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Wonderful whites

Although they are not as popular as the yellow lutino, all-white cockatiels can be an attractive alternative. PAULINE JAMES advises breeders on how to create white-faced mutations

Lutino: not quite whiteLutino: not quite white

CREATING an all-white cockatiel became possible when the white-faced mutation was born, back in the early 1970s. We already had the lutino, a bird devoid of grey, black and brown melanin pigments, which left the yellow or orange pigmentation exposed, and showing up as the visual colours in its plumage. Now, we had the white-faced mutation that had the ability to strip away the bottom layer of sunshine colours.

Whitest of the whites

The brightest yellow examples of a lutino are generally thought of as being the most desirable, command the highest price, and are the most highly sought-after cockatiel colour mutation in the world. But in its palest form the lutino cockatiel is still a striking bird – pale cream with a distinct wash of yellow over its body plumage, and almost white wings.

For more than two decades, these were the whitest cockatiels available. But, of course, the crest and face still retained the yellow-colouring of a normal wild-type cockatiel, and in most cases they were an even deeper shade of yellow, than that of the normal.

Yet once the white-faced mutation became established, and created males with pure white faces and pale grey crests and females with light grey faces and crests, the equivalent of the blue mutation in green parrots was formed. So, when the lutino was combined with the white-faced mutation, a pure white bird devoid of any colour pigment was at last created.

Many breeders refer to these birds as albinos, but technically this is incorrect, as the all-white cockatiel is the result of combining two mutations, and does not stand alone as a mutation in its own right, and is unable to pass on an albino gene as such, to directly produce albino chicks.

Genetically, the all-white cockatiel is a white-faced lutino, resulting from one sex-linked gene (lutino) and one recessive gene (white-faced) which have been passed down to the same chick.

If a white-faced-lutino male was paired to a normal hen all the male offspring would be normals split for lutino and white-faced, and the females would all be lutinos split for white-faced. No all-white visual offspring would be produced in this nest, and none of the youngsters would be split, for a single all-white albino gene.

White-faced pearl pied (cock)White-faced pearl pied (cock)

 

Start from scratch

There are several ways that an all-white cockatiel can be produced. The easiest of course is to buy a male white-faced-lutino and a hen white-faced-lutino and pair them together, and they would produce a percentage of all-white youngsters in the next generation.

But it may be difficult to get breeders to part with a white-faced lutino male as they are not so readily bred as the equivalent hens, as the lutino gene is sex-linked. So, starting from scratch is the best option, and in the long-run will produce the best birds.

In the first instance, the breeder needs to develop a good strong bloodline of lutinos, devoid of any faults such as a bald patch directly behind the crest, or having a history of chronic feather-plucking.

Next, a good line of good-sized white-faced needs to be built up, so that the best examples from each mutation can then be bred to produce good quality and strong all-white cockatiels.

Pairing a lutino male with a white-faced hen will produce normal males split for both lutino and white-faced, and lutino hens split for white-faced.

Although all-white visuals could be produced in the next generation, by then pairing siblings from this nest, this is counter-productive to producing good quality chicks without faults, and is not the way to go.

The real deal: a proper white cockatiel, technically a white-face lutino. This one’s a henThe real deal: a proper white cockatiel, technically a white-face lutino. This one’s a hen

No relations, please

When trying to produce strong and healthy all-white white-faced lutinos, it is important to keep the genes as diverse as possible. That means, instead, that you should pair the best male that is split for lutino and white-faced, to the best possible unrelated white-faced female. The result of this pairing in an average nest would be:

25 per cent of males would be normals split for lutino and white-faced

25 per cent would be white-faced split for lutino

25 per cent would be normals split for white-faced

25 per cent would be white-faced.

Four genetically diverse females could also be possible in this nest:

25 per cent of females in an average nest would be lutino split for white-faced

25 per cent would be all-white, white-faced lutinos

25 per cent would be normals split for white-faced

25 per cent would be white-faced.

The only chicks from the above nest that would be useful in producing further white-faced lutino offspring would be those carrying both lutino and white-faced genes. Since you can’t tell which males are split for lutino, it would be best to keep just the female white-faced lutinos for future breeding.

Compared to the creamy-white paler versions of the lutino, this all-white, white-faced lutino is pure white, and appears to have a slight blue-white iridescence to its plumage. Its eyes also have a slight blue cast and are a deep ruby colour, rather than the usual light-red of lutinos. The beak, legs and feet are all a pale pink.

Immatures closely resemble adults, and can only be distinguished when they are very young and are obviously smaller in size. In the nest, all-white, white-faced lutino chicks, along with all other white-faced birds can be recognised by their fluffy white down, while lutinos and all other mutations have yellow down. But while other white-faced mutation birds have dark eyes, the white-faced lutino has translucent eyelids with the ruby-red eyes clearly showing through.

As this mutation has no markings of any kind, the all-white bird is one of the most difficult mutation birds to sex, and can only be achieved by closely watching their behaviour from about four months old, with males being much more animated and whistling profusely.

 


Pauline James has been writing for Cage & Aviary Birds since 1994. She has kept a mixed aviary of cockatiels.



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