FAQ: Are slaty and misty the same mutation and / or are they a grey mutant?

FAQ: Are slaty and misty the same mutation and / or are they a grey mutant?

The answer is actually simple: absolutely not.

For a layman, they look maybe similar from a distance, but if you look a little closer you will notice some differences. For example, the slaty factor will result in a grey rump colour, misty does not affect the rump colour. Slaty blue is rather, as the name implies, a slate blue colour, misty blue is blue with a brown shade.

Some breeders suggest that slaty and misty are a grey factor, but believe me it is not.

For the autosomal dominant grey mutation we always take the grey budgerigar as a reference. Both mutants were compared by Inte Onsman at the time. He was formal that they are completely different. Research later with more sophisticated methods (electron microscope and X-ray diffraction) also showed clear differences.

Why this confusion?
We must realize that many ‘grey’ or grey green phenotypes are possible in birds. Autosomal recessive grey, autosomal dominant grey, slaty, slate, dark factor, misty  … they all have a greyish phenotype, but the cause is always different. The reason for this is quite simple: any (minor) change in the feather structure / composition of the keratin layer /  available pigments or pigments that hinders the normal interference in the sponge zone etc… will almost always results in a more (darker) olive green- grey green / greyish colour.
Believe me, feathers are a very complex matter. There are many colours, but there are also many different causes. A recent example is the autosomal recessive grey mutant in Agapornis roseicollis. We compared feathers of the AR grey Agapornis roseicollis with the feathers of the AR grey Forpus coelstis and even they are not entirely identical.

So for those who think it is a simple matter and these mutations can easy be explained I would like to quote from “The evolutionary origin and diversification of feathers” written by Professor and Head Curator of Vertebrate Zoology at the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University Richard O. Prum: “Feathers are the most complex integumentary appendages found in vertebrates”.
Who are we to doubt it?

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10 comments

  1. I support your statement.. I am a breeder of alexandrine parrots in wildcolor and in mutations.. I have misty , slaty and bronze . these are not greygreen or dark green as I also have these and know them for a long time now.. if you require more data on each mutation in this specie, I am available..

  2. Thank you Sir for this clarification.
    It is indeed very complex. I love the quote of Professor Prum and it is good you mentioned that he is working at a university, because in Portugal and Brazil they use the term professor for anyone teaching at a school (even grade/elementary school). One who teaches at a university in Portugal is specifically called “professor universitário”. This creates a lot of confusion for Portuguese breeders and sometimes it is misused.

  3. As far as I recall this is common knowledge. We had these discussions 20 years ago 🙂
    Even without complex research you will see that it are different mutations. It is not rocket science.

  4. Dear Dirk,
    This has always been discussed and it is good to provide clear answers like that and based on sophisticated and scientific experimentations and methods. May be it is also interest to show concrete comparisons of feathers under microscope and obsevre clearly all the existing differences.
    Thank you and good continuation dear friend.

    Kind regards.

    1. Hello Soufiene,
      that is the whole point, you need much more tests than only comparisons under a microscope. it is a misunderstanding to think that only cross sections provide the answer. Dominant grey in budgies has a typical structure, but the two others are more complex. That’s why we always engage various specialized labs and researchers to help us.
      Breeders like to have a quick and easy answer, that is why we always try to give a simple answer, but I am afraid it is more complex than that.

  5. I have recently been trying to determine the genetic cause for an unusually ‘bleached’ Green Opaline indian ringneck juvenile. Advice from other experienced ringneck breeders suggests misty as the culprit. I am inclined to agree given that, in the Bastiaan book, misty is described as a bleaching gene. An y advice would be much appreciated.

  6. Can you tell us anything about the impact of the misty gene on the feather? Does it operate on the cloudy layer, is it a so called ‘bleaching’ gene reducing eumelanin concentration etc.

    1. It is always difficult to describe what is really going on in these feathers. As far as we know it does not affect the cloudy area. Research of Inte Onsman showed that the eumelanin in the medulla of the feathers of a misty bird is somewhat ‘woollier’ and less clearly defined than in the wild type. The hooklets also appear to be less developed and pigmented compared to the wild type. That is similar with a pigmentation anomalies that already has been described in 1945. In the scientific world they named this type of eumelanin mutant misty. That is why we adopted that name in aviculture.

  7. Hi Mr. Dirk, the misty hen will always a SF bird and the cock will always a DF bird right?

    The green DF misty bird is darker than a SF misty bird? Can i determine the sex of the bird by using it SF and DF property? TYIA.

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