Help! What color mutation does my bird have?
Want to know what unique combination of color variants your budgie is? Join our scholar’s club community today to get your budgie’s unique mutations broken down for you!
What Color Variants Exist In Budgies?
In this article we’ll go over all the mutations listed below, along with photos to help you compare and contrast to your own birds. If you’d like to learn about a specific mutation, click on it in the table of contents to jump directly to that section.
Table of Contents
Yellow or White Base Color
Nearly all budgies are either yellow-base or white-base. Yellow-base birds (as you may have guessed) have yellow pigment in their feathers resulting in yellow coloration. White-base birds lack this pigment, resulting in a white appearance.
Yellow-base budgies can be all yellow, and white-base budgies can be all white–these varieties result from mutations such as the lutino and albino mutations and will be covered later in this guide. But more commonly, yellow-base birds are a combination of green and yellow, and white-base birds are a combination of blue and white.
This is because most budgies have structural blue color in their body feathers. Unlike yellow color which arises from pigments (tiny colored molecules), the color blue in budgies arises from the way light reflects off the feather’s microscopic structure. When structural blue mixes with pigment yellow, we get green–hence why yellow-base birds are typically yellow and green.
White-base is a recessive trait, meaning that a bird would need two copies of the allele to actually end up being white-based. As long as a budgie has even one copy of the dominant yellow-base allele, they will appear yellow-based. For a more detailed explanation of how yellow- or white-base coloration is inherited, check out our Punnett squares article.
In addition to being yellow- or white-base, budgies can also be classified as having “no dark factor, one dark factor, or two dark factors”. The dark factor, as its name suggests, adds a degree of darkness to a budgie’s body feathers. Per the World Budgerigar Organization (2), specific dark factor varieties have the following names:
- Yellow-base with NO dark factor: Light Green (Pantone 375)
- Yellow-base with ONE dark factor: Dark Green (Pantone 369)
- Yellow-base with TWO dark factors: Olive Green (Pantone 371)
- White-base with NO dark factor: Skyblue (Pantone 310)
- White-base with ONE dark factor: Cobalt (Pantone 2915)
- White-base with TWO dark factors: Mauve (Pantone 535)
Budgies lacking structural blue body feathers (i.e. lutino and albino varieties) can have no dark factors, one dark factor, or two dark factors, just like any other budgie. But visually, it makes no difference! The phenotype (physical appearance) of an albino or lutino bird is not impacted by the number of dark factors they have.
Just as dark factor adds a degree of darkness, violet factor adds a degree of violet color to a budgie’s feathers. However, this color can be very faint, so telling whether your budgie has any violet factor can be tricky. Generally, violet factor is only prominently visible on Skyblue (white-base with no dark factor) and Cobalt (white-base with one dark factor) budgies.
- Skyblue with ONE violet factor: These birds often have visible violet feathers only near the feet and/or vent. Otherwise, they are slightly darker than a typical (no violet factor) Skyblue bird.
- Skyblue with TWO violet factors: These birds have visible violet color and look much like Cobalt birds with violet factor. They can sometimes be distinguished from their Cobalt counterparts by the presence of turquoise color near the base of their tails.
- Cobalt with ONE or TWO violet factors: It’s hard to distinguish whether a Cobalt has one or two violet factors, as both varieties appear visibly violet.
Violet coloration is extremely hard to detect in birds with two dark factors (mauve and olive green) and isn’t very visible in yellow-base birds at all, regardless of dark factor. If a yellow-base budgie has any violet factors, this typically results in a slight darkening of their green body feathers, and they may have a dark or violet tint to their feet. This coloration can be faint and easily missed.
Grey factor adds grey color to a budgie’s plumage. However, grey factor is easier to identify than violet factor. It doesn’t matter whether a bird has one or two grey factors; both varieties will end up with a grey tinge to their body feathers. Yellow-base budgies with grey factor are referred to as Grey Green, and white-base budgies with grey factor are simply known as Grey (2).
Lutino/Albino (Plus Creamino and Lacewing)
Both lutino and albino mutations are the same thing: they erase a bird’s color and pattern aside from its yellow or white base. Yellow-base birds with the mutation appear yellow, much like a canary, and are called “lutino;” white-base birds with the mutation appear white and are called “albino.” Both lutinos and albinos (“inos,” collectively) have red eyes and lack the dark/black feather pattern that non-ino budgies display.
The gene responsible for ino coloring is recessive and sex-linked on the Z-chromosome, meaning it is expressed a bit differently depending on whether a bird is male or female. Because males have two copies of the Z chromosome, they must have two copies of the recessive ino allele to appear ino. However, as females have only one Z chromosome, they require only one copy of the allele to appear ino.
Note: The red eye color can be challenging to photograph due to lighting and red eye reduction software in many phones so sometimes red eyes come out black in photos. However, if you see them in person or photograph or record them in bright light, the red eyes usually are quite clear.
Some budgies can also have other color mutations present in addition to their lutino/albino color. Here are two examples:
- Ino birds with the yellowface mutation are often given the endearing name “creamino.” This is not a separate mutation but rather the combination of a yellowface mutation on an albino bird. These birds will have red eyes and yellow on their face or gently spreading to the rest of their body depending the type of yellowface gene they possess.
- Ino birds with the cinnamon mutation are called “lacewings” and have light brown (cinnamon colored) feather markings and may have very light violet cheek spots (2).
As mentioned in the Lutino/Albino section, budgies with the yellowface mutation display a mixture of yellow- and white-base colors. The intensity and distribution of the yellow coloration is dependent on two things: what type of yellowface the bird is, and whether the bird has one or two yellowface factors (3).
There are three types of yellowface mutations (look at the intensity of the yellow):
- Yellowface Type I: the lightest in color, usually does not affect the body color
- Yellowface Type II: slightly darker in color than Type I; yellow color spreads across the body
- Goldenface: Most intense yellow of the three yellowface types and strongly affects the body color
The genetics for the yellowface mutation are a bit more complicated than the genetics for mutations like dark and grey factor. Below is a simplified breakdown of the varieties of yellowface mutations, where “one/two factor” refers to the number of copies of the yellowface allele the bird has:
Does not affect greatly affect body color, leaving body mostly still blue
Yellow spreads to the rest of the body, resulting in a turquoise color
Dark yellow covers rest of the body resulting in a blue-green color
This mutation is not visible and budgie appear white-blue
Yellowface is present but body remains blue in color
Strong yellow face but generally these birds still look mostly blue
Dilute, Greywing, and Clearwing
All of these terms (dilute, greywing, and clearwing) refer to budgies with some part of their color or markings being diluted or “washed out.”
- Dilute: Both body color and markings are washed out. Markings appear very faint and all body color is low vibrancy.
- Greywing: Body color is washed out, but markings are still visible–they are just grey instead of the usual black.
- Clearwing: markings are very washed out (and may not be visible at all), but the body color is unaffected.
- Full-body-color greywing: This mutation arises from a combination of greywing and clearwing alleles. Like a greywing, these birds have grey instead of black markings, but like a clearwing, their body color is unaffected (normal vibrancy).
To understand how these traits are inherited, it’s helpful to understand that the greywing, clearwing, dilute, and normal alleles are situated in a kind of dominance hierarchy. The normal (no dilution at all) allele is completely dominant to all dilution alleles. The greywing and clearwing alleles are co-dominant to each other (this is how we can get full-body-color greywings, which are a combination of greywing and clearwing alleles) but completely dominant to the dilute allele. The dilute allele is recessive to every other allele, so even if a bird has one dilute allele, its phenotype will correspond with whatever the other allele is (greywing, clearwing, normal, or a second copy of the dilute allele). A true dilute phenotype only occurs when a bird has two copies of the recessive dilute allele.
Dilute budgies generally have much lighter cheek patches than greywing budgies. These dilutions can be in combination with other mutations as well. FitC, for example, is a yellow-base greywing budgie but because she also has the opaline mutation (which also is a diluting mutation), she comes out much lighter in color than a budgie with only the greywing gene.
The opaline mutation results in several changes to the distribution of color and patterns across a budgie’s body. Primarily, the dark patterns (barring) on the bird’s head and neck are lighter, there is a region of very faint markings (or none at all!) between the bird’s shoulders, and the body color diffuses into the wings and can form a solid strip down the length of the tail.
Like the ino mutation, the opaline mutation is recessive and sex-linked on the Z-chromosome. Males need two copies of the opaline allele to be visibly opaline, but females need only one copy.
Budgies without the spangle mutation typically have black wing feathers with white edges. Budgies with one spangle factor, on the other hand, have wing feathers that match their yellow- or white-base color and have a thin black edge. They may also have fewer throat spots. Budgies with two spangle factors will have no markings or structural blue feathers, appearing wholly white or yellow like ino budgies. However, two factor spangle budgies retain their normal dark-colored eyes that lighten slightly as they age, unlike their pink-eyed ino counterparts.
The cinnamon mutation turns a budgie’s normally black/dark patterns into a light brown (cinnamon colored) shade.
The cinnamon mutation gene is recessive and sex-linked on the Z-chromosome, so males need two copies of the cinnamon allele to have cinnamon markings while females need only one copy.
A budgie with a dominant pied mutation will have several areas on their body lacking structural blue color, allowing their yellow- or white-base color to show through. These regions are generally on the abdomen (with the clear area often forming a horizontal band) and the bottom region of the wings.
Single factor dominant pied budgies tend to have a band of white/yellow going across their belly. These budgies also retain the wild type blue/brown cere color as adults.
Double factor dominant pieds have much less body color and will often have a pink male cere rather than the wild type adult blue cere. These birds also generally retain their light colored eye rings.
Both one and two factor dominant pied mutations will have these clear areas, although the areas may be slightly larger in two factor dominant pied birds.
Recessive pied budgies have even fewer structural blue feathers, with the only colored regions being small and typically occurring on the rump, lower belly, or between the legs. The rest of the bird’s plumage is clear, meaning it is either yellow or white according the base color of the bird. There may be fewer (or patchy) dark/black markings on the wings, and the recessive pied budgie’s eyes will stay dark their entire lives (they will not lighten with age). Budgies need two recessive pied factors to have a recessive pied phenotype.
With the clearflight pied mutation, a budgie will have clear (yellow or white) flight feathers. They will also have a clear area around the back of their head or nape of their neck (a “thumbprint”). The clearflight pied phenotype looks the same regardless of whether a budgie has one or two clearflight pied factors.
Callie from The Budgie Academy Flock is a great example of a clearflight pied budgie. Based on the light color of her wings and her light blue cheek patches, she also likely also has the greywing mutation. A budgie with only the clearflight pied mutation would have the color intensity of a normal green or blue budgie.
When a budgie has both the recessive pied and clearflight pied mutations, they lose their structural blue color and dark/black patterning, resulting in a bird that is entirely yellow or white depending on their base color. Although this dark-eyed clear bird may look similar to an ino or two factor spangle budgie, they can be distinguished by their dark eyes which do not lighten with age. Comparatively, lutino and albino birds have pink eyes, and two factor spangle birds have dark eyes that lighten with age.
Additional interesting and beautiful mutations are still being discovered. Some rare mutations (which we won’t describe in detail) include the crested, fallow, saddleback, Texas clearbody, slate, anthracite, black face, and hagoromo (or Japanese helicopter) mutation. There are also congenital conditions that can result in rare colors and patterns (e.g. the half-sider budgie), but these conditions are not passed down from parent to offspring like traditional mutations and are not intentionally produced through breeding.
Hagoromo / crested budgie
Hagaromo/japanese crested: this mutation originated in Japan and is characterized by the distinctive “crest” of feathers on the head and flower shaped feathers on the back.
You know what color your budgie is... Now what?
We hope this resource has helped you navigate the complex world of budgie color mutations. Research into how specific mutations occur and are inherited is ongoing, and our understanding of color genetics is growing more detailed all the time. If you’re interested in learning more about genetics and the heritability of traits, be sure to check out our article on Punnett squares. Or read our article on wild budgie coloration to learn how and why they differ from their domesticated peers.
- Bergman, P. The facts about violet budgerigars. Budgerigar Council of Victoria. Available at: http://www.bcv.asn.au/uploads/1/0/3/5/10355325/violets.pdf
- Al-Nasser, G. Rare budgerigar varieties, the lacewing. The Al-Nasser Experience. Available at: http://www.al-nasser.co.uk/article10.htm.
- Al-Nasser, G. Yellowface blue budgerigars. The Al-Nasser Experience. Available at: http://www.al-nasser.co.uk/article12.htm
Martin, T. A guide to colour mutations and genetics in parrots ebook. (ABK Publications, 2002).
- Tuxford, T. Color Standards. Available at https://www.world-budgerigar.org/colourstds.htm