Breeding & Genetics
Note: this article was written specifically for cockatiels. The more complicated calculator mentioned in this article will also do calculations for many other species.
Here is a question
frequently asked by new cockatiel breeders: "My birds are breeding. What color will the babies be?"
At present there are two online genetic calculators for cockatiels, which help the owners of breeding birds figure out what color mutations to expect in the babies. This article provides links to the calculators and descriptions of how to use them. The more information you have on the parents' genes, the more accurate your results will be.
The simplest genetic calculator is called the Cockatiel Color Palette. That's an old link to the old version, which does not work for me any more. This is apparently because the programming is not supported by the latest version of most internet browsers. There's a newer version that only works on Apple devices, and I don't have access to it. The following description is for the old version of the software, and may or may not apply to the new Apple-only version. At present there are no plans to update the old software, or publish a new version for non-Apple platforms like Android.
The old version of the calculator did not consider crossovers, which can affect the outcome if the father bird is split to two or more sex-linked mutations. The new version reportedly does consider crossovers, but since I have no access to it I don't know how accurate it is.
This calculator uses common cockatiel
terminology which makes the results easy to understand. But it's
only for cockatiels so if you own other species you won't be able to use it
Here's how the old version worked; I don't know if the new Apple-only version works the same way. You need to click "male", check the appropriate boxes for his genetic characteristics, and then click "set male". It can be a challenge to get the sex-linked splits right if you're not familiar with the concept. The X1 that you see on the calculator is normally used to indicate splits that the male received from his father and the X2 indicates splits that he received from his mother. It doesn't really matter which parent gave him the gene, but with a male who has more than one sex-linked split it's very important to know whether these splits are on the same X or on different X's, and make your selections accordingly. When you check the box for a sex-linked split the calculator automatically assumes that it's on the X1. If this isn't where you want the split to be, you can check the round X2 button AFTER you have checked the square box next to the mutation's name. It doesn't work if you try to click the X2 button or X1 button without checking the square box first.
Now click "female", choose her characteristics, and click "set female". Hen's don't have those pesky sex-linked splits so her setup is less complicated.
Now click "breed" and the calculator will display the results. You can not highlight the text to copy it, but clicking the "copy text" button does the job for you. If you want to do a new calculation, hit the "start over" button.
The more complicated calculator is on the GenCalc website. This calculator does take crossovers into account. If you need an explanation of what crossovers are, see our illustrated article on Crossovers.
This calculator uses more complicated terminology than the other one. "1.0" means male and "0.1" means female. It also has calculators for many other species (click the "back to intro page" button on the website to access them) so it uses general-purpose mutation names instead of cockatiel-specific mutation names, which can be confusing. It's easiest to understand the results if you copy them into a Word document and write a translation next to the calculator's wording.
The "marbled" mutation listed on this calculator probably refers to the Australia-only silver spangle mutation, but people in North America and elsewhere can use it for emerald because the inheritance mode is the same (recessive). The main website says "According to the international standard - recessive mutation called 'edge_dilute' was renamed to 'marbled' - mb in all species." Emerald is a recessive dilute mutation. I've never heard it called edged dilute or marbled, but emerald feathers do have sort of a marbled appearance. So the description fits reasonably well.
Pay careful attention to
punctuation marks when reading the results. If there is a slash sign "/" then everything
after the slash is a split, and everything before the slash is a visual
mutation. A hyphen sign "-" is meaningful too for sex-linked
splits. For example, if the results say that a male is split to
cinnamon ino, the lack of a hyphen means that these genes are on
different X chromosomes. If it says he's split to cinnamon-ino,
the presence of the hyphen means that these genes are on the same X
This calculator shows both parents on the same page so selecting their genetic characteristics is simple and straightforward. You'll have to be careful when selecting the male's X1 and X2 splits, as explained earlier in the post. When you're done clicking on the traits, hit Generate to produce your results. If you want to copy them you'll have to highlight the text and execute the copy and paste commands. If you want to do another calculation, hit Back to return to the previous page and Reset to clear the data from the last calculation.
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