Pairing of Exhibition Budgerigars for Improvement

Introduction Ultimately the aim of most fanciers is to produce the exhibition features on one or number of birds as described in their Countries Standard of Perfection. In Australia refer toThe Standard – Australian National Budgerigar Council – Description of Perfection (Page 20). This, in reality, is no easy task.

Pairing for improvement is an art in which genetics and visual attributes each play their part.

Interestingly, the New Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines pair[ing] as, in part:

  • Two things [features perhaps][genes perhaps] of a kind designed for use together.
  • Something made up of two corresponding [matching] pieces.

These two definitions could be used to aptly describe our requirements or formula for improvement or in fact improvements in exhibition budgerigars.

Visual Assessment

Each individual’s visual assessment for pairing, (lets forget genetics for the moment) will usually differ minutely, through to dramatically, thus such a range of varying features are presented on the show bench at any given show.

A fanciers breeding ability can usually be assessed by the uniformity of his/her birds as presented on exhibition day. I guess this needs further clarification, as an exhibitor may have a number of “uniform” exhibits of a quality that does not represent the features, as required by the standards of the day. A visit to an aviary of an exhibitor with uniform quality birds (birds that are heading toward the standard) at a show, will further assess if the uniformity is in depth throughout, and if so, will clarify that you are seeing the results of a talented or gifted fancier.

Mannes SkyblueAnd another
I have been fortunate enough to have visited some quality aviaries throughout Europe and the United Kingdom, but none better than the aviary of Jo Mannes for which depth of super quality is wall-to-wall through all the varieties kept.

What is the Recipe for Improvement?

It would be near impossible to put into print the many ways that any given person or persons might believe is the correct way to improve the quality of budgeriars in any given aviary, as there are so many variables that come into play. Some idea that might seem insignificant to a “top” breeder, may be of importance to another.

It is worth considering “dissecting” the bird into “parts and features”, for improvement purposes. ie.;

  • Head:
    • Bone structure
    • Directional feather
    • Frontal rise
    • Crown feather length
    • Eye placement
    • Beak and cere shape/width etc.
  • Mask:
    • Depth
    • Spot size
    • Spot shape
  • Wing:
    • Primary and secondary flights
    • Primary and secondary coverts
    • Scapulars and remaining coverts[length, width and shape]
    • Markings
  • Body:
    • Shape
    • Feather structure

A fancier may prefer to pair birds excelling in visual attributes, with no known genetic relationship, to seek improvements. This system, in my opinion, can be successful but I prefer to have some genetic link where possible, although when purchasing birds in the United Kingdom last year, a number of outcrosses were purchased from different breeders excelling in features that I believed needed further enhancement in my establishment. These birds may take time to “blend” in, or could easily (if highly inbred or just by luck), click straight away saving me years of work.

For todays’ workshop, lets assume that you are an established breeder with some desirable features on just a minimal number of birds, and aim to increase the numbers uniformly, and in quantity, with the thought of the “standard” budgerigar in mind.

This is where I believe genetics should start coming into play. Again I refer to the dictionary, this time for the definition of “Genetic”, the one I prefer most is: of or relating to the origin.

Desire to Improve

If we are serious in our desire to improve, all of the unwanted non-visual stock should be discarded to remove the temptation to pair “just for numbers”. The retained birds should be further graded to assess their strengths and weaknesses. We will further assume a number of the retained birds are related in varying degrees. We will also assume that the second-best birds are quite strong cocks, brothers, and that a number of “okay” hens are also available.

The aim now, is to pair these cocks to 2 or 3 hens each, to produce some numbers of closely related birds with, we trust, some visual improvements. A number of options are now available to further concrete and improve desirable feature. Assuming the sex proportion of cocks to hens is reasonable ie., father to daughter uncle to niece, mother to son, cousin to cousin etc., we are now interbreeding closely related individuals [of, or relating to, the origin] with the aim to preserve and fix desirable features of our choice plus eliminate unwanted features at the same time.

After a few seasons of ruthless elimination and continual inbreeding, you should, if pairing correctly, see the features that you are aiming to stamp on what should nowbe becoming a stud, coming in through numbers.

A Second Line

If it is possible, establish a second line of birds excelling in another feature, perhaps even originating from one of the original cocks, to a purchased quality hen or hens. This line can assist in future pairings by crossing one inbred feature to the other, with at least some genetic similarity in each family’s background. This should make for a reasonable blend with a probable enhancement of the already established features of both lines.

Individual Style

The style of bird each individual produces if similar in feature throughout can quite easily be recognisable as the “so and so” strain or style of bird. eg., the Kakoschke, the Scoble strain/style in Australia, (and there are more), the Mannes strain/style in Europe and the United Kingdom, and I guess in the not too distant future in Australia. A credit to the individuals ability, assuming that the style is of quality.

Directional Feather

Breaking capIn my own aviary I have tried to concrete a “Directionalfeather” family, a “deep masked, large spotted” family with shoulder and a combination of both, trying not overlook the many other desirable features along the way. I pair with the future in mind, thus I experiment with varying features hoping that perhaps that little bit extra might “crop up” to further enhance the visual beauty of the exhibition budgerigar.

German View

Interestingly, whilst visiting a number of German aviaries I was advised that one should pair a bird that excels in directional (sideways) feather, to a bird that excels in cap (up and over) feather, to improve the “top end” for exhibition purposes. I have tended to double up by going directional to directional. It is important to ensure that the other exhibition features are not neglected for the sake of one feature, thus the need to keep the “standard” embedded in your mind whilst pairing, is important. It is also important to remember that not all birds are produced for exhibition, but are produced for the improvement of future generations of birds (stock birds).

The Mannes Birds

Mannes cockOn the Mannes birds, Jo seems to have been able to “dissect” the budgerigar feather-wise, to achieve his unique style. Breeders that I have visited in Germany, England, Denmark and Switzerland that have Jo Mannes stock, are certainly making some changes within their establishments by using his birds.

In Conclusion

I trust this workshop has given you some food for thought.

Whatever is discussed or written on the pairing of budgerigars is only a guide as such, and we as individuals, will usually be guided by our own feelings at the end of the day. A big thank you to the Budgerigar Council of Tasmania Inc. for the invitation to be involved with the 1995 Golden Cob Australian National Championship Show.

Original text Copyright 1995 Nigel Tonkin

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