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Outcrosses
By Terry A Tuxford

By now, the majority of exhibition budgerigar breeders in the UK will have finished breeding with the second round still be in nest feather. Some cages may be utilised for the show team with the remaining being cleaned down ready for repainting as necessary and regularly brushed out to keep the collection of dust under control. Everything is set for the coming show season and the next breeding season, but is it?

The sort-out of the current year birds will be taking place in many birdrooms around now and the decisions about what to keep and what to sell will be made. The time to buy good adult stock is probably around July time when unused retained budgerigars and late bred’s from the previous year will be offered for sale. For current year purchases you may have to wait a little longer. On this basis it would be a good time for you to decide on what your next season’s outcross requirements are and to go buying and if you cannot find what you want now, you will get a second chance in a few months time.

When purchasing your outcrosses the emphasis must be on a feature or features that require improving within your own stock. However, one further aspect is essential and that is to ensure that quality improvements in one area are not at the expense of already established quality features in another. When purchasing outcrosses or new stock the most important aspect is head quality. When viewed from the front it should be wide with depth being achieved by a deep wide mask that carries large round spots. The spots should sit within the confines of the mask and not hang below it. Again from the front, the eyes should almost be unseen. With wide headed birds the eyes are set well into the head, giving an impression of browiness.

From the side of the head another key consideration can be made. This is the position of the eye relative to the head. At one time the eye was described as being in a central position and using the eye as a compass point a round circle can be drawn in which the head will fit. These days however, the more appropriate eye position would be described as one-third in front and two thirds behind. Some of this will be an illusion created by feather but the important aspects will be achieved with backskull. Budgerigars without backskull appear cut off at the back of the head; an undesirable flat area at the rear crown area of the head will interrupt any roundness from the front.

A Good Top End

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Despite other balancing features as dictated by the Scale of Points, without a good top-end a budgerigar will never achieve excellence on the show bench.

Showmanship is also highly desirable. A bird may have width in the face and superb cap features but without the natural inclination to throw his head much of this will be wasted. In my view, this style of bird gets his confidence to show from more than one source. The first is an inherited trait and if this is dominant in your birds you should work hard at retaining it. Secondly, we have being at ease in the show cage. This is established through the birds being handled while still in the nest box and then introduced to the show cage at an early age. Both of these practises boost their confidence no end. Finally we have condition. Many cocks that are in great show condition also have a raised libido, which stimulates them to ‘show off’. A smaller bird with great showmanship can and will outshine a larger exhibit at the time of judging.

The importance of the outline of the bird far exceeds variety markings and variety content in the eyes of many judges. Breeders working towards moving their studs to the top echelon should bear this in mind. However, how about the purist breeder of Spangles for example; how do you achieve the intensity of marking and the desirable spots. There are a couple of obvious answers – for your exhibition birds only show normals and if possible dark factor birds. In fact controversial as it may sound one way to improve the Spangle variety content on the show bench would be to relegate opaline and cinnamon spangles to the AOC class. (I can hear the gasp!) They did the same with Clearwings to a positive advantage for the variety; unfortunately Clearwings are also fast becoming obsolete on the show bench so perhaps this was the cause of that as well. (Another gasp!)

Personally, I do not have too much experience in breeding Spangles for Spangles sake. I think they are very pleasing to the eye but have always bred them as if they were normals. This means I have used Spangles as outcrosses to normals and vice-versa. I have never been obsessed with variety content but knew a good one when I saw it.

Apart from only breeding normal Spangles for exhibition, logic tells me that in a pairing of spangle x non-spangle, all the spangle variety content sits on the side of the spangle. Something that was often cited years ago was that the best marked spangles came from pairings of spangle to spangle-bred normal. Why this is I cannot say, because it does not follow the genetic pattern of dominants but there it is. So to me this is a good enough place to start.

In year one, breed your very best marked normal spangle to the very best profile normal you can buy (afford). I suggest you use a Spangle hen of your own breeding as it is less likely to give problems in the breeding cage paired to a purchased normal cock. The only disadvantage is that you may be unaware of the bird’s true genetic make-up even if you are given a pedigree card. Availability of a pedigree card can put up to 100% on the price of a bird and who can challenge the fact that the bird has Jo Mannes on both sides of the pedigree or if its just poetic license. (Gasp number 3!). Breed these two birds together and then the following year put the best cock bird produced back to his mother (I thought about making that Gasp number 4!) and wait for the results.

When it comes to purchasing birds there is one thing that is certain; there will always be great demand for top quality budgerigars that will outweigh the availability. Prices of pedigreed budgerigars could range between 20 and say 1000. There will always be this typical spread of prices with those enjoying success in top competition being able to demand the top money. For the majority, to reach “world-champion” status, for example, the investment in both time and cost will have been substantial and so it is only reasonable that they should reap the benefit of their efforts.

Prices Frighten Away Newcomers

My only concern about the pricing of quality budgerigars is that the top-level prices are likely to frighten away newcomers to the hobby that are on a tight budget. However, all of us know that in reality there are many thousands of budgerigars for sale in the UK and I dare say the rest of the world, that are priced to sell. When I first entered the hobby in the late 1970’s the pattern was for Beginners to purchase from Novices, Novices from Intermediates and Intermediates from Champions. Although this did not always follow true, it meant that the strongest competition was in the Champion ranks. All the other sections competed within themselves and seldom did the top awards migrate to the lower levels. The sale of budgerigars was hierarchical, the demands were easier to meet and Beginners supplied the pet market.

However, today things are very different.

When I first started in the hobby I made the mistakes of the majority by buying here, there and everywhere. Fortunately, a local Champion came to my rescue and I enjoyed great success at local level as a beginner and novice. To enjoy some success early on is most important because it fuels the enthusiasm of the informative years in the hobby. However, set yourself realistic goals and work towards them. Limited finances should not stop you achieving your objectives – it just might take a little longer.

 

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