Appreciation and Progression of the Ideal Budgerigar

I will try to take an artistic view of this delightful grass-parakeet we call the budgerigar. In the last ten years, it has progressed beyond all forms of imagination to the magnificent large bird we know today. Parallel to the positive progression have been some factors such as an increase in disease and an earlier mortality.

Ideal has Moved with the Times

Since the early 1930s, when serious budgerigar exhibiting began, the ideal has changed many times. Prior to 1980, many exhibition budgerigars were either caught on camera or viewed by the exhibitor. The late R A Vowles, a top bird artist of the 1970s, could see the birds of the future. Many of his excellent black-and-white drawings graced the pages of Cage and Aviary Birds. This weekly publication allowed readers to see Vowles depict many views of the exhibition budgerigar. Through his eyes, fanciers could see the progression being made with the exhibition Budgerigar.

As far as the show bench is concerned, one man progressed the budgerigar more than any other. The late Harry Bryan, like Vowles, could see beyond the budgerigar of the day to the budgerigar of the future. His numerous successes are testimony to that. He became mentor to other fanciers.

Pictorial Ideal

Ideal CockThe Budgerigar Society, in order to give guidance to exhibitors, issued a pictorial idea, which was used until the late 1970s. During the late 1970s however, the ideal was being overtaken by birds with superior head-quality. Consequently, a request was made to update the standard. In 1980/81, I had the pleasure of painting a new standard for the exhibition budgerigar, which is still in use today. By illustrating a side and three-quarter view, the exhibitor is given a more accurate standard to measure by.

A simple exercise we can all carry out, is to compare one’s birds with the Ideal. Cut out the Ideal image as printed by the BS and place it in a show cage. Compare the Ideal with the bird in question. One can clearly see that the Ideal bird is a large bird and in proportion.

A three-dimensional object such as a budgerigar, is very difficult to look at in a two-dimensional scale. Consequently we have had models of the Ideal and artistic impressions of ideal birds, and real birds in show cages. Nevertheless everyone sees them differently.


Most winning birds should display good head quality. The skull structure is one of the most difficult areas to breed into an exhibition budgerigar. If we look at the width of face on the bird, it has to be in proportion to the height above the cere. Achieving a full backskull is a most challenging task. Too many birds lack backskull which is a most undesirable feature on the exhibition bird. How many winners do you see that excel in backskull? Mr and Mrs Newman’s Grey-Green cock, which won the 1994 National was one, but many do not. The bird must also have a deep mask on which to carry large spots. A shallow mask is a major fault which must be avoided at all costs.


A bird’s wings need to sit neatly on the base of the tail. Crossed wings or dropped wings are serious faults. Both are hereditary, therefore, specimens possessing these faults should be eliminated from breeding stock. The normal wing markings are a main feature of the exhibition budgerigar. Due to using Opalines, many colour faults have appeared on wings. For example, a normal Light Green can sometimes show green on the shell markings which should be yellow. Opalescent marks can also appear on the shoulders, neck and wing butts of the Normal bird.


There are two main faults in the tail. A drooping or vertical tail is another serious fault which cannot be corrected. The correct angle of the tail should be 60 through the eye. A tail which is too long, the other fault, is usually associated with long-flighted birds. If the length of the tail exceeds the length of the body this is too long.

Style & Stance

To achieve any success on the show bench, a winning bird must have style and stance. Style is usually inherited, stance on the other hand can be taught by training the bird from an early age.


Not all that has happened has been progress. Take the Opaline as one example. Why has nobody formed a specialist Opaline society? Many of the new varieties take care of themselves. Over the last few years, I have read articles by Ray Steele and the late Vic Smith regarding Opalines. I agree with them both. We are destroying the Opaline. We are not looking at the area of the bird we should be looking at. We should examine it as a composite bird.

Do we really try, anymore, to achieve to clear saddle? We describe birds as Opalines but they really are not Opalines. Dirty-back Opalines are ever more prevalent, along with head flecking. The colour on the wings should be the same as the body colour. Another Opaline characteristic is the leading edge on the flights, which is white or yellow depending on the colour of the bird. The Opaline had the thumbmarks on the wings at one time. In an effort to get rid of these the colour has, in some cases, been removed causing the wings to return to Normal wing markings. I say again, “Do we need an Opaline society to protect and promote the interests of the Opaline”?


It is very important to look at colours. The cheek patch can tell you whether a bird is a light, dark or medium of the colour. For example be careful not to pair two dark cinnamons together. Cinnamon after all is a pigment of melanin, therefore, by doubling the dark cinnamon factor you are increasing the melanin and increasing the chance of flecking.


It is impossible to appreciate a bird unless you can see its outline. Look at the bird’s outline and see what needs to be done to improve it. The beak should be well tucked-in, depth of mask, the backline and tail should be at the correct angle, and the wings well-positioned, the outline of the head should show good frontal rise and plenty of backskull. The outline is like a beer glass. You then need to fill it with the variety’s content, such as the content required for a good Opaline or Normal or more specialist variety.

The Future

People often ask me what the future holds as far as the budgerigar is concerned. Is it going to be a massive 10.5″ inert bird? Is it going to be so big that it is unabIe to perch? I don’t know! It is up to you the breeders. You will determine the future. In some ways we have already created a certain type of bird that does not breed readily and some are ugly even to the point of being monstrosities. The Ideal should be beyond reach, like the top of some unconquered mountain. You hear people say they have bred bigger birds than the Ideal. They may have, but do they match the Ideal in head, spot, shape and style? Sometimes when you reach the end of a road you cannot go any further, the only way is back. There may come a time when we realise the only sensible option is to take a step back.


This will only be achieved by careful selection. You cannot pick birds out of flights. You must put them in show cages and study them. I cannot believe you can pair properly all your birds in one or two days. It could take a day to select four or five pairs. Not only would I put the cock and hen in show cages but their brothers and sisters etc. I would gain a full appreciation of the family characteristics both good and bad. My records would be at my side playing a full part.

Choose your key bird for that breeding season. It must have length, size and width across the chest. A common mistake is keeping too many birds. Too many people keep too many middle-of-the-road birds, birds which are neither good or bad, but which will not take them forward. Be strong in your convictions in selecting only the best birds. Don’t keep inferior birds.

Look at Feather – Look at Quality, Look at Colour

Be honest and when you pair up have a clear picture of what you are doing.


The exhibition budgerigar Ideal could possibly be altered in pictorial form by illustrating a larger head and more feather detail. This would have to be done in a somewhat loose manner, as the previous pictorial Ideals have always been sharp and concise, with a clean outline. Considering that there are only a few hundred of the million and half budgerigars bred each year meeting the standard, perhaps it would be inappropriate to change the ideal at this time.

Original text Copyright 1995 Eric Peake

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