Parakeets are small, friendly, chatty, easy-to-care-for pets. This makes them an endearing good choice for novice and experienced bird owners alike. Most parakeets, or budgies, are either basically blue or green. Lutino and albino budgies, also called inos, are two unique and sought-after color variations.
The Genetics of Feather Coloring
There are two basic varieties of parakeets: the green series and the blue series. Green series birds have a yellow base color, meaning all their feathers have yellow coloring. They also have blue coloring in the body feathers, which combines with the yellow to make the body green. The head is typically yellow. Blue series birds have a white base with blue in the body feathers, making the body blue and the head white.
The Ino Gene
Both lutinos and albinos have the ino gene, which effectively erases the blue coloring and all markings in their feathers. It also eliminates any eye and skin color. Both inos have pink or red eyes with a white ring around the iris, orange beaks and light pink skin. Many male budgies have a blue cere, the fleshy area above the beak around the nostrils. But male inos frequently have pink ceres. Female inos have the typical brownish cere of all female parakeets.
Ino Feather Coloring
Lutinos are green series budgies with the ino gene. They have a yellow base color, and the ino gene removes their blue coloring and markings. This makes lutinos solid yellow with no markings, similar to a canary's coloring.
Albinos are blue series birds with the ino gene. They have a white base color, and the ino gene removes their blue coloring and markings. This leaves them solid white with no markings, similar to a dove. Albinos frequently have silvery cheek patches.
Two Ino Mutations
There are two lovely ino mutations that can vary feather coloring. The lacewing mutation is caused by the cinnamon gene. The cinnamon gene causes a budgie's normally black markings to turn brown. Lacewing inos have very delicate, light brown markings because the ino gene does not completely block expression of the cinnamon gene. Lutino lacewings are yellow with brown markings and albino lacewings are white with brown markings.
The creamino mutation is caused by the yellowface gene. Yellowface budgies have a both a white and yellow base color. Creamino inos are white with varying quantities of yellow feathers, and no markings.
Kimm Hunt has been writing professionally since 1990. She has written for businesses, government agencies and nonprofit organizations, and previously served as the editor of a weekly suburban Chicago newspaper. Hunt holds a B.S. in agriculture from the University of Illinois. She is also a professional dog trainer.