Psittacine Or Passerine? By: Ellen Fusz

Today we are going to continue with the wonderful “Ellen Fusz.”  Her Book is simply titled “Cockatiels” along with Animal Planet as her Books Sponser. Great Team, Great Parnership, they both do our planet Earth well!! So the Question is Psittacine Or Passerine? Ellen describes what the differences are.  “The Passerine birds, or perching birds, consist of nearly  300 genera and more than 1,100 species.  Some common Passerines birds are: Canaries, finches, sparrows, robins, grosbeaks, and buntings. The Psittacine birds, or hookbills,are not as diverse, but still contain  80 genera and more than 350 species.  The most common psittacines are: Parakeets, cockatoos, and cockatiels.  Physical Characteristics –  At maturity, Cockatiels weigh in at about 3 to 4 Ounces (85 to 113 grams) and average 12 or 13 Inches (30.5 to 33 cm) in length from head to tail.  The tail makes up for hale of the body length.  This impressive appendage is not simply dragged behind the bird, but it is actively used both during flight and during climbing. When a cockatiel clings to the wire of his cage, you can observe how he spreads his tail and uses it as a prop for balance and support.  When the bird walks, the tail is folded tight and held just above the ground.  The cockatiel’s crowning glory is his crest, which is made up of many feathers of varying sizes. Breeders often concentrate on this feature to produce varieties with  especially prominent and distinguished headgear.  The ideal height of the crest is 3 inches (7.6 xm).  The longest of these feathers are located at the rear of the crest.  It’s easy to assess the mood of the cockatiel by the position of the crest.  If it is standing upright, the bird is alert and content.  But if the feathers are flattened against the head, it is a sign that the bird is either frightened or angry.  Cockatiels are unusual among psittacines in being dimorphic-the males and females are colored differently.  Depending on the color variety, determining the sex of an adult is usually straightforward, but only after the bird is at least six months of age.  Medical testing is the only way to be 100 percent positive of the gender of your cockatiel. Common Varieties-  In the wild, most cockatiels are predominantly gray.  In captivity, a number of color variations have been derived from the normal gray.  While the most well-known are lutino, pied, cinnamon, pearl, and silver, breeders continue to come up with other mutations for an even wider variety of colors.  When purchasing a cockatiel, perhaps the least expensive and easiest variety to find is the gray.  In their native Australian habitat, most cockatiels are this color. These beautiful little creatures have dark gray feathers covering their bodies.  Their wings have prominent white patches, and there is a yellow wash on the face and the crest.  Most noticeable are the large dime-sized orange cheek patches, which are stronger in coloration on the male than the female.  The bill and the feet are gray, as is the cere-the fleshy patch above the beak where the prominent nostrils are located.  The tail is long and tapered, and the underside is barred with yellow and gray.The male and the female look very similar until maturity.  At that time, the male feathers become more colorful.  Lutino- A strikingly beautiful bird, the lutino cockatiel is a popular variety.  Due to a gene that prevents the formation of melanin, or dark pigment, this cockatiel is white with a yellow wash.  The bill and the feet are pink, and the eyes are red.  Within this exquisite variety, the male and female look strikingly similar.  However, with more careful observation, you can see that female’s tail feathers have a yellow barring, while the males do not.  Pied-  Pied cockatiels have large patches of color that can appear anywhere on the body.  Some pieds have only an isolated odd white feather, or even just a splotch of pink on toe.  Others are so heavily pied that they appear to be lutinos.  It is difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish the male from the female by just looking at the markings. Dark Eyed Clear- When a bird looks like a lutino but has the common black eyes, it is usually an extremely heavily pied bird, and it is called a dark-eyed clear.  Technically, it is a gray bird covered completely in white patches. Cinnamon and Fallow-  In these birds, two genes have been identified that dilute melanin,or dark pigment, producing brown instead of gray or black.  In the cinnamon variety, gray areas are replaced with dark brown.  These birds are called cinnamon because their color is sometimes compared to the color of cocoa. The color of the male is somewhat deeper than that of the female.  Fallows seem to be a lighter brown than cinnamons, and their eyes are dark red.  Pearl-  With a lovely scalloping effect of white edging on each feather of the bird’s back and wings, the pearl cockatiel is a festive looking variety. These “Pearling spots” are yellow or white and can be found on the back, nape, and wings.  On heavily marked pearls, some small yellow or white markings can be found on the breast.  Pearling is caused by a gene mutation.  It can be combined with other mutations to produce cinnamon pearls, whiteface pearls, ect.  Typically, the adult male will lose his pearling after his first molt. An interesting aspect of this mutation is that males have the pearling effect for only about a year, while females retain if for life.  Silver-  The silver cockatiel looks like a diluted version of the gray.  With red eyes, a pink beak, and pink feet, the male has a deep yellow face and bright orange cheeks.  The female tends to be less colorful.  Whiteface  A relatively new variety, the whiteface lacks any yellow or orange coloration. This leaves the face completely white in the male and completely gray in the female.  Without the traditional cheek patches, the gray on the body appears to be much stronger, thus causing some to refer to this bird as “charcoal”.  Albino-  The genetic combination of a whiteface and lutino may produce an albino, a totally white bird.  There is no way to visually discriminate between the male and the female because both sexes are completely white.  Once quite rare, these birds are more common now.  Ellen Fusz.

Next week we will continue going through such a thorough discription of the lovely Cockatiel breed. Until then, God Speed!