This section of the Lorylink is not intended to be a detailed explanation of possible hybrids and mutations in the various lories and lorikeets. The subject of mutations is the proverbial minefield and anyone interested in learning more about this fascinating area of lory breeding is recommended to some of the excellent publications that are available. (see below)


Hybids and Mutations of Lories are Lories that are in general different in one or more features from the expected 'normal' Lory. The most common feature difference is in the colour of the plumage and perhaps beak, feet (skin) and toenail colours. Sometimes overall body size and weight can be included.
Many breeders purposefully produce hybrids to try and introduce certain colour genes to a type of lory that would not naturally have that colour gene. This has recently, within the last year or so, led to some quite beautiful colour variations of well known and popular lorikeet breeds such as Rainbow lorikeets and Red-collared lorikeets.
Many breeders, especially in Australia, are now advertising these new colour variations - eg Lutino/Yellow/Mustard/Cinnamon Rainbows and Red-collars. These are sure to appeal to many people who will be attracted by these stunning new colour variations.
So far no New Zealand breeders are producing these new variations although with their success in Australia it will probably not be too long before some of these colour variations become locally avialable.
There is no doubt that producing hybrids and mutations in lories is seen as a major revenue earning stream by many breeders. Producing and establishing the unusual is the goal.
Below: Grey-green (Olive) mutations

A grey-green Webers Lorikeet

A grey-green Red-collared Lorikeet



Lory hybrids are the result of cross breeding different types of lory. Most breeders consider this an unacceptable practice because the result is an unnatural lory, one that would be most unlikley to occur in nature.
However, after saying this, some hybridisation does occur in nature and examples are reported from Australia where different types of lories, that usually share the same geographic areas, food sources, and flock together have interbred to produce naturally occuring hybrids.
Examples reported are cross-breeding between Rainbow lorikeets/Red Collared lorikeets, Rainbow lorikeets/Scaly-breasted lorikeets and Scaly-breasted lorikeets/Musk lorikeets.
It is unlikley that such hybrids do become very common for several reasons:
- Hybrid lories appear to have a lower success rate at producing fertile eggs.
- The hybrid effect would be bred out over several generations of birds as these pair with other normal mates.
- These birds are much easier for raptors and other predators to select from a flock of normal lories.


This leads to an interesting point that many aviculturists believe the grey/green (often called Olive) colour in lorikeets, which only occurs naturally with Scaly-breasted lorikeets, has been introduced into Rainbow, Musk and other types by cross-breeding with grey/green Scalies.
Some New Zealand breeders have or are currently trying to introduce this olive colour into Rainbows and Musks as it is considered not to be a totally unnatural process since it has occured in wild populations of birds.


The image below left shows a hybrid olive Scaly/Rainbow lorikeet, this bird is a cock and size and weight is between that of an adult Rainbow cock and an adult Scaly cock. This cock bird cold be used to try and produce an Olive rainbow and the next step would be to mate him with a normal rainbow hen.
The image below right is the result of a deliberate attempt by a breeder to introduce the grey-green (olive) plumage colour into musk lorikeets. This hybird has the grey-green plumage from its scaly parent and the red head patch from its musk parent. (an interesting note here is that the side cheek red patches from the musk are missing in this hybrid proving that there are separate genes in the musk lorikeet that produce the head and side cheek red patches).
The breeding plan is to now mate this cock bird with a hen musk and try to get offspring closer to a musk but with grey-green plumage. This may take several generations of breeding experiments before a musk with grey-green plumage is successfully produced.
At right is a cross bewteen a Musk and Rainbow lorikeet. This was not a deliberate breeding plan but rather what was thought to be two females together turned out to be a male and female who bred.

Hybrid Rainbow/Olive Scaly

Hybrid Olive Scaly/Musk

Hybrid Rainbow/Musk


The image below shows two hybrid nestmates that are almost red-collars. The male parent is a red-collar but the female is more a rainbow although she is also likely a hybrid as she lacks many of the rainbow features (eg no green collar). The interesting feature of these two hybrids is that apart from the collar being yellow they are in every other way red-collars. Even the yellow collar is gradually starting (at fringes) to become orange/red. Several months afer his image was taken he collars are still largely yellow. Another pair of young from the same parents are almost complete red-collars with a 90% red collar with just specks of yellow.

Hybrid Red-collar/Rainbows



Mutations are naturally occuring genetic variations. With lories the interest is in coloured mutations which is usually seen as a difference in plumage colour. Many aviculturists strive to produce mutations because of their uncommon plumage colours, often striking colours, rarity and not least the fact that mutations can command a much higher sale value than 'normal' coloured birds.
Some breeders have created a new line of mutations in some lory types by hybridising a colour muatation from one type into a different type of lory. Many breeders consider this type of unnatural hybrid/mutation production as unacceptable practice although many others see it as creating many new attractive variations of well known lories and lorikeets.


In nature, mutations are constantly occuring but with lories, colour mutations are not very common (with the one possible exception of the grey/green colour mutation in Scaly lorikeets). This is probably because of the large gene-pool available with wild flocks of lories and naturally occuring mutations are 'bred out' quite quickly. In captivity, with the available gene-pool being much smaller and with inbreeding more likely, there is a much higher possibility of colour mutations in the captive population.
Also in nature the colour mutations would be much less likely to survive the attentions of raptors and other predators. (evolution's natural selection process!)
Colour mutations have a much higher chance of becoming established in aviculture as breeders become more knowledgable at pairing birds to promote the mutation. Breeding a colour mutation is not a simple matter even if the breeder has a bird showing the mutation and the process to reliably produce colour mutations can take many birds and many years to establish.


The method by which colour genes are passed on from parents to offspring can mostly be grouped into two categories. Known as sex-linked and recessive.
Sex-linked means that the inheritence of the genes is dependant on the sex of the parents.
Recessive means that either parent can pass on the genes to its offspring.
Establishing which method applies enables breeders to determine the best pairings of birds to create colour mutations. Often this will require breeding experiments. Once it is known if the sex-linked or recessive category applies then there are simple rules that can be applied to determine the outcome of breeding.
If a bird visually shows to be a colour mutation then it is known as a visual - eg. A yellow scaly.
A bird with normal colour but known to be carrying colour mutation genes is known as a split - eg a green scaly with the yellow gene would be described as a yellow-split or split-to-yellow.


With sex-linked rules only males can be splits, all females will either be visuals or normals.
A visual male paired with a visual female will produce 100% visual offspring - eg. a yellow male paired with a yellow female will always produce yellows.
A visual male with a normal female will produce visual females and male splits.
A split male with a visual female will produce visual males, split males, visual females and normal females.
A split male with a normal female will produce visual females, normal females, split males and normal males.
A visual female with a normal male will produce split males and normal females.


Using these simple rules birds can be paired to increase the chances of producing visuals, the ultimate goal of may breeders. Starting with a male bird that is a colour split the theory is that it should only take several generations to produce visual males and females and therefore create an established breeding pair that always produce visuals. Unfortunately the theory does not always work out so easily and with lorikeets (eg Scaly) it can prove quite difficult to get that visual male bird, the basis for establishing the colour mutation.
There is also the problem of in-breeding and unless at least two, prefereably more, separate colour mutation blood lines are available then at least two generations of in-breeding will be necessary to establish the colour mutation. In-breeding will present its own problems as any potential genetic problems could become apparent and raise issues that prevent the colour mutation line becoming strong and established.


Both sexes can carry the colour mutation genes.
Visuals can only be produced when both parents have the (same) colour mutation genes.
If the male and female are both visuals then 100% of the offspring will be visual. (this is the same rule for sex-linked)
If the male and female are both splits then the outcome will be 25% visuals, 50% splits, and 25% normals. These figures have been calculated from long term breeding patterns (ie statistics!)
A split paired with a non split will produce normals and splits but no visuals.


The most common of the colour mutations associated with Lories are described below using the Scaly Lorikeet as an example of how these colours are applied.


- Grey-Green (aka Olive but this incorrect naming for this mutation) This mutation is originally though to have come from Scaly lorikeets and is reasonably common in wild populations. All normally green plumage is replaced with olive-green coloured plumage. This mutation is dominant, meaning that when it is present the bird colour is always grey/green.
Grey-green scalies are quite common in New Zealand and a few grey-green rainbows have been available although, as yet, no grey-green musks or red-collars are known to be here.
(The background tile pattern to this page is an grey-green Scaly lorikeet)


The olive scaly only appeared in New Zealand aviculture several years ago in the mid 1990s. These mutations sold for up to NZ$3000 each but as they became more readily available prices have reduced to about NZ$180 each which is just slightly more than the average NZ$150 for a green Scaly, although by 2001 prices are starting to rise to $200 and $250.


- Lutino This is overall bright yellow plumage with white feet, toenails, legs and white on flight feather edges and ends. Eyes are always a bright pink colour. Beak is bright orange.


- Yellow Overall yellow plumage, white feet, toes and white flight feather edges but with eyes red, ruby, brown through to normal black. The yellow is just about identical to the lutino except for the non-pink eyes.


- Cinnamon This is a tan or brown mutation.
With normally green birds this mutation shows as an overall yellow plumage with overlaying areas of light green (lime?) coloured plumage. The plumage can vary from almost complete green over the underlying yellow, through light green to almost totally yellow with just a hint of the green colouration. Toes and legs tend to be light, almost white colour, eyes can be red, ruby, brown through to normal colour black and beak an orange to horn colour. Normal black areas of plumage are off-white to tan coloured. Flight feather edges/ends are a tan to brown colour.


- Blue The rarest colour mutation in Scalies, the blue, has also never been bred in New Zealand.
Plumage is light blue overall with white scaly markings on chest. There is no green present.
There is only one recorded instance of a blue Scaly lorikeet, in Australia, and apparently the inexperienced breeder failed to establish this colour mutation, it may now be totally lost.
Note that the blue mutation is quite common in other birds such as Indian ringneck parakeets.


Shown below are several images of scaly lorikeets, these are all of the cinnamon type mutation. The two cinnamons are from the same parents but one has more light green plumage overlaying the yellow. The yellower bird has since developed more pronounced areas of lighter green plumage but still appears very yellow. This clearly shows the variation in overall plumage colours for the cinnamon type mutation. Both have been dna sexed and are hens.
In this image the more green hen is about seven months old and the yellower hen is just five months old.
The centre image shows the two cinnamons with a normal green scaly (front) and highlights the plumage colour differences between the three birds.
So far all of the known Scaly lorikeet yellow/cinnamon mutations appear to be using the sex-linked inheritence rules. Despite several breeders having spent several years trying to establish this mutation in Scalies there appears to have been no success in producing a visual yellow, lutino or cinnamon male - or at least no breeder is claiming to have a visual male.

Cinnamon mutation Scaly lorikeet

Two cinnamon mutations with green Scaly

Cinnamon mutation Scaly lorikeet


Below are further images of cinnamon mutation scaly lorikeets. On the right is an almost yellow four year old hen, note her white flight feathers, white tonails, pink skinned feet and the area of red tinged plumage around her beak. Although not discernable in the image her eyes are a ruby red colour.


At left is a cock bird that is a 'Dilute' mutation scaly.
He has a peculiar mix of green with areas of yellow. Note his normal green head but then the areas of yellow on his back and the mixed yellow/green tail plumage. He has the normal scaly yellow barring on green chest although the yellow areas are much broader and underneath to his tail is a very mixed light green and yellow. His toenails are quite strange as some are black and others are very light almost white coloured.


The lower two images are of a 18month cinnamon hen, she has distinct light green over yellow plumage. The off-white to tan coloured flight feathers are seen clearly as she preens them. Her toes are white, feet skin a pink colour and she also has a red tinged area of plumage surrounding her beak. She is not related to the older cinnamon hen in the upper image.

Cinnamon hen and Dilute cock Scalies

4year Cinnamon hen Scaly

18month Cinnamon hen Scaly

18month Cinnamon hen Scaly

Dilute male and cinnamon hen Scalies

Dilute male and cinnamon hen Scalies


Someone has just pointed out to me that the above images of cinnamon scaly lorikeets seem to have a problem. The three images of the 5 and 7 month old cinnamons show they have yellow plumage with varying degrees of overlaid light green (lime) coloured feathers, this is apparently normal expected cinnamon colouring from a normal green bird.
However the image of the 4year old cinnamon shows a bird which also appears be a cinnamon but this time the plumage is again yellow (more so than the upper two) but the overlaying green plumage has more of a grey-green (olive) colour. This may be indicating that there are other grey-green genes involved. The last two images (above) show the 18month cinnamon where the plumage is definitely yellow with a green overlay.



Below are listed some recomendations on further reading on the subject of colour mutations in birds. These will almost certainly always apply to colour mutations in lories and lorikeets.


This link to the Avian Health Chapter of the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists gives an excellent scientific explanation of colour genetics in parrots. Avian Genetics



A new publication in the 'Guide to' series from ABK Publications Colour Mutations & Genetics in Parrots ISBN 0957702469 (paperback) ISBN 0957702477 (hardback)
by Dr Terry Martin BVSc. This book contains a mine of information on this complex subject with over 700 colour images of parrot mutations.
(Aviaiable at Bird Barn, Henderson, Auckland, NZ$89)



A locally New Zealand published book Colour breeding of parrots made easy by John Warne of the NZ Parrot Society. This is an excellent text full of tables and charts that detail the outcome of colour mutation breeding in parrots.
(see www.parrotsociety.org.nz and email john@parrotsociety.org.nz)

Ringnecked Parakeets and their mutations by
T.Bastiaan &zn
Lijsterbesstraat 42
Tel or Fax 03837 - 62632
This should be available in Australia from
Neville Armstrong
Tel 02 4962 1858
AU$75 plus P&P



The Oct-Nov 2001 (Volume 14 Issue 11) of Australian Birdkeeper contains an excellent article 'Lutino Red-collared Lorikeet'. The editorial is interesting in pointing out the dilema that many breeders (and magazine editors!) have in supporting or seen to be approving of the breeding of unnatural bird mutations. The lutino red-collars have been the result of hybridising with lutino Scaly-breasted lorikeets to introduce the lutino genes to the red-collars.
(see www.birdkeeper.com.au and email birdkeeper@birdkeeper.com.au)


Contact us

These pages on lory mutations are intended to be a very simply introduction to this subject. If you are interested in discussing lory mutations further or have any information you can add then please contact: David Dix (dgd@kcbbs.gen.nz)

If you have any questions or comments on lories, lorikeets or any part of this web site then we would be very pleased to hear from you. Please sign our guestbook, leave a message in the message forum (or reply to other messages), or contact us by sending email to:

Kellie Stewart (arawa.aviaries@xtra.co.nz)

If you are in New Zealand and would like to find out more about meetings and subscribing to the Lory-Link newsletter then you can phone Kellie on AUCKLAND (9) 827-3604 or Fax AUCKLAND (9) 358-0059 .



Lorikeet pictures from Lorraine Blakely and David Dix

Tile Pattern: Grey-Green Scaly-breasted lorikeet.

Page written by David Dix, last modified: 27 October 2002.