The Beauty of the Budgerigar: Colors, Mutations, and More

The Ultimate Budgie Color eBook


Learn everything there is to know about budgie colors right here!

Budgerigar Colors Poster

Celebrate the Beautiful Colors of the Budgerigar With This Stunning and Highly Informative Poster

Budgies are beautiful creatures and one of the big reasons for that is their incredibly varied and vibrant plumage. Budgerigars come in a wide variety of different colors and patterns, each one as striking as the next and each able to tell us something about that bird.

This poster is a real treat for those with an interest in ornithology. Each image is highly detailed and anatomically correct and the post features all 56 of the most common color mutations. This allows it to double as not only a wonderful decoration for your home but also a highly accurate reference chart.

The poster comes in the following sizes:

MINI - 7" X 10"

SMALL - 13" X 18"

MEDIUM - 17" X 23"

LARGE - 20" X 28"

X-LARGE - 28" X 40"

We recommend the larger sizes for the most detailed images. We only use the finest materials for these premium posters and have gone to painstaking lengths to ensure this is the definitive reference poster on the subject.

So why not celebrate the many colors of the budgerigar with this magnificent poster? Whether you want to brush up on your bird spotting, show off your love of birds or just add a splash of color to your walls; this is brilliant way to liven up your décor. A rainbow of color that is as informative as it is unique, just like budgerigars themselves.

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The Budgerigar: A Magnificent Array of Colors

Displaying a brilliant array of colorful plumage, the expressive budgerigar has captured the hearts of bird lovers around the world for more than 175 years. They are treasured for their beautiful colors as much as for their lovely voices and friendliness (Shea 3). Before captivity, wild budgerigars only sported a color combination of green, yellow and black in its native Australia habitat. Today, the diminutive parakeet is available in a vivid array of shades that range from grass green, buttercup yellow and cobalt blue to cotton white, slate grey and lilac purple. By many accounts, the budgie is the most diversely colored bird in the world.

The playfully vocal parakeet is a popular family pet due to its hardiness, ease of care and ready availability at local animal shops. It is also a favored show bird throughout Australia, America and Europe. Prices for purchasing a budgie range from $10 to thousands of dollars depending on the bird’s age, sex, variety, bloodlines and breeding history. Most people select their budgie based on its exotic coloring although blue, green and yellow remain the most well liked color strains. However, you can also find birds that are grey, mauve or pure white. Some varieties have cinnamon brown wing markings while others have clear opalescent wing feathers. 

Fanciers and exhibition breeders experiment with mating hens and cocks that can carry dozens of dominant and recessive mutant genes to produce new color combinations. More than 150 years after the first mutations appeared, selective breeding is still a fascinating hobby that enables bird enthusiasts to strategically and systematically manipulate genetics in order to create rare varieties. While quality of color is important, the actual color choice is a personal preference since the hues have no bearing on the health or personality of the budgie. However, budgie owners who plan to compete in shows are required to breed for correct color. More colorful parakeets are rare, so the fancier mutations are more expensive.

The vast diversity in color patterns makes a discussion on budgie colors a complex topic. Time and patience is required to fully understand the subject (Vriends 70). Budgie forums are filled with questions about identifying the mutations of a specific variety. Inquiries are as simple as “How do you tell a Greywing from a Dilute?” or as complicated as “What’s the difference between a Rainbow and a Double Factor Spangle?” If you are having a hard time distinguishing between Greygreen and Grey or need clarification on the distinction between Opaline and Pied, then you will find this in-depth guide to budgerigar colors a handy reference tool whether you are a new pet owner, a budding breeder or a seasoned exhibitor.

THE WILD TYPE BUDGERIGAR COLORATION

The wild budgerigar is native to Australia. Flocks ranging from ten to 100 birds, and even up thousands of birds can be seen in several types of open habitats. The wildtype budgerigar’s color is called Lightgreen.

Normal Colors of the Wild Type


Despite the vast array of colorful plumage present in modern budgies, in its natural Australian habitat, wild budgerigars have a very specific coloring and patterning on each body part. The natural Light Green budgie possesses these characteristics, which are referred to as the Normal or wild type. 

Wild type Light Green budgerigars share the following consistent traits. These are the standards by which all mutations are measured: 

Normal Feather Colors

  • The Normal budgie’s body color is a bright grass green. It is clearly seen down the front chest as well as on the rear rump, which peeks through the tucked wings when the bird is perching. 
  • The flight wings are green with black scallop shell markings. The overlay gives the wings the appearance of being edged with yellow. When the wings are spread, a band of white patches is visible on the underside. 
  • The long tail feathers in the back are a rich blue-black color down the center and are outlined in yellow. When the budgie spreads its wings to take flight, the bright yellow feathers underneath shine through. 
  • The short covert feathers in the front are black with yellow fringes. 


Normal Head Marking Hues

  • The budgie’s head is yellow. This coloring runs from the front face mask, the area below the beak, up over the forehead and crown and then down to the nape of the neck. 
  • The mantle, which is also called the saddle, is a V-shaped area on the back of the head just above the wings that includes horizontal black stripes called undulations. The yellow coloring can be seen in between the black markings. 
  • Fledglings have additional horizontal black stripes that stretch from the cere to the nape. After these infant cap feathers molt around 4 months old, they are replaced by unmarked yellow feathers. 


Normal Face Colorations

  • The cheek patches are small triangular splotches on both sides of the face. They are a dark violet purple. 
  • The black circular throat spots are evenly spaced across the bottom of the face mask. As the bird grows, these spots increase from three to six. The outer two throat spots are partially covered by the bottom of the cheek patches. 
  • The eyes consist of a black pupil surrounded by a white iris. Chicks have black irises that lighten to dark grey around 4 months old and light grey around 6 months old until they are eventually white. 
  • The cere, the area that surrounds the nostrils just above the beak, is royal blue on adult males and beige on adult females. The intensity of the color depends on health and hormones. This unfeathered, tough skin temporarily turns a crusty brown texture while females are breeding but returns to its usual coloring afterward. Until they reach maturity at 8 months old, immature budgies have a pink cere. This rotation of colors makes it easier to identify the sex, age and life stage of budgies. 


Normal Body Part Colors

  • The legs and feet are grey-blue. 
  • The beak is olive-grey. 
  • All markings on the head and feathers do not have any intrusion of body color. 

Survival of the Fittest: The Science Behind the Colors


This combination of colors gives budgerigars the greatest change of survival in the wild as they nest in the fallen limbs of billabong trees or forage for ground seeds in the green grasslands of Australia (Mobley 460). Since the tiny budgies also fly in tight formations for protection, a differently colored bird becomes easy pickings for a larger bird of prey. 

The budgie’s plumage also has reflective properties that attract the hens to the cocks. The fourth ocular cell in the eye enables the budgie to see the ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths when they hit the feathers. The absorption of the UV rays also contributes to yellow fluorescence (Pearn 2278). Although the human eye is not capable of seeing these reflected colors, it can detect the glowing fluorescence of the budgie’s yellow coloring and markings when viewed under a black light, a fact discovered in 1936 by German scientist Otto Völker. This short wavelength light, which is absorbed and then reemitted at longer wavelengths, is present in the bird’s crown and cheek patches. Researchers hypothesize that this unique ability may “produce more intense and saturated radiance.” (Pearn 2273-74)

For these two reasons, conspicuous color mutations rarely occur in the wild type budgie. As a result, the vast array of colors that modern budgies display is the direct result of human tinkering with avian genetics. 

BUDGERIGAR COLOR GENETICS MUTATIONS


Any deviation in colors from the Light Green wild type is called a mutation. All of the Normal characteristics are alterable through the selective breeding of dominant and recessive genes. There are 32 types of mutations that are responsible for producing hundreds of color variations in the budgie's feathers, eyes, feet and body markings. Depending on which genes are inherited, black pupils can become red, green feathers can turn blue and dark purple cheek patches fade to a light lilac-grey. The DNA changes can even sometimes result in the development of body type anomalies, such as a crest of curled feathers on top of the crown (Davids 143).

The primary mutations include: 

Australian Pied Dominant Grey Recessive Grey
Anthracite English Fallow Recessive Pied
Blackface English Grey Saddleback
Blue Feather Duster Scottish Fallow
Cinnamon German Fallow Slate
Clearbody Greywing Spangle
Clearflight Pied Halfsider Violet
Clearwing Ino Yellowface I
Crested Lacewing Yellowface II
Dark Mottled
Dilute (Suffused) Opaline


These mutations are often grouped into one of three categories: color; wing markings and body patterning; or feather variants. 

Pigment Changes Influence Colors


The budgie’s green coloration is produced by a yellow pigment named psittacofulvin (psittacin) combined with the blue structure color on the feather’s surface (Vriends 70). The amount of psittacin in the bird’s molecular structure determines the shade and intensity of the plumage colors. A blue mutation, for example, completely blocks the production of the yellow pigment. Since there is no blue in the head feathers, the color is pure yellow. When the yellow pigment is absent, the color manifests as white. 

The amount of melanin present in the bird’s genes affects the depth of the coloration as well. This black pigment is also responsible for the black coloration found in the tail and wing feathers, eyes and bars that run across the fledgling budgie’s head (National Geographic 104) as well as the greyish coloring in the feet. Varying amounts of melanin can manifest as grey or brown in certain varieties. 

The above 32 genetic variations are grouped into one of four melanin classifications: 

  • Albinism: The amount of melanin is significantly reduced or no longer present in the bird’s structural DNA. 
  • Dilutism: The melanin is partially reduced in the feathers, which results in pastel colors. 
  • Leucism: The melanin is completely absent in the feathers. 
  • Melanism: The melanin is increased in the feathers. 


These mutations are natural in the sense that they have all originated within the budgie’s organic DNA. To date, there are no known hybrids of budgies being crossbred with another bird species. As the dominant gene, the wild type always overpowers the recessive mutations. Offspring can still inherit a recessive gene and eventually pass it on to their own offspring, but in order for a specific recessive variation to be visibly displayed, it must be present in both parents. 

How the Budgie Changed its Colors


Having existed in Australia for millions of years, budgerigars were an important food source in the ancient Aboriginal culture. English zoologist George Shaw introduced the beloved Australian bird to the world when he released the 1805 edition of the “Naturalists Miscellany,” which he wrote during his role as Assistant Keeper of Natural History at the British Museum. 

Two of the tiny parakeets landed in England when ornithologist John Gould brought them home from a research trip to Australia in 1838 to write his lavishly illustrated “The Birds of Australia.” When Gould introduced the “warbling Grass Parakeets” to the Victorian nobility, a wealthy group who were already fascinated by crossbreeding everything from roses to cats, the novel birds soared in popularity. As more were imported, fanciers throughout Europe began experimenting with breeding larger, more colorful varieties of budgies. 

Lord Derby, the nobleman who sponsored Gould’s journeys to Australia, was the first to begin selective mating of captive budgies in 1848 (Olsen 19). The first successful color variation is widely credited to a Belgium breeder who produced a light yellow bird in 1872. This variety is now known as Dilute Yellow. 

While Daniels notes that the original Skyblue mutation occurred six years later in Brussels, other sources trace the story back to a Dutch bird keeper in 1881. The unnatural genetic mutation proved difficult to reproduce, and blue birds that were born did not have long life spans. Once the variation was finally stabilized 40 years later, the blue budgie debuted in London during an exhibit, “causing a sensation among aviculturists and the public” (Olsen 19). Although a handful of variations were produced, including Cobalt and Violet, this color series remained rare and expensive until the 1930s, just a couple of years after the popular parakeets arrived in America. 

As the availability of the pet-friendly birds increased and the knowledge of genetics multiplied during the early 20th century, breeders were able to reliably perpetuate recessive traits. Rapid development of new mutations appeared between 1915 and 1948, including the first Dark Green in France, Greywing in England and Cinnamon Ino in Australia. These mutations changed the wild type colors of the body, crown and feathers to dozens of different hues, including Olive and Mauve. In some varieties, such as those that carry the Clearwing and Ino genes, the colors of the markings, pupils and feet were even altered. 

There have been few new mutations to emerge since this time. The Spangle and Saddleback budgerigars appeared in Australia in the 1970s, and two Blackface budgies were found by breeder Van Dijk in the Netherlands in 1992. A report from MUTAVI Research and Advice Group notes that the significantly darker cobalt blue cocks had “black undulated masks and black striped markings at their abdomen.” Dijk also had one Cinnamon Blackface budgie, which exhibited a brown mask and brown stripes. 

Today, budgies come in an extensive variety of colors except for pure black, red or pink. After World War II, an enterprising scam artist duped English, Australian and South African fanciers into believing he had discovered a bright red budgerigar in India. It was quickly discovered after the first molt that the white plumage of the Albino birds had been dyed. “To this day, the burgundy budgerigar remains a dream,” Olsen wrote in 2011 (19). However, the Dark Grey mutation does produce a nearly black variety. 

The animated birds are widely available in pet shops across the world. The most common colors found are green, yellow and blue, but they come in an assortment of shades and patterns that combine to produce hundreds of variations. Specialty breeders and competition show exhibitors are able to produce rarer mutations, such as Slate Grey and Rainbow.  

Setting Budgerigar Society Color Standards


By the late 19th century, budgies could be bought easily and inexpensively from European aviary factories that churned out batches of hatchlings by the thousands. However, when the Australian government set a ban on exporting budgies in 1894, European fanciers turned their attention to breeding their own unique color combinations and patterns. Budgerigar societies soon sprang up from London and France to Holland and Germany, allowing members to share their love for the colorful bird. 

Ambitious breeders also began competing in exhibition shows around the world to win the bragging rights for the most successful creation. Show birds are judged on a complex point system that is based on coloration, pattern markings, body proportions and behavior. Each group sets its own standards for the ideal physical traits of the budgie, which are defined in minute detail. The Budgerigar Society in the U.K., for example, prefers a larger bird that is nearly twice the weight of the wild type and significantly bigger than the American variety. 

In an effort to set a universal color standard, the World Budgerigar Organization has linked each of the base shades of modern budgerigars to specific hues on the Pantone Color Chart. This provides an easy reference number for each coloration: 

Budgie Color: Pantone Color:
Light Green 375
Dark Green 369
Olive Green 371
Greygreen 398
Lutino (yellow) 102
Skyblue 310
Cobalt 2915
Mauve 535
Grey 428
Violet 2727


Since fancy mutations, such as Slate and Rainbow, are difficult to find and expensive to buy, most of the rare recognized variations can only be seen at large events. 

BUDGERIGAR BASE COLORS: GREEN OR BLUE


All color variations are actually subtle shifts in the shade of the base color influenced by the amount of yellow and black pigmentation in the budgie’s genetic makeup. Every budgie, no matter its mutation classification, belongs to either the Green Series or Blue Series. 

The Green Series is often referred to as the Yellow Series because the loss of black melanin results in more yellow coloring. Likewise, Blue Series budgies are alternately called the White Series because the loss of the yellow psittacin pigmentation produces white and grey feathers. Without a yellow base pigment, the blue feathers are also more brightly colored. The blue mutation not only changes the green feathers to blue but also transforms the yellow mask to white (National Geographic 104).

As the wild type, green is the dominant color, so it is always visibly expressed when the allele is present in the genes. Therefore, breeding a green budgie with a blue one results in green offspring. While blue budgies cannot carry a hidden green gene, green budgies can have many concealed recessive mutations. 

Adding in the Dark Factor


The intensity of the green or blue shading is determined by the bird’s Dark Factor. When no other mutation is present, the patterns and markings on the parakeets are identical in every way to the wild type. The only change that occurs is the darker shading in the body color and tail feathers. 

The Dark Factor is classified as light, medium or dark. The presence of one Dark heterozygote allele, which is called the Single Factor (SF), results in one degree of darkening. The existence of two Dark homozygote alleles, referred to as the Double Factor (DF), creates an even deeper hue. A budgie with a zero Dark count is the most brightly colored. Single color mutations, such as the Lutino or Albino, may have a Dark Factor that is not visible. 

Applying the Dark mutation to the Green Series budgerigar results in: 

0 Dark Factor = Light Green (Normal)
1 Dark Factor = Dark Green
2 Dark Factors = Olive

Applying the Dark mutation to the Blue Series budgerigar results in: 

0 Dark Factor = Skyblue 
1 Dark Factor = Cobalt 
2 Dark Factors = Mauve 

Green Series


Partly because of its ready availability and lower purchase prices, green birds are more proliferate amongst pet owners. The Green Series shade factor ranges from Light Green to Dark Green to Olive Green to Greygreen to Yellow (Lutino). 

Light Green
The natural budgie found in the wilds of inland Australia has bright green feathers on the body and a yellow head. The Light Green is the Normal standard by which all other color and pattern variations are measured. The vibrant colors found on budgies today are all descended from the original Light Green wild type.


Dark Green
The first Single Factor Dark Green budgie was bred in 1915 by Blanchard’s Aviaries in France, where it is commonly called Laurel to reflect its rich shade of forest green. 


Olive Green
The Double Factor Olive green budgie quickly followed, appearing in France less than a year later. This warmer hue is muddier than the other green shade factors since it has a slight mustard tone. 


Lutino
Since the Lutino budgie lacks the black melanin pigment, it is a deep buttercup yellow all over with no markings. The sex-linked Ino gene is responsible for this mutation, which makes the black pupils bright red, turns the skin on the cere and legs pink and gives the beak an orange hue. The vibrant purple cheek patches appear silvery white while the paler yellow wing and tail feathers are tinged with white feathers. 

Blue Series


The Blue mutation transforms the wild type Light Green to Skyblue, Dark Green to Cobalt and Olive to Mauve. It also changes all yellow coloring on the face mask and flight wings to white. Despite being the first color mutation in the early 1880s, reproduction of the blue budgie gene was very unpredictable and often resulted in short life spans. Once the mutant gene was stabilized 40 years later, birds carrying the brilliant shade were in wide demand and shipped around the world. 

The Blue Series shade factors range from Skyblue to Cobalt to Mauve to Grey to White. 

Skyblue
Produced sometime between 1878 and 1881, the Skyblue mutation made its debut to London society in 1910. Since the Skyblue variety is the equivalent of the Light Green, it is often referred to as the Normal when discussing the Blue Series. 


Cobalt
This Single Factor blue budgie, which is the equivalent of Dark Green, appeared in France in 1920, just a couple of years after the green mutations. The shade is warmer and deeper than Skyblue. 


Mauve
One year later, the Double Factor blue budgie was born in France. The darker hue is a mix between blue, purple and grey, which gives it a muddier tone like its Olive Green equivalent. 


Albino
The all white Albino coloring is technically produced by the Ino gene, but it is part of the Blue Series family. This sex-linked gene strips the yellow pigment from the chromosomes to produce a completely white bird devoid of any black markings. Like its Lutino equivalent, the Albino has bright red eyes and pink-tinted skin on the cere and legs. Creating an entirely white budgie requires two white-based parents who have only one or no Dark count. 

Other Color Adding Factors


In addition to the Dark Factor, there are three more dominant mutations that add a different depth to the coloring of the budgie’s feathers in the body, wings and tail. Each of these shades is lighter than its Normal counterpart, but they can also deepen with the presence of a Dark Single Factor or Double Factor. However, Dark Factors have a lesser impact on coloring. Additionally, since these genes are dominant, they can combine with other recessive mutations to produce a variety of color combinations. 

Grey 
Despite the elusive black budgie, there are three mutations that produce grey coloring. 
The most common is the dominant Grey mutation, which overlays the base green or blue coloring with a grey tint. This variety is distinguished by its paler lilac grey to slate colored cheek patches depending on if there is a Dark Factor. The mutation also tones down the intensity of the yellow hue of the mask and turns the wing markings and tail feathers jet black. 

The Normal Greygreen variety, which appeared in Australia in 1934, is similar in shade to Olive. Budgies can be a Normal Greygreen, Single Factor Grey Dark Green or Double Factor Grey Olive. The Blue Series version is more of a battleship grey. The gene transforms Skyblue to Light Grey, Cobalt to Medium Grey and Mauve to Dark Grey. The dominant Grey gene can combine with other recessive mutations to produce such varieties as White Grey, Cinnamon Grey and Grey Yellowface. 

Anthracite is a rare variety of the grey budgie that has mainly been bred in Germany since its first appearance in 1998. This co-dominant gene is always visibly present. The Normal Grey is one shade lighter than the Normal Anthracite since the mutated gene results in a darkening factor like the Dark mutation. The Anthracite budgie has charcoal grey coloring that is nearly black when the Dark Double Factor is present. The distinguishing trait of this mutation is the dark grey cheek patches that match the body color. The jet black body markings are edged with white feathers. 

First appearing in 1935, Slate is another rare color mutation that also darkens the base shade. The co-dominant gene results in a blue-grey hue that resembles slate, which is the closest color to the highly sought after black. It is most noticeable on Skyblue budgies although the gene can affect any color mutation. The cheek patches and central tail feathers are dark dull blue, and the wing markings are jet black. 


Violet
Violet is a rarely seen mutation that first appeared in Australia in the early 1930s and is a favorite among fanciers. The mutated gene intensifies the green or blue base color to create a richer shade. Adding a Single Factor or Double Factor further enriches the hue, which can range from pastel lavender to royal purple. Although Violet can be present in both the Green Series and Blue Series, it is most visible in blue budgies. A Violet Light Green is often mistaken for Dark Green. Identifying features include a richer hue on the mantle than the rest of the body color as well as a turquoise tinge on the tail feathers and a violet-blue tint on the vent feathers along the edges. Violet Blue budgies have dark navy blue tail feathers. 

The co-dominant Violet gene can combine with other dominant and recessive mutations. The Violet Grey budgie is similar in shading to the Mauve. 

THE VARIEGATION ELEMENT: BUDGIE PATTERN COLOR MUTATIONS


Modern budgerigars are available in nearly 100 officially recognized color variations. However, this is a misleading estimate. Some mutations include several shades within their definitions (Davids 153), such as the Crested Opaline Cinnamon Greygreen and the Yellowface Opaline Greywing Grey, and the potential permutations could actually be in the millions depending on the Dark factor and how the various anomalies are mixed. Additionally, there is no limit on how many mutant genes a single budgie can carry in its DNA. As a result, this number is constantly growing. 

Most of the modern mutations were developed by renowned breeders in Australia and England in the 1930s although several new color varieties appeared in the 1970s. Here is a partial list of some of the thousands of possible colorations, which each have their own unique shading in the feathers and markings: 

Green Series: Blue Series:
Light Green Skyblue
Dark Green Cobalt
Olive Green Mauve
Greygreen Grey
Lutino Albino
Violet Green Violet
Greywing Greygreen Greywing Grey
Dominant Pied Light Green Dominated Pied Skyblue
Recessive Pied Dark Green Recessive Pied Cobalt
Spangle Green Spangle Blue
Fallow Green Rainbow
Yellow Lacewing White Lacewing
Dilute Yellow Dilute White
Suffusion Green Suffusion White
Cinnamon Light Green Cinnamon Skyblue
Cinnamon Dark Green Cinnamon Cobalt
Cinnamon Olive Cinnamon Mauve
Cinnamon Greygreen Cinnamon Grey
Opaline Light Green Opaline Skyblue
Opaline Dark Green Opaline Cobalt
Opaline Olive Opaline Mauve
Opaline Greygreen Opaline Grey
Opaline Cinnamon Light Green Opaline Cinnamon Skyblue
Opaline Greywing Greygreen Opaline Greywing Skyblue
Opaline Spangle Green Opaline Spangle Blue
Crested Opaline Cinnamon Greygreen Opaline Yellowface Grey
Yellowface Skyblue
Yellowface Opaline
Yellowface Albino
Yellowface Cinnamon Grey
Yellowface Greywing Grey
Inheriting a Gene


The base greens and blues can be further altered, either subtly or drastically, by the presence of mutant genes. Each mutation has a unique impact on the color factors of the body, wing and tail feathers as well as the markings on the wings and face. In some varieties, the body color is intensified while others appear washed out. Other color strains display multihued coats or inverted striping patterns. The lightening of the wing markings and cheek patches are clear signs that a budgie’s genetic structure has deviated from the original wild type. 

When two budgies carrying the same mutant genes mate, they have the ability to produce a number of color changes. Understanding these basics will help you to identify your bird’s classifications and enable you to breed for particular colors and patterns. Budgies inherit one or more mutations in numerous ways: 

Dominant Heterozygous
Offspring receive one dominant gene from one parent, which is visible, and one recessive gene from the other parent, which is not expressed. For example, the wild type green is dominant because it only needs one copy of the gene to be visible. When paired with the recessive blue mutation, which requires two copies of the gene to manifest, the parakeet will always turn out green. When this happens, the bird is referred to as split, such as a Dark Green split Cobalt. 

Since there aren’t any apparent differences from the Normal, the only way to tell if a budgie is split is if their own offspring displays the trait. A Single Factor Dominant gene means the bird has inherited only one copy of the dominant allele. A Double Factor bird has two copies of the dominant allele. 

Recessive Homozygous
When both the mating cock and hen carry the same recessive gene, it will be visible in at least some of the offspring. 

Sex-Linked Recessive
A sex-linked recessive gene is carried on the X chromosome, which not only determines the budgie’s sex but also its color hues and varieties. Since cocks have two X chromosomes, the variety must be present on both to show up. Hens only have one X chromosome, so females merely need one copy of the gene for the mutation to manifest. Sex-linked recessive genes include Ino, Opaline, Cinnamon, Lacewing, Clearbody and Saddleback.

Incomplete Dominance
In rare cases, genes can carry an extra allele so that it has one heterozygous and two homozygous traits. This produces a feature that displays both the dominant and recessive traits. This phenomenon occurs in the Spangle and Pied mutations. It is also the basis for the Dark Factor gene, which determines the shade of the base color. 

Variety Mutations


These color-changing genes occur in both the Green and Blue Series with the exception of the Yellowface mutation. In many cases, the color of the feathers and wing markings are altered. The shade of the legs, eyes and cock’s cere are often affected by most of these mutations. Unless a variation is noted, all features appear as Normal. 

The degree of dilution depends on one of the following variegation elements: 

Greywing
The Greywing Greygreen variety was among the earliest mutations produced in captive budgies. It first appeared in England in 1918 but spread so quickly throughout Germany, France and Australia that by 1920 it was officially recognized by the British Budgerigar Society. A Greywing Skyblue version hatched in 1928. 

The distinguishing trait is the light grey coloring of the head and wings. Reduced to 50 percent of the original color, the body feathers on the Greywing have an almost washed out appearance, which makes the body color more of a pastel shade than a vibrant hue. Areas on the flight and tail feathers that are black transition to medium grey. The blue-grey tail gradually darkens down to the shaft and is outlined in green or blue, depending on the base color, where the yellow band usually appears. Additionally, the cheek patches turn pale violet on green budgies and pale blue on blue budgies. 

Some of the Greywing variations include: 

Green Series: Blue Series:
Greywing Greygreen Greywing Skyblue
Opaline Greywing Greygreen Opaline Greywing Skyblue
Yellowface Greywing Grey

Clearwing

The Clearwing developed in the early 1930s in Australia and South New Wales at the height of the crossbreeding frenzy. This highly prized mutation reduces the wing colors to pure yellow or white, depending on the base color, but keeps the body color green or blue. Since the bright body feathers are only diluted about 10 percent, the green/yellow and blue/white coloring provides a striking contrast. The lower amount of pigment in the wings causes very light markings that are only faintly visible. Green Series Clearwing budgies are called Yellow Wings and Blue Series Clearwings are called White Wings. The Clearwing mutation can show up in Opaline, Cinnamon and Opaline Cinnamon budgies, which also produces an additional lightening factor. 

Possible Clearwing combinations include: 

Green Series: Blue Series:
Yellow Wing Light Green White Wing Skyblue
Yellow Wing Dark Green (SF) White Wing Cobalt (SF)
Yellow Wing Olive Green (DF) White Wing Mauve (DF)
Yellow Wing Greygreen White Wing Grey
White Wing Violet

Fullbody Greywing

Since the Greywing and Clearwing genes are co-dominant, breeding these two dilutions produces a Fullbody Greywing. This variety of budgie features a bright body color with grey wing markings. Breeding two Fullbody Greywings results in offspring that are 50 percent Fullbody Greywing, 25 percent Greywing and 25 percent Clearwing. 

Dilute
This mutation is believed to have been the first color change to occur in the captive species in 1872. Breeding for this variety began in 1884 by English fancier Joseph Abrahams. The body color of a Dilute budgie has only about 70 percent of the intensity as its original green or blue base coloring. The wing markings and spots fade to pale grey, the cheek patches turn lavender and the long tail feathers sport a pale blue-grey shade. The Normal black throat spots, head undulations and wing markings also fade to light grey. 

It also results in yellow and white birds, which are a different variety than Lutino and Albino budgies (Davids 153). They are easily distinguishable by their black eyes instead of red eyes. Tufts of the green or blue base color are present in the plumage on the vent and rump. In the Green Series, the yellow body is suffused with green feathers. In the Blue series, a white body is suffused with blue feathers. When the mixture is light, the bird is referred to as a Dilute and is nearly all yellow or all white. When the tinting is dense, the budgie is referred to as Suffused. The presence of a Single Factor or Double Factor Dark mutant gene intensifies this coloring, changing Light Green to Dark Green, for example. 

The Dilute mutant gene can produce one of eight possible budgie color varieties:

Green Series: Blue Series:
Dilute Yellow Dilute White
Dilute Dark Green (SF) Dilute Cobalt (DF)
Dilute Olive (SF) Dilute Mauve (DF)
Suffused Yellow Suffused White

Ino

The Ino gene is responsible for producing a different budgie variety that is only pure buttercup yellow or stark white by removing all of the melanin pigment. The Light Green wild type becomes the yellow Lutino and the Skyblue budgie becomes the white Albino. The depth of the yellow hue in the Lutino is determined by the presence of a Dark Factor. The Albino can combine with a Yellowface mutation, which suffuses a yellow shading through the white feathers.

The coloring is also removed from the body parts. The skin on the legs turns pink, the beak becomes orange and the cheek patches fade to a silvery white. The cock’s cere also lightens to a purple-pink hue. In most cases, the pupils change to red but some remain black and occasionally only attain pink. Although Albinism makes the eyes sensitive to light, it is a myth that budgies with red eyes are blind or have poor vision. 

Yellowface
Occurring only in the Blue Series, the Yellowface mutation produces a rich blue body color that nearly matches the color of the cere. As a dominant gene, the mutation can even occur in Albinos. The rare mutation first appeared in several European locations in 1935. MUTAVI notes that the complicated genetics have led to “much debate over whether to classify Yellowfaces as blue birds with yellow pigment added or as green birds with some of the yellow removed.” 

As the name suggests, the mutation produces a yellow face mask. Although the hue is similar to the wild type and Goldenface varieties, Yellowface I is a lighter shade. Despite having a blue body, the flight wings can be either white or yellow. 

The Yellowface II is more distinct. The tail feathers also contain some of the yellow pigmentation, and after the bird’s first molt around 3 months old, the yellow begins to spread into the body color down to the chest. Depending on the Dark Factor, the suffused coloring takes on a more tropical tone with a seafoam green hue bleeding into turquoise. Next to Rainbow, this is one of the most colorful varieties of budgies. 

Increasing the Dark Factor decreases the amount of yellow pigment to create new color strains. Bottle green emerges in a Single Factor Yellowface II that blends Cobalt and Dark Green. Adding two Dark Factors mixes Mauve with Olive to form a greyish-green purple. In some cases, an entirely new color emerges. European Yellowface II hatchlings are born with a blue and white coat. After the first molt, the coloring changes to green and yellow. 

Blue Series Only:
Yellowface Skyblue
Yellowface Albino
Yellowface Cinnamon Grey
Yellowface Greywing Grey
Yellowface Opaline Greywing Grey

Rainbow

Rainbow is an extremely rare type of budgie that is created by combining the Single Factor Yellowface II mutation with the Opaline and Clearwing mutations. It is not a mutant gene on its own. The yellow shading depends upon the type of Yellowface mutation. For example, a Yellowface I will produce a lemon yellow, but the Yellowface II produces a buttercup yellow. This composite budgie has grey and white wings and a blue body, either in Skyblue, Cobalt or Mauve, that is overlaid with yellow. The body markings on the cheek patches, neck and wings are white to medium grey and have a suffusion of yellow at the edges. The feet can also range from the Normal grey to mutated blue. 

Opaline
Introduced to the budgerigar community in 1933 by a breeder in Scotland, the sex-linked Opaline mutation erases the melanin pigment from parts of the plumage. A unique trait of the Opaline is a reverse striping pattern on the head. The black head undulations are thinner so that the base body color appears thicker and shows through more clearly. These stripes gradually become thinner as they move down the neck until there are no markings left on the back. This gives the Opaline budgie a highly defined V-shape on the mantle. In some birds, the black stripes are barely visible. 

The reduction in melanin combined with an increase in psittacin boosts the intensity of feather colors so that they appear brighter in the body, wings and rump. A second distinguishing feature is that the outside edges of the wings are the same color as the body feathers but have a yellow or white patch on top of the long flight feathers. Yellow or white areas may also appear on the shaft of the tail feathers. However, the wing markings are a denser jet black and are a larger size than those found on the wild type budgie.  

This is a wing pattern mutation, so Opalines can come in any body color. It is a very common and popular variety because of its colorful production of hues. 

Green Series: Blue Series:
Opaline Light Green Opaline Skyblue
Opaline Dark Green (SF) Opaline Cobalt (SF)
Opaline Olive Green (DF) Opaline Mauve (DF)
Opaline Greygreen Opaline Grey
Opaline Cinnamon Light Green Opaline Violet
Opaline Greywing Greygreen Opaline Cinnamon Skyblue
Opaline Spangle Green Opaline Greywing Skyblue
Crested Opaline Cinnamon Greygreen Opaline Yellowface Grey
Opaline Spangle Blue
Yellowface Opaline Greywing Grey

Cinnamon

This sex-linked gene appeared in Australia and England simultaneously in the early 1930s. A Cinnamon budgie is easily distinguishable by its warm brown markings on the wings. The loss of the black melanin also lightens the shade of the body, wings and cheek patches to about half of the original green or blue base color. Cocks tend to have a slightly darker cinnamon coloring than hens. The Ino and Cinnamon genes affect budgies much in the same way by producing pinkish-grey legs and a pale orange beak. Like Opaline, newborn chicks have down feathers that are white instead of grey. They also have plum colored eyes that change to dark brown within a few days and eventually turn black. Taylor notes that the Cinnamon’s tighter feathers give the bird a silkier sheen (13). 

Green Series: Blue Series:
Cinnamon Light Green Cinnamon Skyblue
Cinnamon Dark Green (SF) Cinnamon Cobalt (SF)
Cinnamon Olive Green (DF) Cinnamon Mauve (DF)
Cinnamon Greygreen Cinnamon Grey
Opaline Cinnamon Light Green Cinnamon Violet
Opaline Greywing Greygreen Yellowface Cinnamon Grey


Opaline Cinnamon

This rare variety is produced when the Opaline and Cinnamon gene are combined. The body coloring is lighter than the other two at about 50 percent of the Normal. It has the distinct V-shaped mantle without the head stripes, but the face and wing markings are cinnamon brown. The wings also produce an opalescent effect. 

Green Series: Blue Series:
Opaline Cinnamon Light Green Opaline Cinnamon Skyblue
Opaline Cinnamon Dark Green (SF) Opaline Cinnamon Cobalt (SF)
Opaline Cinnamon Olive Green (DF) Opaline Cinnamon Mauve (DF)
Opaline Cinnamon Olive Green (DF) Opaline Cinnamon Grey
Opaline Cinnamon Violet
Yellowface Opaline Cinnamon Grey

Fallow

Established in Sydney, Australia, in the 1930s, Fallows have the same brown coloring variations as Cinnamons with a few notable distinctions. The tail feathers are more greyish brown than dark blue and the body color is even lighter with blue budgies appearing almost white and green budgies turning spring yellow. The reduction in melanin is responsible for the brown-grey markings on the wing feathers as well. Other character traits that differ are the red eyes as well as the fleshy pink cere on males. 

There are several varieties of this mutation, including the common German Fallow and English Fallow and the rarer Australian Fallow, Scottish Fallow and Japanese Fallow. These variations are different genetically and visually, particularly in the eye color. While the English version carries the red eyes, the Australian variety has plum eyes that are so deep they look nearly black. 

Lacewing
The sex-linked Lacewing mutation, first bred in 1948, is a combination of the Cinnamon and Ino genes, so it produces brown markings as well. The warm color, which is a lighter shade than the Cinnamon and Fallow, is seen on the head, neck, mantle and wings. Throat spots and tail feathers are browner than the other two varieties as well, and the stripes on the head are absent so that the full yellow or white color is shown. The body color is also a corresponding pale yellow or white, giving the budgie an almost uniform hue. Cheek patches fade to pale lilac, the legs and the cock’s cere are pale pink and the eyes are red. This variety includes the Yellow Lacewing, White Lacewing and Opaline Lacewing. 

Spangle
Introduced in the early 1970s, this relatively recent addition to the budgie family is unique from all other varieties. The dominant mutant gene reverses all the color patterns of the wild type budgerigar so that the black markings on the wings become either yellow or white depending on the base color. The black undulations on the head are also lightened to thin grey lines. Unlike most other mutations, Spangle is a dominant trait. However, it is an incomplete dominant gene, so there are many difficulties in reliably reproducing this mutation when breeding. It is also the only mutation that produces a noticeably different pattern in Single Factor and Double Factor budgerigars. 

Single Factor Spangles, which carry only one Spangle gene, have yellow or white instead of green or blue wing and tail feathers. The plumage is trimmed with a pencil-thin black line and a corresponding yellow or white along the edge. The usual grey legs take on a pink tone. Another notable difference is the color of the cheek patches, which ranges from violet to silvery white. The throat spots often disappear. When they are present, they are more of a black outline of a circle with the yellow or white body color showing through the center, making them look like tiny targets.

Double Factor Spangles, which carry two Spangle genes, are a solid yellow or white with a suffused body color where the original base shade bleeds into the coloring. The Spangle mutant gene often combines with the Opaline and Cinnamon genes to produce an additional lightening factor. When paired with Opaline, the pencil markings on the feathers turn green or blue and the head undulations fade significantly. 

Possible combinations include: 

Green Series: Blue Series:
Spangle Light Green Spangle Skyblue
Spangle Dark Green (SF) Spangle Cobalt (SF)
Spangle Olive Green (DF) Spangle Mauve (DF)
Spangle Greygreen Spangle Violet
Double Factor Spangle Yellow Spangle Grey
Opaline Spangle Green Double Factor Spangle White
Crested Opaline Cinnamon Greygreen Opaline Spangle Blue
Skyblue Spangle Yellowface Type II

Pied

Budgies with the Pied mutation have beautifully blended colors. A splash effect is created through the complete loss of black pigment in the plumage, which creates irregular patches of clear feathers in the yellow or white body, head and wings. When it first appeared in England in the 1930s, it was aptly named Snowflake (ANBC 13). Pied patterns range from a few feathers to large multicolor splotches. All other coloring of the body parts and markings remain Normal except for the silvery white cheek patches. 

The Pied gene comes in both a dominant and recessive form. The Dominant Pied mutation, which is the most common, manifests as pied markings on the body and wings. Sometimes the clear feathers also appear on the head. The Banded Pied has a thick horizontal stripe of white or yellow across the middle of the chest that wraps around to the back wings. It sometimes has a clear patch of feathers on the back of the head. 

The Recessive Pied variety, which is often referred to as a Harlequin, has patchy feathers that break up the green body color with yellow or the blue body color with white. The body color is more vibrant than a Normal, and the mutation produces fleshy pink skin and dark plum-colored eyes that are nearly black. 

A combination mutation results in the Clearflight Pied, which has all Normal coloring except splotches of clear feathers on the back of the head, flight and tail feathers. The Pied mutation also makes patches of clear feathers appear throughout the body but particularly on the lower belly. In some budgies, the face mask color extends further down onto the breast. The Dark Eyed Clear is another variety that is produced by combining the Recessive Pied with the Clearflight Pied. It is pure white or yellow and has no markings, making it difficult to distinguish from an Ino and a Double Factor Spangle. 

Clearbody
The sex linked Clearbody gene has a yellow or white body that suffuses with its green or blue base color. Most of the other characteristics are Normal except for the pale grey flight feathers and silvery cheek patches. The colors on the Easley Clearbody budgie are not as blended as those on the Texas Clearbody, so there is greater distinction between the green/yellow or blue/white coloring. The Easley also receives darker black markings, tail feathers and head undulations. 

Saddleback
Bred in 1975 in New South Wales, the Saddleback has a completely yellow or white body depending on the base color. The mutation exhibits similar traits as the Opaline. Most Saddleback budgies do not have head markings, but if they are present, then they appear as light grey. The wing markings are also light grey at the top but become increasingly darker until they are black at the bottom of the flight feathers. Another distinguishing feature is the clearly defined V-shaped saddle (mantle) that also appears grey. 

5 TIPS FOR IDENTIFYING BUDGIE COLOR VARIETIES


Even when you are armed with all this information on the variations in budgie colors, identifying specific mutations can be a difficult task. In an article for the Budgerigar Association of America, Steve Holland offers some helpful tips to make this process easier. 

First, he notes, you need to identify the body color, which lightens with each mutation. He also likes to apply what he calls the Top and Bottom Rule, which directs you to look at the coloring of the cheek patches and tail feathers. The Dark Green, for example, retains the wild type violet patches and dark blue tail, but the Greygreen has grey patches and a black tail. 

For more complicated coloring, it is often necessary to know the genetic history of the bird’s parents and grandparents. Changing mating partners based on the visible presence of specific genes can also bring out hidden recessive traits. 

Enhancing the Budgie's Coloring


In addition to pellets that are advertised as being a complete diet for budgies, there are supplement products on the market that promise to enhance the brilliance of your budgie’s feather colors. In reality, the depth and sheen of the plumage depends on the bird’s genetics. However, health and hormones influence the sheen and intensity of the coloring. 

A deficiency in Vitamin A can make the colors look lackluster and the feathers feel rougher. The cere can also lighten, and a feather stain usually appears above the cere. A scaly yellow substance may also surround the beak. The good news is that the colors will rebound quickly once the budgie begins receiving a balanced diet. Seeds, which make up a large portion of a bird’s diet, are rich in the important antioxidant Vitamin E but are low in Vitamin A. The parakeet’s coloring as well as its digestive and immune systems will benefit from an increase in leafy greens and orange produce. Orange foods also keep the eyes bright and shiny. To revive pale plumage, try shredding, mashing, juicing or drying these fruits and vegetables: 

Orange Based Fruits and Vegetables
Apricots
Cantaloupes
Carrots
Oranges
Peaches
Pumpkins
Sweet Potatoes

Green Based Vegetables
Bell Peppers
Chickweed
Endive
Kale
Peas
Spinach
Squash
Watercress
Zucchini

Parakeets also love fruit. You can offer these foods in small strips or mash and mix them with the above produce: 

Apples 
Bananas
Berries
Cherries
Grapes
Mangos
Papaya
Pears

Additionally, melanin cannot be produced correctly if the budgie has a deficiency of the amino acid lysine. Once the diet is corrected, the lightened feathers will reappear in their normal color after molting (Vriends 70). Another plumage defect that affects the luster of the feathers is the Delayed molt. The rapid loss of feathers around the neck is typically caused by a deficiency in minerals or amino acids. This disease can also discolor the tips of the feathers so that they turn a blackish brown and cause new feathers to be stunted and stubby. 

You can also lightly mist your budgie with room temperature water to encourage preening. This keeps feathers in top condition by removing dirt and parasites, which also helps bring out the brightest colors. Additionally, the preening gland near the base of the tail produces an oily substance that gives feathers a glossy sheen. 

Cited Texts:


Australian National Budgerigar Council (ANBC). The Standard. N.P.: Australian National Budgerigar Council, 2003. 

Daniels, Dr. T. Cage and Aviary Birds. N.P. 1981.

Davids, Angela. Budgies: A Guide to Caring for Your Parakeet. Irvine: BowTie Press, 2011.

Hill, Geoffrey Edward. National Geographic Bird Coloration. N.P.: National Geographic, 2010. 

Mobley, Jason A. Birds of the World. Tarrytown: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 2009. 

Olsen, Penny. The Flight of the Budgerigar. N.P.: The National Library Magazine, June 2011.

Pearn, Sophie, Bennett, Andrew, and Cuthill, Innes. Ultraviolet Vision, Fluorescence and Mate Choice in a Parrot, the Budgerigar. N.P.: The Royal Society, 2011. 

Shea, Lisa. Parakeets And Budgies – Raising, Feeding, And Hand-Training Your Keet. N.P.: Minerva Webworks LLC, 2004. 

Taylor, Thomas Geoffrey, and Warner, Cyril. Genetics for Budgerigar Breeders (2nd Edition). N.P.: Iliffe Books, 1986. 

Vriends, Matthew, Heming-Vriends, Tanya, and Earle-Bridges, Michele. The New Australian Parakeet Handbook. Hauppauge: Barron's Educational Series, 1992.

Watmough, William. Colour Breeding in Budgerigars. N.P.: Cage Birds, 1953. 

Online References:


About.com Birding: Preening - How and Why Birds Preen

Animal-World.com: Parakeet Profile

Barry's Budgerigars: Colors and Mutations

BeautyofBirds.com: Budgerigar aka Budgie

BeautyofBirds.com: Budgerigar Mutations and Breeding

BeautyofBirds.com: Budgie Vitamins

Birds Online: Budgie Defects - Delayed Moult

Budgerigar Association of America: Color Identification

Budgerigar Association of America: A Full Spectrum of Nutrients

Budgie-Info.com: Budgie Body Parts -- Learn Your Cere From Your Nape Here!

Budgie-Info.com: Budgie Body Colors Mauve, Cobalt, Violet...?

BudgieKeet.com: Facts About Budgerigars

Budgies: About Budgerigars

Cute Little Birdies Aviary: Budgie Mutation and Color Guide

eHow.com: How to Breed for Colors in Budgies

Feisty Feathers: Beginner Guide to Genes, Mutations and Hybrids

Kathy's Birds: Types of Budgies

LadyGouldinFinch.com: Budgerigar Color Chart

Lefeber.com: Budgie (Parakeet)

MUTAVI: Blackface: A New Mutation in the Budgie

MUTAVI: Gene Function in Yellowface Budgerigars

New World Encyclopedia: Budgerigar

PBS: Parrots in the Land of Oz | Budgie Mating

Petplace.com: Choosing a Budgie or Parakeet

PuppiesAreProzac: Budgie Parakeet Colors, Varieties, Mutations and Genetics

University of Glasgow: The Birds of Australia 

Upatsix.com: The Budgerigar (Keet) FAQ

World Budgerigar Organization: Budgerigar Color Guide

World Budgerigar Organization: Color Standards

World Budgerigar Organization: The Main Features of a Budgerigar

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