Cockatiels have become exceptionally popular partly due to their variety of pleasing color combinations. Some colors are more popular than others and many times beauty is, indeed, "in the eye of the beholder" whether from the bold and flashy attraction of a heavy Pearl-Pied to the more subtle and delicate appeal of a lovely Cinnamon mutation.
The more common varieties and their crosses are listed below and while some may be more difficult to breed than others, each color offers its own unique challenge and beauty.
The wild cockatiel of Australia, or the nominate race, is grey in color and is referred to as "Normal" or the Normal Grey. The Normal Grey is dominant to all color mutations with the exception of the first new dominant mutation, the Dominant Silver (see separate article on the "New Dominant Silver Mutation of Europe").
Males are primarily grey in color and acquire a yellow face mask upon maturity. All hens and young will display yellow lipochrome pigment spotting on the underside of wing flights and yellow barring on the underside of tail feathers. Both sexes carry the orange ear covert feathers, more popularly referred to as orange "cheek patches" and retain the white wing bar, which should approach three-quarters of an inch and be clear of extraneous colors. The eyes are dark, and both the feet and beak are pigmented.
While the intensity of grey pigment may fluctuate in both intensity in the same individual and in tone between individuals, it is desirable to maintain at least a uniform and even body tone, free of marbling or lighter regions. The variety of color depth between individual Normal Greys does suggest the possibility of dark factors (e.g. light grey, medium grey, dark grey, etc.) at work although none of the show standards today officially recognize such separate classes.
The first recessive mutation, Pieds vary in their degree of "wash" creating light, medium, heavy and extraheavy Pieds, as they are loosely referred to in the Fancy, with no two Pieds being marked exactly alike. In this mutation, a wash of yellow lipochrome pigment and/or white (a lack of pigment) colors the grey areas of the body.
Very light Pieds may only carry tick markings behind the crest or on the nape, plus one or more feathers on the rump and possibly one or more wing flights. A common misconception is that a bird with only tick markings behind the crest/nape area is Pied. Those who routinely breed Pieds find this to be incorrect and that these heavily ticked birds are only "splits" (genetically carry the factor for Pied), and need to be paired to another Pied or split Pied to produce Pieds in the first generation.
Medium marked Pieds carry more Pied "wash" over the back, most flight feathers, some tail feathers and the breast which might be divided by a grey band. A heavy marked Pied will carry a clear face, chest, wing flights and most tail feathers, usually with grey only coloring the area of the upper back. Extra-heavy Pieds may only carry a very small amount of grey about the shoulder or upper back area and those most severe may only sport one or two grey feathers, appearing as a dark-eyed white or Lutino until they show their backs!
Rubin, Linda, S., The Complete Guide to Cockatiel Color Mutations, Chapters 1-4, 6, 7 and 8. Newton, MA. ©1988.
Rubin, Linda S., "NCS Show Standard of Excellence." National Cockatiel Society. 1984. •