Pied Peachfaced Lovebirds


Cinnamon cockatiel
Cinnamon cockatiel

Pied is a mutation that often confuses new breeders. Pied works by extracting melanin (a dark pigment) from certain areas of a bird’s feathers and body. As a consequence of this removal, some or all of the bird’s feathers will be yellow or a lighter shade of green than they would be on a regularly colored bird.

The ambiguity around this mutation stems from the fact that the pattern of melanin loss differs in each bird that inherits the pied gene. Some pied birds are nearly totally yellow (as seen in the picture below), while others are fully green. Most pied birds are somewhere in the middle, with some green and some yellow feathers.

Because the yellow feathers of a pied bird may resemble the yellow feathers of a lutino, some breeders believe the two mutations are closely linked. Although lutino and pied both remove melanin from the bird’s feathers and body, they are completely separate mutations. A lutino cannot be produced by pairing strongly pied birds together, nor can a pied bird be produced by mating a lutino to a regular green. Their impacts are not mutually exclusive.
A lutino bird may possess the pied gene, although such a bird will be difficult to differentiate from a non-pied lutino. The pied gene eliminates melanin from random areas of the bird, but because the lutino mutation removes all melanin anyhow, the pied gene has no effect. The only way to tell a normal lutino from one that has the pied gene is to look at the bird’s forehead. The transition line between the yellow of the head and the red of the face on the non-pied lutino should be smooth and uniform. The line on a pied lutino is frequently ragged and fractured.

Because the American pied is a dominant mutation, any pied parent bird may generate pied offspring; nevertheless, the precise processes involved in establishing the pattern of “pied-ness” remain unknown. I think pied is induced by a single dominant “trigger” gene, but the precise pattern of its influence is determined by many other, common genes. There are almost limitless combinations of these additional genes, and many of these combinations may result in a bird not appearing pied at all, even if it possesses the trigger gene. Similarly, unless the trigger gene was present, the “ordinary” genes would have no influence on the bird’s colour.
This would explain why pied birds’ color patterns are generally similar but somewhat different from their pied parents’. Only half of the genes that define the pied pattern are handed down from the pied parent to the offspring. This also explains why pied may “hidden” for a generation or more at a period. Occasionally, a bird that seems to be a regular Peachfaced produces pied offspring. The trigger gene would be present in such a bird, but the other genes would mask the effects of the pied. The progeny of the bird would have slightly different combinations of “ordinary” genes, allowing the pied colour to be visible.

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