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Memories of Spangles

by Harry Bryan (writing in 1994)

 Harry Bryan was the most successful Budgerigar fancier the world has ever known. He began keeping Budgerigars in 1916 and enjoyed many successes on the show bench.  In the intervening years he saw all of the top Budgerigars in the UK which until recently, in Budgerigar terms, meant the world. In 1994, his memory was as keen as ever and he recounted recounted his memories of Spangles.

In the late 1970s I heard the news about one of the most exciting events in Budgerigars for the last 20 years. A new mutation, the Spangle, had been brought to Europe from Australia, by Rolf Christen. Top German fancier, Reinhard Molkentin got hold of them, bred from them and let a few come to the Ormerod & Sadler partnership in the south of England.

I went to see Alf Ormerod and Doug Sadler and immediately fell in love with these vividly-coloured, beautifully-marked Budgerigars. After breeding with them for a season, Alf Ormerod let me have one of the original Spangles; a Cobalt cock that was quite small and not much of an exhibition bird. I believe that mine was the second stud in Britain to contain a Spangle. I paired the cock with one of my best Grey Green hens and produced six chicks, four of which were Spangles; two Cobalts and two Grey Greens. In compliance with the agreement I had made with Alf, I gave him two of the Spangles.

The following year, I paired the young Spangle Cobalt cock with another good Grey Green hen (which was carrying the Yellowface mutation) and bred the super young Spangle Yellowface Skyblue cock that was, at the age of only five months, the first of its variety to take the best breeder and best in show awards at a championship show. I also bred a hen of the same colour and some people thought she was better than the cock. She certainly had a beautiful back-line. The brother and sister were first and second in their class at the first Budgerigar World show.

The fertility of Spangles in those early days seemed to be 100 per cent. When you paired a Normal with a Spangle and the hen laid six eggs, you expected to get six chicks - and the proportion of Spangles seemed to be higher than the 50 per cent that the theoretical breeding expectation indicated.

Spangles were paired with every other mutation in existence and now, less than 20 years later, they are no more fertile than any other variety and, if anything, I find that they produce less Spangles than the 50 per cent theoretical expectation.

The first breeders of exhibition Spangles were careful to pair them with only the best Normals in their studs. They recognised that pairing with diluting mutations, such as Cinnamon, Greywing, Opaline, Clearwing and Dilute, would only serve to spoil the Spangle's unique markings. Since they became generally available, Spangles have dropped in quality, though one notable exception was the Spangle Grey Green cock that won so many prizes for the B & C Heale partnership.

One of the special features of the Spangle is that when you pair two together, a proportion of the chicks are Double-factors; clear White or Yellow Budgerigars. To say that they are "clear" is not quite accurate. Many Double-factor Spangles carry signs of their body colour, mainly as a band below the mask. I don't like Double-factor Spangles. I don't see the point in them. The Spangle is essentially a bird of beautiful markings so there seems little purpose in breeding versions - be they Spangle Opaline Cinnamons, Spangle Whitewings, Spangle Yellows, Spangle Lutinos OR Double-factor Spangles - that have very few or no markings at all. If it was within my power to lay down the number of points that could be deducted from a Spangle that does not have distinct, well-defined markings, I would specify far more than the 25 currently allocated by the Budgerigar Society.

Spangles ought to be able to command a place in any stud of exhibition Budgerigars. I also believe we should be trying to restore the beauty of the Spangle that has been lost so quickly by indiscriminate pairings. Because they are dominant in their mode of inheritance it should not be too difficult a job. Introducing more Dark-factor Budgerigars - such as Dark Greens, Cobalts and Violets - would be a good start. My own Spangle Violet cock, that had already taken a best young bird in show award before being made best Spangle in show at the 1993 National Exhibition of Cage & Aviary Birds, was said to be a Budgerigar of beauty by many unbiased viewers. They are so new that there is not a great deal of history to the Spangle, but if you put your mind to it you could help to add to the story of the Spangle that fanciers of the future will be writing.

??     Reproduced with kind permission of Roy Stringer     ??

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