Loriinae Exotics - Environmental Enrichment

Quaker Parakeet Mutations

Blue – The Blue mutation in Quaker parakeets is quite possibly the simplest to understand. Essentially, this mutation inactivates the production of psittacin resulting in the expression of just the melanin and the structural color creating the blue color. The Blue mutation is an autosomal recessive mutation. In order to get a visual Blue Quaker parakeet, both parent birds must carry the Blue mutation gene. In addition to being the simplest mutation, it is also the first to appear in Quaker parakeets. The Blue mutation first appeared in the 1940’s in Belgium.

Parblue – The Parblue mutation occurs when the gene that causes the Blue mutation is partially activated, allowing for some psittacin to be produced creating a color that is somewhere between blue and green. Depending on how much psittacin is produced, birds can be more green (Turquoise) or more blue (Aqua). The Parblue mutation belongs the same genetic family as the Blue mutation. Like the Blue mutation, it is a recessive mutation; however, it is dominant to the Blue mutation. The Parblue mutation in Quaker parakeets was first seen in Europe several years ago, has just recently been seen in the United States and is currently being established.

Lutino – Next to the Blue mutation, the Lutino mutation is the simplest mutation to understand and recognize. The Lutino mutation works by turning off the production of melanin. Since there is no melanin production, there is no dark pigment to interact with the structural color to create blue, so you are left with the expression of just the psittacin pigments – yellow. In Quaker parakeets, there are actually two Lutino mutations. One is autosomal recessive (NSL Lutino) and the other is sex-linked recessive (SL Lutino); the mutation occurs on a gene in the sex chromosomes. The only real difference between the two is how they are inherited. Like all autosomal recessive mutations, the NSL Lutino requires both parent birds to carry the mutation in order to have a visual NSL Lutino offspring. With the SL Lutino mutation, only the male bird needs to carry the SL Lutino mutation in order to get a visual SL Lutino offspring. However, since the mutation is on a gene in the sex chromosomes, the visual offspring will only be female. In order to get visual SL Lutino male and female offspring the mother must be visually SL Lutino in addition to the male carrying the SL Lutino mutation.

The NSL Lutino mutation first appeared in the United States in 1996. This visual male offspring and its green parents were acquired by Bob Nelson in Oregon who has been quite successful establishing this mutation in the U.S. and is now being produced by several breeders.

The SL Lutino mutation first appeared in 1995. The first visual female was produced by an imported pair of normal green quaker parakeets in Florida at Hurricane Aviaries owned by Susan Clubb, DVM. Dr Clubb and her then husband Kevin spent the next 12 years establishing this mutation.

Pallid – Like the Parblue is an intermediate mutation of the Blue family, there is also an intermediate mutation in the Lutino family. In Quaker parakeets, this is called Pallid. The Pallid mutation works by reducing the amount of melanin produced allowing some of it to interact with the structural color to create some blue. This results in a yellowish green bird. The Pallid mutation is sex-linked. It first appeared in Florida in 1988.

Cinnamon – The Cinnamon mutation works by preventing the conversion of brown pigment into black pigment, but it doesn’t reduce the amount of pigment in the feathers. The brown pigment then interacts with the structural color to produce a light brownish tinted blue. The result is a light brownish tint green bird. The Cinnamon mutation is sex-linked. The Cinnamon mutation first appeared in Europe in the 1980s and was imported into the United States in 1993 by Bob Nelson.

Fallow – The Fallow mutation is similar to the Cinnamon in that it prevents the conversion of brown pigment into black pigment. Unlike the Cinnamon mutation, the Fallow mutation produces red eyes (as compared to plum colored eyes in the Cinnamon) in adult birds and is an autosomal recessive mutation. It is believed that it may actually be genetically related to the NSL Lutino family. The Fallow mutation first appeared in Texas in 1996 and has been quite difficult to establish, although a few breeders are working with it.

Pied and Dark-eyed Clear – The Pied mutation works by interrupting the deposition of melanin in the feathers in an irregular pattern. I personally have not seen any evidence of true Pied mutation Quaker parakeets. There are some birds with “pied” markings, but to the best of our knowledge, they have not been proven to be a true Pied mutation. We only mention the Pied mutation since there is the Dark-eyed Clear mutation in Quaker parakeets. The Dark-eyed Clear is in the Pied family of mutations. It works by interrupting the deposition of melanin in all the feathers resulting in a bird with a full pied color and dark eyes and is often referred to as a Dark-eyed Yellow. It is an autosomal recessive mutation and can be easily distinguished from the NSL Lutino by the presence of dark eyes. The Dark-eyed Clear mutation first appeared in Florida in the 1990s out of two birds of the Pallid strain.

Greygreen - The Greygreen mutation works by preventing the structural color, resulting in a darker colored bird. Greygreen mutations in most species are dominant, but in the “Greygreen” mutation in quaker parakeets, it is recessive. This may be a similar mutation that is seen in Recessive Grey budgerigars or Recessive Greygreen pacific parrotlets. The Greygreen first appeared in a single dark colored bird that is believed to have been hatched in a naturalized Quaker parakeet colony in Florida. That bird was subsequently acquired by Bob Nelson in Oregon and he has been successful establishing this mutation.

Violet - Recently, a mutation that appears to be a Violet mutation has been seen in Quaker parakeets. At this time, some breeders are still working to prove and establish it is a Violet mutation. It behaves similarly to the known Violet mutation in that it is co-dominant and that a Single Factor bird produces one shade and a Double Factor bird produces a darker shade.

Most of the above color mutations can be combined to create a new unique effect. Often some of the combinations are given names. The most common named combination is the “Albino”, which is actually a combination between the Blue mutation and the Lutino mutation. The correct name for “Albino” would be Blue Lutino, since it takes two mutations to create the “Albino” effect. Naming these combinations can cause some serious confusion when acquiring birds as you may not know what mutations are involved. Some breeders have begun calling these combinations by “fancy” names such as “White-faced” or “Ice Blue” in order to market them and unfortunately some people new to Quaker parakeet mutations think they have a new and/or rare mutation.

References:

Clubb, S. (Personal Communication)
Guildhouse, V. (Personal Communication)
Martin, T. (2002). A Guide to Colour Mutations & Genetics in Parrots. ABK Publications: South Tweed Heads
Nelson, R. (Personal Communication)