Can parrots synthesize pheomelanine in feathers?

Can parrots synthesize pheomelanine in feathers? That is a point of discussion in aviculture for a long time.

We have not heard of any scientific study that confirms the presence of pheomelanin in the feathers of parrots. So it was still doubtful for some breeders.

In MUTAVI, we examined in the past several mutations in Psittaciformes by cross sections and never found visual pheomelanine in the feathers, but it is always possible that there are small pigments that could not be detect under the microscope.

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 pheomelanin in feathers since it can detect / analyse the smallest pigments in feathers. We could not do this test, but we found a scientist who was willing to help us.

  • Daniel Nuijten (Nature preservation – Belgium)
  • Bert Van Gils (Chairman BVP Belgian Parrot Society – Master of Bioscience Engineering – Belgium)
  • Nico Rosseel (Aviculturist – Belgium)
  • Jef Kenis (Avicultural judge – Aviculturist – Belgium)
  • Eric Gennissen (Aviculturist – The Netherlands)
  • OFM Heinz Schnitker (Taxonomist – Germany)
  • Glenn Ooms (Editor BVA-International – Belgium)


selected 30 species / sub species (from the three super families in Psittaciformes: Psittacoidea, Cacatuoidea, and Strigopoidea) and a few colourmutations in which we have feathers with colours that are POSSIBLE candidates to be produced by pheomelanin (dull orange or chestnut).  All these feathers are analysed now by Raman spectroscopy and there is NO SIGNAL OF PHEOMELANIN IN ANY SPECIES.

We hope to publish these results in detail in a scientific journal. We will keep you informed.

Thanks to all who provided us feathers of these species and our sponsor who helped us to pay this research



Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2019-2020 Dirk Van den Abeele

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: