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Can parrots synthesize phaeomelanin in feathers?

Can parrots synthesize phaeomelanin in feathers? That is a question that is regularly asked among aviculturists and not seldom causes long discussions. Unfortunately, as we already mentioned several times, there is no correct answer on this question.

Till now, we have not heard of any scientific study that confirms the presence of phaeomelanin in the feathers of parrots. There is one recent paper that mentions phaeomelanin in parrots: https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/…/1365-2435.127….

The authors seem to assume that phaeomelanin is responsible for some plumage colours of parrots together with eumelanin, carotenoids and psittacofulvins, but they did not conduct any chemical analyses to confirm that (and we know now for sure that parrots only have psittacofulvins in their feathers and no carotenoids). They cite some studies that investigate the chemical nature of feather pigments, but among those cited studies, we cannot find any confirming the presence of phaeomelanin in parrot feathers.

In MUTAVI, we examined several mutations in Psittaciformes by cross sections and never found phaeomelanine in the feathers. We never said it is impossible, but till now there is no scientific evidence that parrots produce phaeomelanin for pigmentation. Some scholars think it has an evolutionary reason.

The best way to investigate this is by Raman spectroscopy. Raman spectroscopy is commonly used in chemistry to provide a structural fingerprint by which molecules can be identified. So a perfect method to identify phaeomelanin in feathers.

Since it never has been investigated, it is be a good point to test. We can not do it, but I contacted several researchers and we found a scientist who is willing to help us.

Of course we need to pay for the analyses, but I think it is worth the money. Hopefully this research can give us a clear answer.

I heard from several breeders that they believe they have examples of parrot species / mutations that have phaeomelanin in the feathers. So now it is the time to step forward and we will try to find out the truth.

We will collect feathers from these species and we will analyse them.
We hope to collect samples from species from the three super families in Psittaciformes: Psittacoidea, Cacatuoidea, and Strigopoidea.

Who is willing to help, and can provide us feathers of these species before the end of this month?

Please contact us via

For the sake of a good order: we don’t know how long it will take before we will have some results. So please be patient. ?

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