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Rare Budgerigar Varieties - Dilutes
by Ghalib Al-Nasser

(Photo. Grey Yellow cock)

The first budgerigar variety to appear in the wild among the grass green budgerigars was the yellow. It was reported that yellows were seen in a large flock of green budgerigars as early as 1872. Further mutations of yellows appeared in Belgium at around the same time and a few years later in Germany. Since that time, the first colour budgerigar to mutate from the grass green, the yellow, was established and for many years was a very popular variety.

Soon after, towards the end of the 1870's, the first skyblue mutated from the grass green and thereafter many other varieties appeared either by mutation or combination. And because of the mutation being the first to be established, the yellow boom reached its height by the beginning of the last century. It has been reported that the first yellows were bred in Great Britain in 1884 by Mr. Joseph Abrahams of London. This was from a pair brought in from Belgium and two years later they were exhibited in London for the first time by a London fancier Mr. Swaysland. The yellows that were seen, bred and exhibited in those days were what we now call the light yellow. One of the original pioneers of this mutation in this country was R. J. Watts who was a founder member of The Budgerigar Club (now the Budgerigar Society) in 1925 and then president in 1938-40.

The whites did not come on the scene till the early 1920's and that was not by mutation but by a combination of colours. And as early as the appearance of the yellow, breeders were able to establish that the mutation is controlled by a recessive gene in its mode of production.

The term "dilute" was given to those yellows and whites for easy reference and because of the colour dilution of the feather. The yellow is a green coloured budgerigar with reduction in the amount of melanin granules (colour pigment) present in the feather. This reduction in colour intensity is more than that found in the greywing mutation which is about half of that of the depth of colour found in the normal varieties. The white is a blue coloured budgerigar with a reduction in the colour pigment and works in a similar way to the yellows.

The dilute variety is appealing to many fanciers throughout the World and good quality birds, whether yellow or white, have been sought by many. Good specimens have been bred over the years and won major awards on the show bench throughout the World. Of course, in the U.K. the memorable win with this variety was achieved at the 1985 Budgerigar Society club show when a baby grey white cock won the supreme award for R & W Nattrass.

The variety is also used extensively by breeders of other specialist varieties. Both ino and clearwing breeders use the dilute to advantage to improve their respective varieties by adding size, colour and feather texture. For the benefit of the reader there are three types of yellows and two types of whites. The mere fact of mentioning the different types of dilutes could confuse the fancier who would like to breed with this variety. However, it is of importance that one understands the differences.

The whites come in two different types only;

Both descriptions above can be applied to the white. The body colour of the suffused white may be masking skyblue, cobalt, mauve or violet in its make-up. Fanciers over the years have added, either intentionally or otherwise, both the opaline and cinnamon varieties to the dilutes and some wonderful specimens have evolved.

It is not always easy to explain why a variety vanishes and in the case of the light (buttercup) yellow the only possible explanation is that they were small when compared to the suffused or grey yellows. I saw many examples of the light yellows on my trip to Australia in 1994. The Australians refer to them as black-eyed yellows.

Earlier I mentioned that the dilutes are a recessive variety and the laws of producing recessive varieties is well documented. There are three pairs that can produce visual dilutes. These are:

It is easy to understand why, on occasions, a dilute appears in the nest from a pairing where neither of the parents is visually a dilute. This recessive inheritance can stay dormant for many generations and will only show itself when mated to another bird that is carrying this factor in a hidden form. Often the dilute produced from two splits is of good quality, assuming the parents are themselves of that desirable quality. I have always been told that breeders who bought many birds from the late Harry Bryan or Alf Ormerod have always produced the odd dilute in the nest. This statement was put in to practise in my own experience in 1986. I paired a grey green cock from Harry Bryan to a light green hen from Dennis Faulkner and to my surprise a good grey yellow popped out. There were no yellows in the Faulkner stud but he did have the late Les Joy blood in his stud, which was based on the Bryan bloodline.

This just shows how a recessive variety can appear without one's knowledge. The dilute also has a close relationship with two other recessive varieties namely the greywing and clearwing (yellow-wing and whitewing). Even though they are all recessive, the greywings and clearwings are dominant to the dilutes. When pairing a greywing (or clearwing) to a dilute all the chicks will be greywings (or clearwings) split for dilutes. Because of the superior quality of the dilute to the clearwing many clearwing breeders find the dilute of valuable asset in their breeding programme.

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Copyright Ghalib Al-Nasser 2000 all rights reserved.