Welcome to the world of discoloured birds,
sports and myths
We have had many calls related to the subject of discoloured birds that are perceived as a mutation.
Not many mutations have been bred in captivity within the avian world of keeping and breeding birds.
Most single mutated colours were created in the wild and not by breeders. Mutations are a natural phenomenon
and very simply put is when the gene that is related to the feather pigmentation has undergone a change.
Sometimes birds with these changes have survived in the wild if the colouration has not altered too distinctively,
making them conspicuous from the rest of the flock and likely to end up as a meal for birds of prey.
At other times the change is a size difference with the bird becoming larger than the norm, as in the
Pied Peewee(Magpie-lark/Mud-lark, Grallina cyanoleuca) or the change is only in appearance (eg. patterning) but not colour,
which is still black and white in the case of the Peewee.
There is only one mutation that was bred in captivity that we are aware of which is the part Melanistic Rainbow or Blue-fronted Rainbow.
This bird was bred by some people in Victoria who had some inbred birds that had produced an unusual colour which were the first Melanistic
birds to appear in Aviculture. (N.B. Deliberate in-breeding to attempt to create a colour mutation is NOT recommended!
There is a process breeders use incorporating some in-line breeding but always with outcrossing to strengthen the bloodline).
All birds with more than one mutated gene are bred in captivity.
In this section we are dealing with what is a mutated colour and what is colouration caused by underlying issues such as allergies/
The most common question we are asked is
"can you tell me if this is a mutation or not?"
when we receive
emails with photos attached from breeders hoping that they have a mutation.
The birds above and below are the usual cases when new breeders hope that they may have bred a pied mutation.
The colour on these birds is often found in young birds and moults out in the first moult at the age of around 6 months.
Below we see the colour yellow displayed on the under wing of a Redcollared Lorikeet, which moults out.
These are mostly handreared birds that are showing some reaction to vitamin and mineral content in the handrearing mix.
These birds are showing no other changes than some colouring in yellow and not showing any change in the head colouring or
toenails and beak colour as can be seen in the pied line.
In some cases where the allergy source is part of the daily diet it will remain with the bird until the diet is changed.
Taking the Mustard Rainbow below as an example, you can see this young bird is showing colour breakthrough
from an early age, which is sometimes mistaken for a mutation (the very reason for the creation of this page).
This bird was bred here and sold at the weaning stage to the new owner with the warning that most likely it would colour up normally when it was older.
Sometimes when a young bird like this is displaying an allergic type reaction to the handrearing mix it will remain that colour if the composition of
the handrearing formula is similar to the dry or wet mix that the bird is fed as an adult.
Such was the case with this bird, it was sold for the usual going price at that time and the bird retained the colour because the bird was not
given an alternative diet.
This bird was bred to a similar looking bird which resulted in some young with the same colour.
The colour shows through because the liver or kidneys are having trouble with digesting a strong diet rich in vitamins and minerals.
Let's for a moment call it a deficiency as it is also likely that the birds are having trouble processing the same ingredients and may be deficient.
In both cases this can be passed on to the offspring and they in turn will retain the same colouring.
This bird did just that and even ended up on the front cover of the Bird Keeper magazine.
We remained of the opinion that this bird was going to hopefully moult to normal with a better diet, which would have included more
fruit and vegetables.
The bird had coloured into a stronger red as it got older showing a more marked effect from the diet.
Breeders had phoned us often about this bird as it had our ring on the leg and were told the same story.
Luckily for the bird it was sold for $6000.00 and received a better diet, unluckily for the new owner the bird moulted to normal Mustard colouring
without the red or variegated look and colouring.
Below we have the same story with a Melanistic Blue-fronted Lorikeet that is showing stronger colouring in the blue form.
It was hoped to breed a few of these birds and to see if an all blue bird could be bred. The same thing happened,
the bird moulted the colouring out when the digestive system adapted to the changed diet.
It is a competition between the food producers who can cram as many as possible ingredients in the diet, sometimes resulting in a mix too strong in vitamin A.
In the early days birds affected by diet like these were sold as 'sports' and lots of breeders lost money as a consequence.
Below the same in a green Rainbow, all these birds show colouring in a variegated colour form.
Even if the colouration is appealing, make sure you don't pay any extra for a supposed 'rare mutation' as it surely will moult
out at some stage.
This colouring is seen in any type of bird but mainly birds that are on an artificial diet like a handrearing mix
or pelleted diet without fruit and veg.
Below we see the same in Blue & Gold Macaws.
As you can see in the photo the bird is a good size, has good colouring of
the feathers, is only showing some slight reaction and will be fine after the first moult.
The same story applies again to this Yellow-crowned Amazon below that was still on a handrearing mix when this photo was taken.
The only bird out of forty birds on the same mix to show an allergic reaction to the mix. It is a big bird and will moult
to normal just in the first moult.
Here we see it in young Grey-Green Pied Rainbows from the same clutch.
We have often complained that there was too much variation in food mixes which were different
from batch to batch.
Somtimes this was because some of the ingredients were still on a slow boat from China or the manufacturer changed the recipe by
using substitutes or cheaper products.
As the saying goes 'the proof is in the pudding' in these cases it is in the birds, both these young displayed it and both moulted
out to normal colouring later.
Below we are potentially dealing with something more sinister, this bird died, we were told, before it was tested but it looks more like a bird that
shows early signs of beak and feather disease (PBFD).
Be very careful if a pied looking bird is caught in the wild and is only showing yellow blotches
like this bird.
Most of the time Pied birds show other signs of the pied factor in the way of beak and toenail colouring or have deeper yellow
and some head colouration difference.
It is possible that this bird could have been an acquired colour which is when the bird shows more colouring as it gets older but the colour can fade
in and out sometimes and the bird does not pass the colour on to its offspring.
Still the bottom line is, get these types of birds tested or
a 'cheap' bird can cost you a lot of vet bills with devastating results.
Below we have a Mulga parrot that some may say is a red infused colouration when in fact it has major
kidney or liver malfunction.
The bird died we were told not many days after we had taken this photo.
This colour was present in the Princess parrot for a while with the same results.
Some survive on a good diet and lose a lot of the colouring.
Always be aware of what you are buying and ask plenty of questions about the colour and if the sellers bred from the birds.
Ask about the genetic makeup of the bird and if there is any information of the parents when you are not sure.
As always 'buyer be aware' and do your home work!
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