were no clear-cut answers on what would be considered a Pied or a split to Pied. For instance, early information stated that if the bird had any clear (yellow) patches on the body it was a Pied. Even to this day, it is still arguable amongst many people as to what would be considered a Pied.
In the late 90’s I started to digitally document everything in regards to the mutations, and other issues such as health. Once I had a nice collection of photos I started compiling them into collages that contained helpful information written on the collage. I found it is more understandable when a person is shown something. The collage will show the birds in more natural poses and several different angles and positions, rather than stagnant studio shots that have no dimension, or is just a singular representation of the mutation.
The information contained within the pages will be helpful to the both inexperienced/novice and experienced cockatiel enthusiast or breeder. This book is designed to be your personal guide in the overwhelming world of mutations. The focus is towards visually identifying each mutation, especially in situations where a mutation will share several visual traits with another mutation. Many of the illustrations are of my own cockatiels unless otherwise noted on the illustration. At the end of the book is also the Credits and Special Thanks page that lists the names of those that have contributed photos of their beautiful birds for inclusion in this book.
Please feel free to contact me if you see some spelling, grammar or typo errors. Or if a section of the book is unclear, and is in need of clarification or needs more info: firstname.lastname@example.org
I can include these corrections in future editions.
Thank you….and Enjoy! I call all the photos ‘Cockatiel Eye Candy.’ Each illustration shows the beauty of these incredible birds