Common parakeet mutations are found in coloring, striping and patterns on the bird. Rarer mutations include a crest on top of a parakeet’s head or black striping across the entire face. Parakeets can have a single mutation or multiple ones, making for a long list of possible variations in parakeet appearance.
In their natural habitat, parakeets have a base color of green. In captivity, breeders raise parakeets with many different colors and markings. Those raised in captivity and sold as pets are often vividly colored budgerigar, or budgie parakeets.
White and yellow are the two main color bases for budgerigar parakeets. The base color is usually identified in the coloring between the black stripes on the bird’s head or in the feathers around the beak and eyes. Mutations cause the intensity and hue of the parakeet’s color. White-based parakeets are often blended with shades of pale blue, deep blue and violet on their bodies. Yellow-based parakeets have shades of yellow, pale green, olive or deep green.
Other parakeet mutations are found in the striping. One type of striping mutation is called cinnamon. This mutation makes striping on the wings and head a brownish color instead of black. The body of the parakeet also will sometimes have a hint of cinnamon coloration.
Opaline spangle and double-factor spangle also are examples of striping mutations. Characteristics of an opaline mutation are thinner black striping and thicker white areas on the back of the head. A spangle mutation means normally black feather tips are white. Double-factor spangle mutations can cause a parakeet to be solid yellow or white.
Parakeet mutations that show up as larger patterns are called pied. In pied mutations, the solid base color is found in areas that normally have markings. These solid areas also are known as clear feathers.
A parakeet with a dominant pied mutation will have a solid color in areas of the head or wings that normally have black markings. Another example is the recessive pied parakeet mutation. This kind of mutation has solid-color feathers everywhere but at the lower back between the wings and just above the tail. A third type of pied parakeet mutation is called clearflight, meaning the parakeet has a clear or solid color on its flight feathers.
Some of the rarer parakeet mutations cause unique effects. A crested parakeet, for example, has small feathers on the top of its head that can look like a messy wig. A black-faced parakeet has black striping covering its entire face and sometimes its entire body. Some parakeet mutations are different on each side of the body. One side might have blue feathers while the other side is yellow, for example, and the striping or patterns also can vary on each side.