What is a mutation?

A pretty picture to start with.

A fallow Trichoglossus moluccanus photo from Paul Kreuzen.




Mutations are a sudden change in the hereditary characteristics of the gene, what makes a bird get a different colour, or another feather structure ( for example, the crested or silk feather) or a form (for example  in the canary, the Gibber Italicus). Or Disabled (What for me the example of the canary is, but can get even more disabled that life is not possible). Also some diseases are mutations as for example the sickle cell disease or in some cases cancer.

Sometimes a mutation is good (evolution of birds), sometimes bad.

A mutated bird is always born mutated, when it's change at later age, it's not a mutation but modification. (except the mottle mutation which is born normal but get more and more yellow/pied markings at later age).

With a mutation we mean, a factor that is causing a visible change, opposite the original bird. A mutation changes so the working of an original factor, the wild factor. However we speak only of a mutation if this abnormality also passes to his chicks. When it does not pass to the next generation, then we call it modification.

Also can mutations have a negative influence to the quality of the specie by inbreeding or a weaker form of mutation , so if you want a mutation do it only with very common species, not with rare species. And if you accidentally breed a new mutation in a rare species, be smart and don't breed with this bird, even if it's extremely handsome.

When you want to know more , I would recommend you see the page of Genetics .



Mutations happen both in the wild and in captivity. However in the wild they are easier spotted then the normal, so they have a bigger change they will be caught by birds of prey or predators. Or be caught by humans as below some examples.

However, there are a few cases known where the mutation survives in the wild. For example in the Charmosyna stellae, goliathina and wahnesi the black (melanistik) form. Or the Trichoglossus h. flavicans exist in mid and darker colour, so an incomplete dominant mutation.

At the moment there are only mutations in colour, we have various mutations in captivity almost all in Australian species, as blue, turquoise, aqua, lutino, fallow (different types) , dilute, pied, marbled, greygreen (olive), faded, blue fronted (melanistik) , misty (jade and true olive as they call it in Australia), dark, khaki and possibly cinnamon, opaline, .... Probably have even forgotten some.

How inherited mutations?



A property is either dominant or recessive in relation to another property!


Recessive alleles only show their effect if the individual has two copies of the allele (also known as being homozygous). For example, the allele for a blue bird is recessive, therefore to have  a blue bird you need to have two copies of the 'blue bird' allele. Each parent give 1 copy, so both need to have blue in it's genes to create a blue bird .

A recessive mutation can be  Autosomal or Sex-linked .


Dominant is expressed regardless of the presence of the second allele.

When both alleles have the dominant character, it depends which type of dominance we are dealing with , sometimes, it have the same colour as the one with the single dominant allele, sometimes the colour is double in the bird, so a better coloured one.

A dominant mutation can also be on Autosomal or Sex-linked.


Autosomal and Sex-linked means on which type of chromosome the mutation is situated. Autosomal are all the other chromosomes which are not sex-linked. Sex-linked chromosomes are only 2 which make the gender of the bird.


There are several mutation forms in the lories, which I'll try to explain. (Click on the type of mutation to get more information.)


        the Autosomal recessive mutation ( which are blue, turqouise, fallow, faded, recessive pied, dilute, recessive greygreen, blue-fronted, ...)


       the Autosomal Dominant mutation and the Autosomal Incomplete Dominant mutation ( dom. greygreen, dom. pied, dark, misty aka jade and true olive, aqua probably named wrong as this must be recessive)


       the Sex-linked recessive mutation (lutino, opaline and cinnamon)


the Sex-linked Dominant mutation (melanistik stella lorikeet)


For combinations of different mutations click here.




Remember every difference who passing on to the next generation is genetically determined!


However the colour mutations I have explained are quite simple, there are also some more complex forms, for example; modifier genes, polygenic additive, treshold traits, variable expression, incomplete penetrance, polygenic recessive and polygenic dominant, mixed polygenetics. ( found on the internet but don't know anything about it. )


In 1 of these more complex forms, is for example also the difference in chest colour in the Trichoglossus moluccanus or in the Pseudeos fuscata to be found.


But every small or big difference which inherited genetically determined, or a mutation even if we don't see it as mutation.


I will use a few examples from use as humans.

The eye colour in humans vary a lot, from blue, green, brown, grey,...

Only the eyecolour changing, (except for the albinos), so a very small visual change but it inherits so a mutation.


Another example

A big nose, or an eyebrown who is connected to each other, when it passing to the kids it is a mutation, we don't see it as mutation no more because it is common, but ones it started, and at that time it was a new mutation.


Or something you don't see visually , your bloodtype! Bloodtype A and B are co-dominant, bloodtype O is recessive.


Not everything is a good mutation, also some diseases can inherits, for example: sickle cell anemia or another non harmful disease vitiligo, which we also see in birds but then calling it mottle mutation.


Maybe is the name mutation not correct in these examples and is genetic trait more suitable. Anyway you can call it how you want, but remember that every small difference can be some form of mutation. A pink nail, a crest, silk feathers,.... It doesn't have to be only the colour of the feathers.

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