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My earliest memory of seeing a Spangle was in the aviary of a Champion whilst on an aviary visit to the Swindon Budgerigar & Foreign Bird Society area with my club Bristol Budgerigar & Foreign Bird Society around 1984 or 1985.  The bird, a Spangle dark or light green was quite small compared to it’s aviary companions, not a surprise as it was in the aviary of a successful Champion breeder, both locally and nationally. I remember that this bird exhibited very good spangle markings and also the “bulls-eye” throat spots we are all trying to get back to. The clarity of the wing markings was quite noticeable and, from memory, heavier-darker than those on the large majority of Spangles exhibited today.

My First Spangles

It was a few years later before I owned and bred Spangles, but by this time they were being crossed with all the various varieties and mutations in numerous combinations. This resulted in me doing the same as the fertility was outstanding, or so we were told, and yes there did seem to be more chance of breeding something if a Spangle was in the pairing. I ended up breeding Yellowface Spangles, Cinnamon Spangles and the like, but what happened to the budgie, was I really breeding to improve the budgie or to breed Spangles.  Due to a limited number of cages I could not devote sufficient to seriously attempt to purify the Spangles and, in hindsight, I did not put enough serious thought and effort into breeding “Normal” Spangles.   

To explain this last comment I am very strong believer in producing all the various mutations in their “Normal” state, for example a Spangle Light Green should be just that, not Opaline or Cinnamon and in the Blue series not Yellowface. I feel that all these only detract and alter the true markings and colour of the Spangle.  Have a good look at your Opaline and Cinnamon Spangles, how many have clear and discernable wing markings?  I find that both Opaline and Cinnamon significantly reduce, and in some cases remove, any well defined black or brown wing markings.

At the risk of repeating myself I want to determine what varieties are either visible or hidden and the only way to achieve this is to revert back to the “normal”.   Yes I know it may take many generations for the recessive variety to emerge and it is never 100% certain to be removed just by not using any of that variety.

The nearest that can be attained is by the use of “test mating”, but how many of us have either the number of cages and the various recessive varieties required to do this.  The length of time and the demands on the breeding capability of the stock involved will deter all but a very select few, that’s apart from the “wastage”.  Hence I avoid the use of Opaline and Cinnamon wherever possible but not to the exclusion of the better budgie, but if Opaline or Cinnamon does need to have something extra that demands the use of the bird.

Breeding Spangles

Enough of my hobby horse, back to my experiences with Spangles.  My first breeding of spangles was in 1990 and I bred some 6 out of 19 youngsters from 4 pairings in a total year’s breeding of 127 young.  Over the next few years I never bred more than 7 in any year with yearly totals between 50 and 100 in 18 breeding cages at most.  My first Spangle of any quality was a Grey Green cock obtained late in 1997 and in 1998 it produced 22 young over 4 rounds with the same hen.  Of these, 14 were Spangles and that year I used 4 pairings for Spangles with a total of 19 being produced.

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The following year a good friend in the Midlands loaned my a very good Grey Green Spangle, it was that good it was my first pairing in the next season, we’ve all been there and done the same I would suggest.  Well, fortune favoured me and from the 7 eggs laid 6 young were raised, 4 Spangles and 2 Normals, 2 of the Spangle cocks were very nice and 1 of these is very happily still breeding to this day, (in the Midlands).  They were almost as good as their father with one difference, they had tails.  They did not quite have his head quality but were very close, he had super width and “blow” wing markings only very slightly down but no tail.

Here we go I thought 6 out of my first 7 chicks were his and I couldn’t wait for round 2.  Well, that was the end of the good luck, he only ever produced 1 more chick and that had a deformed face with the beak all sideways, it could never feed itself and it was put down.  Later in the season whilst still hopeful I noticed the cock had a swollen leg around the ring, so off came the ring and he hobbled around for quite a while, he recovered but never produced another youngster, either with me or back in the Midlands.

First Spangles

This was the beginning of a concerted effort to breed some quality Normal Spangles and this season was also the first using 2nd generation youngsters from the 1997 Spangle, but either my use of his young or incompatibility of them with other lines meant that in general I was disappointed with their young.  The 1997 Spangle only bred 2 young that year, both normals.  2000 was a quiet year for Spangles, the combination of a poor breeding season and my first year breeding Slates probably meant that I was playing catch up all season.

Best Season

2001 saw my best season to date with 25 bred out of a total of 132 and the introduction of another Spangle (cobalt hen) from my friend in the Midlands.  She was nothing special but well bred and when paired to a normal Grey produced 10 Spangles out of a total of 15 young, 8 Spangle Grey cocks and 2 hens, he cocks being a deal better than the hens and 2 cocks were quite good. The cocks had decent wing markings although pale spots and a couple of dark feathers in the wing above the shoulder.  In 2002 I paired this Spangle hen to a Grey Green and produced 3 Spangle Greens and a Dark Green whilst in the second round there were 3 Spangle Greys and a normal Grey, and we work on the law of averages, try telling that to the birds.  This Spangle hen was paired to unrelated birds and nothing that was related to the Spangle Grey Green from the same source in 1999.

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2002 Spangle Grey Green Cock

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In 2003 I bred 28 Spangles out of a total of 147 using 7 Spangle pairings and 25 cages.  There was no difference in the numbers of cocks or hens although mostly Spangle cocks were used in the pairings. I believe I am going in the right direction as this year’s pairings have, with one exception, produced Spangle young that will be kept for next seasons breeding.  This was also the first year that I used related stock, albeit 2 generations removed, and next season will see greater integration of both sides of this family of spangles.  It has become clearer this season that the cocks from the cobalt hen are much better than the cocks whilst the opposite is true with the young from a Grey Green cock which is the grandson of the original that I was loaned.

This will not mean lots of Spangle to Spangle pairings as I do not feel skilled enough to use the Double Factor Spangles that will result from such pairings.  True only a few will be produced and my friend in the Midlands is convinced that the correct use of Double Factors will improve Spangle markings and “bulls-eye” spots.  I still have this regard that a Spangle without markings is only half a Spangle and welcomed the introduction of separate classes for them at Area Shows and the Club Show.  Hopefully I am not taking anything away from the super Double Factor Spangles we have seen on the bench in recent years, they are super budgie’s in their own right.  I just making the point that I don’t feel skilled enough to make a conscious effort to effort to produce and use them correctly.  Naturally if 2 Spangles show all the right reasons to be paired together I will do so.

Aim to improve wing markings

The current aim is to improve the depth and clarity of the wing markings, improve the contrast in the “bulls-eye” spots and try to improve the depth of body colour.  I find that the body colour does tend to pale in the Blue-Grey series birds in general.  There are a fair number of exceptions to this statement that are seen on the bench but the introduction of Opaline and Cinnamon have, in my opinion, been the major factor in reducing the intensity of body colour and the clarity of Spangle markings.

Using Cinnamon Spangles

Just to prove that I don’t practice what I preach all the time, the Cobalt Spangle hen that has produced most of my best Spangle cocks is a Cinnamon and this year she was paired to her Skyblue grandson.  His father, (her son) was naturally split Cinnamon and, paired to non Cinnamon hen produced cocks that may or may not be split Cinnamon themselves, 50/50 is the expected averages.  Well this pairing produced 5 young, 2 Spangle Cinnamons, 1 cock 1 hen, 1 Cinnamon hen, 1 Spangle Opaline hen, 1 Opaline Grey hen and 1 Spangle normal hen.  I just put it down to the law of averages and waited for a Light Green brother to produce me some Light Green hens.  Well 6 Cinnamon Light Greens and 2 Light Greens later I am still waiting for the law of averages to swing in my favour, true he was paired to a good Cinnamon Light Green hen but I wanted 4 of each at worst, not at best.  Incidentally this Spangle hen whilst not outstanding is as good as her mother and will be paired back to a Grey from the original Grey line. I am becoming increasingly impatient to commence this year’s breeding and looking forward to a season of shows, hopefully, with plenty of Spangles to exhibit.

There have been some wonderful Spangles in the recent past from Bill and Chris Heales’ then from Frank Silva and a number of other worthy winners seen at the Club Show.  I can’t think of another variety that has had such an impact and achieved such quality in the last 50 years of budgerigar breeding.

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