Colour for Beginners

It is sometimes difficult for the beginner to identify the various colours and varieties that are in the makeup of our budgerigars.

The original budgerigars that are in the wild, and the ones that were brought into this country in the early l900s, were all what is commonly known as Light Greens. Then along came the Yellows and in the early 1920s there were Skyblues bred, I think, firstly in Japan. In the 30s emerged the Opalines; in the 40s Australian and English Greys appeared on the scene. In the 60s we saw the emergence of the Spangles, and finally, the latest to rear its head is the Saddleback . At the moment there are so few of them, so it is safe to ignore them.

In this article we shall concentrate on three points,

  1. the basic colours
  2. the different varieties
  3. sex linkage

Firstly, let me say that Green being the original colour, you can get Greens split for Blue, but you cannot get Blue, split for Green. It is just not possible to have any bird carrying the Green, Green must be visible.


Greens come in three different colours, you get Light Green, Dark Green and Olive Green. In each colour variation there is a darker shade than the previous one. Purely in the colour, you will have the genes which can breed as well as Greens but also can breed Blues.


Blues also come in three different shades, firstly you get Skyblue, which as the name suggests is roughly the colour of the sky, you get a dark blue commonly called Cobalt, and then you have the third blue, still darker commonly called Mauve. As I mentioned earlier, Blues when paired together cannot produce a Green. However if you pair a Blue and a Green together it is possible to breed Blues and Greens. To do this, the Green must be genetically masking Blue, otherwise the Green being dominant to the Blue, you will only get Greens.

Grey Greens

Grey Greens also come in three colour variations, again in light, dark and a very dark Grey Green. However, with Grey Greens there is an additional factor involved, Grey Greens are a mutant, being bred from a Grey and a Green, Grey being a dominant factor, cannot be carried in split form. So you cannot, at least in theory, breed Greys. However, Grey Greens are split for Blue, so when you pair two Grey Greens together, you can breed Greens, Grey Greens, Blues and Greys. There is another factor which must be taken into account, there is such an anomaly in Grey Greens and that is the fact that you can breed double factor grey greens, when that occurs you will usually breed only grey greens, I will go into more detail later.


Greys are like Blues, there are three different colours, light, dark and a much darker grey. It is possible to breed Blues and Greys from a pair of Greys. However they, like the Grey Greens, can also be double factor Greys, but I hope to go into greater detail later.

Lutino and Albino

Lutino and Albino are similar to the Green and Blue, except with all red-eyed birds, they are devoid of all colour pigment. They are yellow instead of green, white instead of blue, and of course, they have red eyes in lieu of black eyes. The difference being in their breeding characteristics. Red-eyed birds are what we call sex-linked, that is the females are always either Lutino or Albino, they are always visual and can never be split for Lutino or Albino, whereas the cocks can be either Lutino or Albino, as well as Green split Lutino, or Blue split Albino. So for example, you can have a Green cock bird split for Lutino, and he is capable of breeding Lutino hens even if paired to a Green hen, but to pair a Lutino hen to a Green cock, you will only breed Greens, the cocks being split Lutinos. The Lutino and Albino Breeders Society


It doesn’t matter whether you take Greens or Blues, there are a series of different varieties. I shall try to list them with their differing characteristics. They are not in alphabetical nor any other order, just as they come to mind, starting with:


Opalines have the full body colour of Normals, but they differ in wing markings. Where Normals have black and yellow markings on their wings in the Greens and black and white in the Blues, the Opalines have black, but instead of either yellow or white, they have a diluted body colour. In addition, at the back of the neck they have a clear V, only the body colour is showing, no black markings at all


Cinnamons have half the depth of body colour of the Normals. However, their wing markings are a light cinnamon-brown in lieu of black as in the normal colours. They are in all the normal colours including Grey Green and Grey.

Opaline Cinnamon

Opaline Cinnamons are a mixture of Opaline and Cinnamon, having half the body-depth of the Normal. However, the wings are similar to the Opaline, they however, have cinnamon markings in lieu of black, but they have the body colour instead of yellow or white, and also they have the clear V with body colour in lieu of markings.


Greywings appear in all the normal colours, Green, Blue, Grey Green and Grey. They have a suffused body colouring and the wing markings are a pastel shade of grey on either a yellow or white background, depending whether they are yellow or white. The Rare Variety and Colour Budgerigar Society


Yellow wings are the Green series and White wings are the Blue series. They have either a bright green or blue body colouring. The wings should be either Yellow or White, depending on whether they are Green or Blue. Unfortunately, they no longer have clear wings, but tend to have suffused markings on the wings, some lightly-suffused and some so heavily-suffused that they resemble Greywings. The best way to identify them is to examine the cheek patches, Clearwings always have bright violet patches, greywings have pale blue cheek patches The Clearwing Budgerigar Breeders Association


Yellows are the Green version, Whites are the Blues. You can get Grey Yellows and Grey Whites. They should not be mixed up with Lutinos and Albinos who have red-eyes with a white iris. Yellows and Whites have black eyes with the white iris, the body colour of the Yellows range from a washed-out yellow to an apple green, the Whites range from a lightly-suffused blue to a darker blue, the wings are lightly-suffused.

Recessive Pieds

Recessive Pieds come in all the normal colourings, including Cinnamon, Opaline etc. The colouring is irregular patches of yellow and bright grass green. On the wings, it is mainly yellow with black undulations in a random pattern. Eyes should be solid black without an iris. In the Blue series substitute white for yellow and blue for green. They are also non sex-linked, but I shall cover that later.

Dark-eyed Clears

Dark-eyed Clears, as the name suggests, are yellow in place of green and white in place of blue. They have black eyes with no iris and they are non sex-linked, similar to Recessive Pieds.


Fallows are a variety and not a colour. They cover the whole range of colours. The way to describe them is that they are basically, a lighter than normal body colour, and in place of black markings on the wings, they have light brown markings. There are two varieties, namely, the English Fallow, which has plum-coloured eyes without an iris, they are non sex-linked. The other is the German Fallow which also have the plum eyes, but they have an iris and they are sex-linked. The Rare Variety and Colour Budgerigar Society

Dominant Pieds

Dominant Pieds are also a variety, coming in all the colours previously mentioned. They are however, different from the varieties previously mentioned. They are neither sex-linked nor non sex-linked. They are what is known as a Dominant variety. What that means is, that when paired to a non-Pied, they will produce approximately 50% Dominant Pieds and 50% Normals. None of the young can be split for Dominant Pied. The markings should be in the green coloration, and the body should be solid green, with irregular patches of yellow, they should have a patch of yellow at the back of the head but this is now optional. The wings should have patches of yellow, with the flights being grizzled, the feet are a mottled pink and the eyes are black with a white iris. In the Blue series substitute white for yellow.


Spangles are another Dominant variety. They appear in all colours and varieties, and they have the same breeding pattern as the Dominant Pied ie., they produce 50% Spangles when paired to a non-Spangle partner and again they cannot be split for Spangle. In the Green series they have a bright green body colour, however, the wing markings differ from Normals in that the black and yellow wing markings of the Normals are reversed in the Spangle, they are yellow and black instead. The other peculiar feature of the Spangle is the fact that when two Spangles are paired together you get some of the young devoid of the normal Spangle markings. In the case of the Greens they are yellow all over, including the wings, whereas Blue series are all white. The correct definition for such a bird is a Double Factor Spangle. The Spangled Budgerigar Breeders Associaton


Yellow-faces are another Dominant variety. Obviously, they only appear in the Blue series. They can be also in the Green series but it is extremely difficult to identify them. In the Blue series they should have a yellow face in lieu of the white, the yellow should go over the head to the back of the neck, it is a major fault for the yellow to extend into the body shade.


Again, the Crest is a variety, and can be seen in all colours and varieties, including Spangles. They should have all the features of normal colours, but they should have a crest or tuft on the top of their heads. They are a non sex-linked variety.

Now, we will try to group together the various varieties, at the same time, endeavouring to give the various sex patterns of the varieties, including the various anomalies that can turn up. It is a known fact that the Green is normally dominant to most other colours. The anomaly can be when paired to a Grey Green, then you will get a percentage of Greens and Grey Greens. It is not possible when you pair two Blues together, to produce Greens. A bird can never be split for Green. Now, when you look to other matings, that is when interesting results can happen. This is where sex-linkage plays an important part. When two Normal birds are paired together, (what we mean by Normal is that they are not split for any colour or variety) then all you should get from the mating is all Normal birds. For example, take a pair of Greens and you will only get Green chicks. However, if either one of the Greens, or both of them, were to be split for Blue, then you will get Greens and Blues. The Green chicks, instead of being Normal Greens would be Green split Blue. Let us take it a stage further and try to identify some of the other varieties and their effect on the breeding pattern.


Today, there are very few birds that you could say are pure Normals. What we mean is, there are not many birds that are not carrying something else in their genes. It is possible for a bird to be carrying, in a hidden form, colour and variety. For example, cock birds can carry numerous genes for a series of varieties, and will require test mating to establish them.


Sex-linked varieties are numerous, and what we mean by sex-linkage is the simple fact that, when a variety is sex-linked, only the cock birds can carry the genes in a split or hidden form. For example, the following table should show it clearly. The following list are the varieties that are sex-linked.They all have the similar breeding characteristics, in as much that only the cocks can carry the variety in a split or hidden form. The hens cannot carry the variety in a hidden form, they must be and only can be visual. In the following list I will show not only the breeding characteristics of Opalines, but all other sex-linked varieties as follows:

  • Opalines
  • Opaline Cinnamons
  • Opaline Greywings
  • Cinnamons
  • Lutino
  • Albino
  • Lacewings
  • German Fallows

The Opaline


Breeding Expectations
Pairings Expectations
Opaline cock Normal hen Normal/split Opaline cocks
Opaline hens
Opaline cock Opaline hen Opaline cocks
Opaline hens
Normal/split Opaline cock Opaline hen Opaline cocks
Normal/split Opaline cocks
Opaline hens
Normal hens
Normal/split Opaline cock Normal hen Normal/split Opaline cocks
Normal cocks
Opaline hens
Normal cock Opaline hen Normal/split Opaline cocks
Normal hens
Normal cock Normal hen Normal cocks
Normal hens


Where the matings give both normal and normal/opaline cocks it is impossible to identify the difference visually between the two identically-coloured birds, the only way being to identify them by test-mating them.

Non Sex-Linked Varieties

The following list is the varieties that are non sex-linked:

  • Greywings
  • Clearwings
  • Yellows
  • Whites
  • Recessive Pieds
  • Dark-eyed Clears
  • English Fallows
  • Crests

When we say that a variety is non sex-linked, we mean that the difference between them and the sex-linked, is where the sex-linked can only carry the gene on the male side. The non sex-linked carries the gene on both the male and female side. So where you had only split cocks, you now have both split cocks and hens, and you now require both birds to be split before you can produce visible offsprings, whereas with the sex-linked you only require the male to be split. The following table will give a much clearer picture. In this table I will use the Recessive Pied variety as the example. If you require it, all you have to do is simply substitute any of the above non sex-linked varieties that you wish.

The Recessive Pied


Pairings and Expectations
Recessive Pied Recessive Pied Recessive Pied
Recessive Pied Normal/Recessive Pied Normal/Recessive Pied
Recessive Pied
Recessive Pied Normal Normal/Recessive Pied
Normal/Recessive Pied Normal Normal/Recessive Pied
Normal/Recessive Pied Normal/Recessive Pied Recessive Pied
Normal/Recessive Pied
Normal Recessive Pied Normal/Recessive Pied cocks
Normal/Recessive Pied hens


They are the normal expectations of any of the non sex-linked varieties. You only require to change the Recessive Pied to whatever other one you need, the expectations are the same. However, with the Crest variety there is an anomaly. Breeding results have shown, where some Crest cocks have been crest-bred for sometime, they become Dominant and when bred to a Normal can sometimes breed a Crest. Crests also produce what is known as half-crest and sometimes just a little single feather sticking up, commonly known as a tuft.


The remainder of the varieties are what is known as Dominant. This simply means that when paired to Normals they can produce youngsters the same as themselves. They cannot be split, in other words, they cannot have a gene for the variety. If they are not visual, they cannot pass it on. The expectation table will show it much more clearly.

The following list is of the varieties that are Dominant.

  • Dominant Pieds
  • Spangles
  • Yellow faces

The Spangle


Breeding Expectations
Spangle Normal Spangle cocks
Normals cocks
Spangle hens
Normal hens
Normal Spangle Spangle cocks
Normals cocks
Spangle hens
Normal hens
Spangle Spangle Spangle cocks
Normals cocks
Spangle hens
Normal hens
Double Factor Spangle cocks
Double Factor Spangle hens


Spangles were used to simplify the table, however it will be the same if you used either the Dominant Pied or the Yellow Face. In the case of the Dominant Pieds however, when you produce double factors, you will find that they resemble the Recessive Pieds in markings, and the odd feature about them, is the fact they have odd eyes, one is solid without an iris and the other is black with an iris. The Yellow-face has also an odd feature, when two Yellow-faced birds are paired together, you will find that the offspring have white faces, but they are in actual fact, double factor Yellow-Faces and when paired to a normal partner will produce yellow faced chicks.

I have covered most of the normal coloured birds and varieties, obviously there are a few I have left out, such as Clearbodies and Saddlebacks, being fairly new varieties there is plenty of time to elaborate on them at a later date. As with the expectation tables, I have deliberately left out the percentages you are expected to get. Like all theories, they are worked out of an expected 100 birds, therefore, what you can expect to get in one nest bears no resemblance to what you get if you bred 100 from that particular pair.

I only hope the position is a little clearer for our Beginners and I have not clouded the rather complex situation.

Original text Copyright 1997, Jim Hutton.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Lona September 14, 2012 at 6:55 pm

I’ve been searching for information on breeding a lutino female with a grey spangle male. The lutino’s background is unknown to me. The grey spangle male is the offspring of a df white spangle female and a bright blue ( turqoise?) spangle male (he is the offspring of a df white spangle female & skyblue greywing male).


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