Translation: Ida-Emilia Kaukonen, Anni Pohja and Iiris Routa
The dominant silver (aka “dominant edged” or “UK silver”) is a lovely color that is known to be lighten progressively at each molt. There’s a lot of variation among this color allready, so how can one tell which babies really are dominant silvers? And how does the color change? This article assumes that the reader knows some basic genetics and is familiar with the dominant silver mutation and coloration.
When it comes to identifying dominant silvers, the color is not necessarily very apparent. The dominant silver birds can basically be divided into two groups: those who got the gene from both parents, namely double factors, and those who only have one gene, single factors.
The single factors can be unofficially separated yet in three smaller groups: dark type, medium type and light/clear type. Each one looks a bit different compared to each other, and it makes things even more complicated that the dominant silver males get lighter at each molt. Thus, there might be some missconstructions. For example a light type single factor dominant silver could look as a baby more loke medium type single factor – and then again a light type can look almost as white as a double factor when the color has reached the highest point of assumed melanocyte loss.
It is important to realize that the gap between the continents has led to the fact that European dominat silvers may look somewhat different than in those in the United States. As a result, the semblance of the american dominant silvers may vary slightly from the European version in comparison. The pictures below are all of European birds, mostly Finnish and German.
Dark type single factor
As a youngling, dark type single factor dominant silver resembles a lot of normal grey. The difference can be rather small, thus even practised eye could mistakenly identify the bird to be a normal grey, unless knowing to search for something more.
The easiest path of finding marks of dominant silver is to view the bird next to a grey individual. Pay attention especially to the flights and area next to the white wing patch. The top picture on the left shows a whitefaced dark type single factor youngling. By first look it reminds just an ordinary whiteface, but near to the wing patch you can see that the white has shattered and widened a bit to the grey area, too. Those white leaks are marks of the dominant silver. Notice though, that the spreading of the patch can sometimes occus as a minor fault also with other colors. That is to say, if a non-DS pair has a baby that has a shattered wing patch, the baby can’t be a dominant silver. Then again, if you need to recognize the babies from a pair where the other parent is a single factor dominant silver and the other isn’t (in this case, only some of the chicks would inherit the gene), it is higly possible that this kind of little abnormality refers to a dominant silver.
In the second picture you will see two chicks. The left one is normal gray and the right one a dark type single factor dominant silver. You can quite easily see the difference. On the silver you can see how the feathers are lighter at the center, whereas the normal gray has a shade that is much more even overall.
Because of the darker tone the identification of the dark type SFDS might be harder. Because the edge color is pretty much like a normal grey would have you would have to wait untill the feather pins have opened to recognize the color.
As I mentioned before, difference in the flight feathers is clear. This is demonstrated in the next two pictures. The left one is normal gray hen’s wing and the right one a dominant silver. It can be very easily seen how the color has affected the primary feathers even on such a young bird.
Even with very young babies you’re sometimes able to notice some singns of solver. Many breeders – myself included – have noticed some slight differences in silver babies eyes even when still closed. They seem to be a little bit lighter than on gray babies. I have also noticed that the crest might be a little lighter, warmer color when starting to grow. Difference might be very sublte but still something you might notice to be different when you have two babies side to side. The third picture shows a gray baby (on the left) and a dark type single factor (on the right). You can see how the right one already has a lighter crest compared to the gray baby as the melanin is already affected on silver babies. In conclusion you could say that the darkest dominant silvers can almost resemble normal gray, but the paleness of closed eyes, lighter crest and faded color on the feathers are some of the clearest signs to help with the recognition.
Medium type single factor
In the first picture we have a medium type single factor dominant silver that is also a pied. Even though the pied affects the crest affecting the recognition, you can still notice that compared to grays the shade of pin feathers is lighter overall. Medium type single factor babies already resemble what dark type birds would look like as adults. The difference between babies is clear.
In the picture there’s a whiterace medium type single factor. The baby is also a pied. Pied messes up the identification a bit because it vanishes the melanin from the baby’s crest.
The DS signs are clearer on medium type birds compared to dark types. Also the grey parts are slightly lighter than normal grey or dark type single factor dominant silver would have.
The medium type has perhaps the most variations around the globe. Especially in USA the pattern seems to be very strongly contrasted and clear. The European variations seem to have a bit less contrast.
In the picture below there’s the same chick as above – at the age of about two months. The color is still dark but it’s clearly lighter than dark type would have. Whereas a dark type could be confused with normal grey split to pearl the medium type is clear enough to recognize as dominant silver. The fadings of the primaries and secondaries are now very clear – or they would be unless this baby had pied. This is a very good example of why you should NOT mix pied and dominant silver.
Vaalean tyypin single factor (Light / clear type single factor)
One of the most admired but least common of dominant silvers is a clear type single factor. Color is mostly seen in males, so the next bit is mostly about them. Females rarely end up so light.
As the name indicates, clear types are very light coloured. Sometimes so light that the shade of the adult plumage could be pretty close to double factors.
The differences are easier to spot with babies, since a young clear types are still a bit darker than double factors. Especially at the edges of the flight feathers. Because there is alot of variation, it is easier to determine the actual color comparing babies from the same clutch if possible. Bird from a different line could be darker or lighter even if it was the same type than a bird from another line.
Even though the light types are sometimes mistakenly said double factors, there are some differences that should reveal the true color, for example the dark primary feather tips.
In the picture there’s a light type single factor spreading it’s wings. The bird in front of it is a double factor and the baby on the top of the picture is a medium type single factor.
Allready the first molt lightens the male remarkably. When time passes, the tone gets lighter by each molt, even several years.
Below there’s one of the chicks from my dominant silver pair, as a baby and adult. Adult picture: Iiris Routa:
Differences between double factor individuals aren’t nearly as great as on single factors; they’re always light. Usually even lighter than single factors. In addition, double factors have less intense patters on their feathers and, unlike single factors, the the color is quite even. You can still notice some changes in the shade but not nearly as much as in single factors.
There are still very small differences in the darkness and warmth of the color between double factor individuals. All double factors could still be described as nearly white birds with a thin, creamy or smoky layer on their feathers. In some cases a double factor might even look like a lutino – without the red eyes of course. Though you can always find the small amounts of melanin with careful observation and right lighting.
On babies you’re still able to recognise the double factor by the eyes, like in single factors, but also from growing pin feathers, which are noticeably lighter. In the top picture you’ll see a comparison between double factor and single factor babies wings.
The picture left shows a normal double factor chick when the pin feathers have just started to open. You can already see well how the flight feathers are much lighter than on single factor chicks.
Even though edges on double factor birds feathers (note that dominant silvers are also sometimes called “edged silver”) are lighter than on single factors, the flight feathers are still darker than feathers on the birds body. In addition double factors should have a darker skullcap compared to the shade of the body. Double factors sometimes resemble the sort of “pointed” colors you might see on other pet species, like in siamese cats for example.
The third picture shows the difference between double factor and clear type single factor even clearer. It may be easier to see with babies rather than adults.
Sometimes double factors might have very yellow shades depending on the yellowness on the base and the melanin on top of it like seen in the picture below:
Below you can see pictures from the same double factor dominant silver cock. At the first picture the bird is under two months old, and in the second picture the bird has reached adulthood. You can see clearly how the plumage has gotten ligter, more even and more cold toned. This cock is split to pied which unfortunately kind of ruins the calot area.
Below there’s a whiteface dominant silver cock as a chick and adult. You can see quite well the slightly darker body points (wing tips, tail and head):
Below there’s a clutch of double factors. Left: Double factor DS, Middle: Whiteface double factor DS, Right: double factor DS pied. The next picture shows the DFDS pied hen as an adult. The tone of female double factors stays usually more warm and doesn’t change much in molt./p>
From left to right some baby feathers: Dark type, medium type, light type
Double factor baby’s wing feathers.
Double factor baby’s tail and back feathers.
Growing wing feathers of a light type single factor dominant silver pied.
Below there’s a normal grey split to pied baby compared to a dark type single factor dominant silver baby.