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by John Scoble

 Like several other Budgerigar mutations, the Spangle first appeared in Australia, so who better to reflect on the past and future of this beautiful variety than Australian expert John Scoble, who wrote this in 1994.

In my view, much misleading information has been published about the origins of the Spangle Budgerigar - even to the extent of the parents being identified. I am certain we will never know how and when the first Spangle was bred as, almost certainly, the person who bred it did not realise it was a new mutation. According to the late Frank Gardner, a Budgerigar breeder of high repute, Mr Jones of Victoria was the first to recognise they were something new and managed to acquire a number of them.

After a period of colony breeding they came to the notice of the Budgerigar Council of Australia. This was in 1977. The first time Spangles were seen by the general public was when they were exhibited in Melbourne. Although Frank Gardner advised Mr Jones to hang on to them, he was presented with a pair of Spangles. Thus, Frank Gardner became the first exhibition fancier to breed with Spangles.

Frank's record-keeping was very precise, extending to such details as cheek patch colour and mask spot configuration and so it may well be best not to pay too much attention to the word-of-mouth histories of the Spangle and to concentrate on what Frank Gardner's records have to tell us.

It is acknowledged by customs officials that large numbers of eggs of many varieties of birds are smuggled into Australia, every year. It is said that the first three Recessive Pieds entered Australia from continental Europe in this manner in the early 1970s - a couple of years before the first Spangle appeared.

The link between radioactivity and mutations is well recorded and this prompted me to follow up a particular line of investigation. Airline luggage passes through X-ray checks and, in addition, there was a radiation scare over Victoria around the same time. I checked with a poultry research centre and was told that the level of radiation, in the circumstances described, could not be responsible for the mutation of the Spangle.

It was explained to me that - although mutations of plants are caused deliberately under strictly controlled conditions - it would take a higher level of radiation occurring at a specific moment in an embryo's development to have caused a Recessive Pied to mutate to a Spangle.  As far as I was concerned this put an end to this line of thought. Even so, I consider it strange that the Spangle mutation did not appear elsewhere in the world, as happened with other mutations.

Interbreeding Dutch Pieds with Recessive Pieds has demonstrated that grizzle markings, so characteristic of the Recessive Pied, can be transmitted to other Budgerigar varieties. Furthermore, A. Brown, of Sydney, bred the first Dark-eyed Clears in Australia from a Recessive Pied. For me, this strengthens the theory that Spangles could have mutated from Recessive Pieds, even if it was not as a result of the radiation sources previously identified.

The undersides of many Spangle feathers are grizzled, Spangles and Recessive Pieds both have broken cheek patches and early Spangle hens had much darker wings than their male counterparts - a feature shared only with the Recessive Pied. I possess Recessive Pied wing feathers that look very much like those taken from Spangles and clear head spots are common to both varieties.

Militating against the relevance of the head spot is the fact that this has been appearing on Budgerigars in Australia (New South Wales and Victoria for 40 years. Such birds had been shown regularly in Victoria) and birds marked like this often won Pied classes. Thirty years ago, I discussed the appearance of head spots on otherwise Normal birds with the man I rate as the greatest bird man I have ever known; Billy Hoare of Sydney. Mr Hoare maintained that they were a recessive form of Pied.

The Spangle mutation appears to be unique in that it has a factor which rearranges the pigmentation within the structure of the feather and, in addition, possesses a recessive modifier that acts as a diluting agent (to produce the Double-factor Spangle) when inherited from both parents. This is a phenomenon that exists in no other mutation. The first Double-factor Spangles bred by Frank Gardner had no ghost markings on their wings or body colour suffusion when in nest feather.

The whole question of coloration in Spangles is confusing because no two Spangles seem to be the same. In my experience, the markings of most single-factor Spangles reduce in density at every moult, while the opposite is true of double-factor Spangles, in which there can be intensification of wing markings (including under the wings) and body colour at each successive moult.

One of the tasks that needs to be tackled is finding how to maintain colour intensity on single-factor Spangles. It is frustrating when markings at the nest-feather stage approximate to the ideal, only to fade with time. I feel that successive single-factor to non-Spangle matings could be to blame for the loss of distinctive features such as the target-shaped spots and split-coloured cheek patches. In a lecture I presented at the 1985 Budgerigar Society Convention, I recommended using more Double-factor Spangles in pairings and experience has shown that this approach has produced better-marked Single-factor Spangles.

Photographs of early Spangles in my possession show just what has been lost. They had brighter body coloration and distinctly marbled markings. Flights and tails had a dark edge which greatly improved the outline of the whole Budgerigar. This was demonstrated clearly in the course of experimental work that I carried out with wild Budgerigars, in conjunction with Neville Seage and Gary Heather of Sydney - whose contributions I rate as absolutely invaluable.

When a wild cock was paired with a Spangle hen the resultant Spangles displayed the beauty of the originals. Their spangling was superb, even though there was coarser feather and more down on the youngsters. Such results must encourage specialist breeders as they demonstrate what can be done - in practice, not theory.

??      Reproduced with kind permission of Roy Stringer     ??

The Spangled Review
Winter 2005

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