Text and photos by Simon Degenhard
As a follow up to my article on keeping and breeding Turqs I compiled the following list of some of the known mutations that are available in Australian aviculture. As you can see from the accompanying photos there are number of spectacular primary and secondary mutations that have been developed here and it must be said that the dedicated aviculturists who have put the time and effort into breeding these birds have done a great job establishing them. Turqs are a popular aviary bird and the continuing development of new and advanced colours is only serving to increase the demand for these beautiful little neophemas.
Just as a point of interest I would also like to mention that the first captive breeding of Turqs was achieved in 1925 by a Mr. G.A. Heuman of Sydney, N.S.W.
Full-red Fronted: This was the first colour variation to occur; it is not a true mutation as such as it was developed via line breeding from birds that first showed small patches of orange/red on their belly. These birds were found from time to time among groups of legally trapped birds that were subsequently sold through dealers as far back as the 1950s and more than likely even earlier. In the early years the orange/reddish patches were more often present on hens than cocks. Through selective breeding the orange/red was intensified and as a result it became much redder; this was achieved over a period of 20 years or more. The extent of red that is generally present has now increased so much that in good examples the red extends all the way from the lower abdomen right up to underneath the beak. It is a beautiful colour variation that has proved to combine well with the other colours and is well established.
Yellow: This is a recessive mutation that was first bred back in 1961 by Mr. Bob Bush, a young aviculturist from Oatley, N.S.W. They were bred from a normal looking pair that he acquired from Mr. Syd Cook, an aviculturist from Gymea, N.S.W. Two yellow hens and a normal looking cock were bred in their first clutch; the two yellow birds were subsequently purchased by Sir Edward Hallstrom, though nothing came of them after this, due firstly to the fact that they were both paired to male Scarlet-chested Parrots and secondly to the fact that they were housed in very large, open aviaries that were not suited for the housing of Turqs. The parents of the yellow birds were then sold to Mr. Frank Parmenta of Beverly Hills N.S.W and he was subsequently very successful in establishing this mutation. They are a striking bird that once established were initially very popular for quite some time, they then went through what would be best described as a slump in popularity and became somewhat scarce. This was then rectified by a small number of dedicated breeders and they have remained popular ever since. As their name suggests they are a predominantly yellow bird, but they retain the blue on the wings and face, though it is a lighter almost sky or powder blue as opposed to the turquoise blue of the normal. They also retain the red shoulder patch and any red that is present on the belly. They are well established, and they have also combined well with other colours.
Full-red Fronted Yellow: This was the first of the combinations to be developed; it is a striking combination of the two previous colours. They are basically a yellow Turq, but with increased red on the front of the bird; once again good examples of this combination will show solid red from the lower abdomen up to underneath the beak. They are well established and have always been popular.
Jade: This mutation is dominant in its mode of inheritance. It was first bred around 30-35 years ago by a breeder in Broken Hill, N.S.W though it went unnoticed for a while until a pair of these birds bred and produced an even darker bird which was later determined to be an olive. After this breeding it was then realised that the jade birds were in fact a single factor dark green mutation. They are only slightly darker in colour than a normal Turq. Jade Turqs have been established for many years now and have combined well with a number of other mutations.
Olive: This is also a dominant dark factor mutation, though in this case it carries a double dark factor as opposed to the single dark factor carried by the jade mutation. As I previously mentioned this mutation was first bred, more or less by accident in Broken Hill some 30 or so years ago. In this mutation the green of the normal Turq turns to a very dark, olive green, the blue areas are also darker as are the red shoulder patches of the male. The yellow on the front of the bird remains the same as in the normal. It is well established and as with the previously mentioned mutations, it combines well with other colours.
Dun fallow: This is basically a plum-eyed recessive mutation, though the eyes start off bright red when chicks first hatch and then they become progressively darker as the birds get older, eventually becoming more of a dark plum colour in mature birds. They first appeared in the aviaries of a South Australian breeder some 25-30 years ago. They were a weak mutation from the start and the original birds were partially or completely blind, they proved difficult to establish and could quite easily have been lost altogether on a number of occasions. There were at one point two strains of this mutation, but the weaker of them eventually died out. They are basically a dilute version of the normal Turq. They have never been bred in large numbers and to my knowledge, they remain rather scarce to this day. Dun fallows have been combined with some of the other mutations, though it does not seem to change the other colours all that markedly. They are also sometimes referred to as isabel Turqs, though dun fallow is considered the correct name for this mutation.
Opaline: the opaline mutation is sex-linked and has proved to be a very welcome addition to the Turq mutation stable. The opaline mutation is the only mutation that is available in Australia that was not developed here; they were originally legally imported from the United Kingdom in 1993-94 at the same time as a number of macaws were being legally imported. At the time of their importation they were originally identified incorrectly by the English breeders as pied Turqs. It was later determined by Tod Osborne, following the first breeding that was achieved here, that they were in fact opalines. The importation of these birds has proved to be a big success. Tod put a great deal work into organising the importation of these birds and should really be highly commended for his efforts.
In this mutation the amount of yellow pigment in the birds feathering is increased, whereby the yellow (red when combined with the yellow mutation) extends into other areas of the bird, in particular the back and wings and creates what is best described as a scalloping effect in these areas. It differs from most other mutations in that the hen quite often carries more colouring, or in this case scalloping, than the cock. This is particularly evident in the yellow-opaline combination, where hens can quite commonly show a great deal more red colouring through the back and wings. They are very well established now and as has been the case with opaline mutations in other species, they have proved to combine very well with other colours, and this has only served to increase their popularity.
Pied: This is a recessive mutation; the extent of the pied/yellow markings that are evident vary widely from bird to bird, as is the case with most of the pied mutations that are found in other species. They have been known to exist for quite some time, though they have never been common and could not be considered to be established.
Acknowledgements: I would like to thank Tod Osborne, Daryl Grey, Stan Sindel, Stuart Shiner, and James Camilleri for allowing me to photograph their birds and/or providing me with the necessary information to compile this article.