DTI001 19_04_17

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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 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.

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Happy hour

Cockatiels just love the breeding season, so make sure you can keep them all happy, advises PAULINE JAMES

Perfect partners: there’s nothing so joyful as contented pairs of cockatiels

THE sound of whistling and singing in the outside cockatiel flights is a sure sign that the birds are in high spirits and are getting in the mood for breeding. With the sun on their back and the days getting longer, the birds will feel exhilarated, especially coming out of the winter that had!

So join in the party and add to their joy by offering them some tasty treats. Pull up whole, young and tender dandelion plants and offer them roots and all, or dig up a clod of fresh grass for them to pick over. They will make a feast of freshly picked budding twigs from willow, fruit or nut trees, and love to gnaw at the branches. (Avoid cherry and chestnut trees, though.)

Chickweed, cow parsley, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, water cress, spinach, carrot and beetroot tops are all relished. Greenery is high in chlorophyll, essential minerals and vitamins and provides a huge energy boost, and as the birds’ stamina levels peak and they begin to exercise more, so they will rapidly come into full breeding condition.

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Birds of a feather

PAULINE JAMES advises breeders that when buying in new stock, the quality of the plumage holds a wealth of information

New mutations, such as yellow cockatiels, are vulnerable to poor feather qualityWHEN making up pairs of cockatiels it is usual to carefully consider a bird’s colouring or mutation, its size and overall posture. But one of the most important factors to note is the quality of a bird’s plumage, which can reveal a lot about a bird.

Unusual feathering can expose a history of inbreeding and lack of genetic diversity, and other feather disorders can convey that a bird has health issues, or has suffered some sort of trauma as a young chick.

So, when buying in new birds, it is important to be able to recognise all of these conditions, so that disease and genetically inferior birds are not introduced to existing stock.

Inbreeding pitfalls

Birds of a new mutation, and especially the highly desired buttercup yellow birds, are particularly vulnerable to poor feather quality due to the excessive inbreeding that has taken place to produce visuals of this sex-linked mutation, in the brightest and richest yellow possible.

In this process the brightest-coloured parent is often bred back to its brightest-coloured offspring, or worse still two siblings are bred together to increase the intensity of the yellow colouring, and to ensure that visuals are produced in the next generation.

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