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by Ghalib Al-Nasser



Photo: Best Yellowface In Show, Specialist & Rares 2000 and 2001 for Ghalib & Janice Al-Nasser (photo Mick Freakley)

For many years budgerigar breeders always thought that budgerigars could not be bred having both yellow and white coloration on the same bird until the appearance of the Yellowface blue mutation in the early 1930s. At about 1935 Mrs. G. Lait of Grimsby and Jack Long of Gorleston-on-Sea reported that they both had bred blue budgerigars with a yellow mask. The 1930s, of course, was the era when many new mutations appeared, were recorded and established. However, it was also reported that this mutation may have appeared a few years earlier in a small aviary on the Norfolk coast not too far away from Mr. Long's place. The late Cyril Rogers reported this information in his book "The World of Budgerigars" which I classified as one of my best reference historical books. It was also reported that this Yellowface blue mutation appeared in Australia at about the same time as it did in the UK. This variety may have even been bred much earlier than that but was not recognised by the breeders of that time and was never established.

We all know that all mutations of budgerigars originated from the wild-type light green and in the case of the blue budgerigar it is recessive in its genetical breeding pattern to that of the light green. Genetical terminology often used is the wild-type allele. It was soon established in the early days that this mutation is of a dominant nature to the whitefaced blue budgerigar and therefore cannot be carried in a hidden form.

Early breeders discovered that there was more than one variation of this yellowface mutation. We owe great thanks to the work that was carried out by such fanciers and researchers as Professor T.G. Taylor with the assistance of Cyril Warner, Cyril Rogers and John Papin of the USA. More recently Ken Gray carried out extensive experimentation with pairing the various types of yellowfaces and he reported the findings in his excellent book "Rainbow Budgerigars and Constituent Varieties" published in 1990.

Further Support

The work of John Papin published in 1964, further supported by Prof. Taylor, postulated that the Yellowface mutation was caused by a dominant yellow restricting factor that had the effect of removing some of the yellow pigment from green series birds which resulted in producing Yellowfaced blue series progeny. This Yellowface restricting factor has a varying effect on the density of the yellow remaining and this could account for the various types of the Yellowface mutations that we have. His work further highlighted the possibility that when two Yellowfaced birds paired together the combination of yellow restricting factor of both birds to increase to such an extent that whitefaced birds will appear. This theory was put to the test by Ken Gray in the 1970s and proven beyond doubt that this is true.

After this new mutation was established in the mid 1930s breeders found that different shades of Yellowfaced blues were appearing. Today, the Budgerigar Society has given these different types the names of Yellowface mutant 1, Yellowface mutant 2 and Goldenface blue series. Each has its own colour standard as in the 1994 B.S. Colour Standards book.

Like all dominant varieties, the gene which controls the production of this variety can be carried in a single or double dosage, hence instead of having only three types of yellowfaces we now have six variations. Thinking of the green budgerigar as the dominant type and the highest in the dominance hierarchy, the whitefaced blue budgerigar is the most recessive of all the varieties and at the bottom of the ladder. The Yellowfaced and Goldenfaced blue budgerigars are located somewhere up that dominance ladder with the mutant 2 being dominant to the mutant 1. This means that if mutant 1 and mutant 2 yellowfaces are paired together only mutant 2 Yellowfaced birds will be produced but all will be split for mutant 1, a pairing that is not recommended.

BS Colour Standards

The BS Colour Standards describe the Yellowface mutant 1 as any of the blue series birds with its mask been a lemon yellow. This lemon yellow will be visible in any of the white areas that the bird is masking such as the secondary tail feathers and on the wings and back of head. This also applies to all other blue series budgerigars with white coloration such as the albinos, Whitewings, Spangles (single and double factors), Dark-eyed clears, Whites and others. This is because of the dominance of the green to the blue and yellow to White.

The mask of the Goldenface is more of a rich buttercup yellow than the lemon yellow of the mutant 1, while that of the mutant 2 is slightly paler than the Goldenface. The Budgerigar Society in its 1994 Colour Standards gave comprehensive descriptions of the 6 mutations amounting to a page and a half, while in the previous published standards in 1984, the description was restricted to two lines only.

Having explained above what will happen when two yellowfaces are paired together and the effect of the single and double factor we can now say that there are six different forms of this mutation. The mutant 1 single factor Yellowface blue series budgerigar is without a doubt the most common bred by fanciers and frequently seen on the show bench. Here the lemon yellow is restricted to the mask and any spillage of the yellow from the mask into the body should be treated as a show fault. The exception of course is in completely white birds. On the other hand the double factor of this mutation is in fact a whiteface as the reason given earlier. Those fanciers who suddenly produce yellowfaces from two whitefaced birds do not need to think that they have bred a new mutation, as one of those whitefaced is in fact a double factor Yellowface mutant 1.

The single factor mutant 1 Yellowface is the most appealing bird if it is present in the cobalt and violet form. It is indeed an eye-catching bird in comparison to the skyblue or grey. And over the years the variety has reached high status on the show bench winning major awards at most of the leading shows. At the 1982 B.S. club show a Yellowface of Geoff Corser's won best any age in show just missing out on the supreme award.

Quite The Reverse

While the yellow is restricted to the mask only in the single factor form of mutant 1 the reverse seems to happen in the mutant 2 and the Goldenface. These two mutations when present in the single factor the yellow seems to spread throughout the blue body colour after its first moult giving it a sea green effect. The identification becomes even more difficult when the bird is grey giving the appearance of grey green. Only by seeing the yellow underneath the wings one can establish that the bird is in fact a Yellowface or Goldenface.

The buttercup yellow on the double factor form of the mutant 2 and the Goldenface is restricted to the mask area only. Nowadays many examples of all types are seen on the show bench, which is proving to be very educational to all concerned.

Of course the Yellowface can also be present on a green bird (including all yellow variety birds) as well and I prefer using the terminology that the green (yellow) is masking Yellowface.

A composite bird called "rainbow" was established by the Keston Bird Farm in Kent and was sold on commercial bases as a very pretty bird. The rainbow budgerigar carries three mutations on the same bird; the Opaline, Whitewing and any form of the five visual Yellowface / Goldenface blue series birds. Missing any one variant and the bird is not a true rainbow. The full description of the rainbow is a bit of a mouthful; Yellowface (or Goldenface) Opaline Whitewing blue series.

It is often mentioned in budgerigar circles of the Australian Yellowface. This is relatively new terminology used when Jeff Attwood brought the first into this country in 1984. The bird he brought from his German friend Reinhard Molkentin, among others, was in fact a Spangle grey of the Australian single factor mutation thinking it was just a spangle grey green. These birds were initially brought to Europe by Rolf Christian from Australia. This Australian Yellowface has the same appearance and breeding pattern as that of the Goldenface single factor.

Any of the Yellowface or Goldenface varieties are dominant to the whiteface blues. Therefore when pairing a Yellowface to a whiteface some yellowfaces will appear in the nest depending on what factor the Yellowface is carrying.

For example, if we pair a single factor mutant 1 Yellowface to a whiteface then we will theoretically produce 50% yellowfaces and 50% whitefaces. When pairing two single factor mutant 1 yellowfaces together the results will be 50% single factor Yellowface, 25% double factor Yellowface and 25% whitefaces. Of course the double factor mutant 1 is in fact a whiteface too in appearance as mentioned earlier; so here we have 50% whitefaces of which half are in fact yellowfaces and only by test mating one can establish which of the two it is. Pairing this whitefaced (double factor Yellowface) to another whiteface with no Yellowface in the background will result 100% single factor yellowfaces.

The Exception

With the mutant 2 yellowfaces and Goldenfaces the expectations is the same as above with the exceptions that we do not get whitefaces carrying the Yellowface in hidden form.

All budgerigar shows have separate classes for all forms of the visual yellowfaces but that does not mean that all visual yellowfaces have to be exhibited in that class. The Budgerigar Society has laid down an order of priority for composite birds in their minimum mandatory classification for shows. This order of priority puts the crest at the top followed by the spangle, dominant pied, recessive pied, Yellowface then all the rarer and any other colour birds. This in theory should make it very easy for the exhibitor to realise at which class he should enter his Yellowface bird. If it is a crested Yellowface then the bird should be entered in the Crested class and the same applies for the Spangle and Pieds because of that order of priority.

Confusion for the beginner arises knowing where to enter a Yellowface albino or a Yellowface whitewing blue when there are separate classes for albinos, Whitewings and yellowfaces. Because of the order of priority these birds must be entered in the Yellowface classes as well as the rainbows. This is because the albino and whitewing blue classes are meant to be for the purity of these colours. The same applies for the Yellowface Clearbody, Yellowface Greywings or Yellowface white. Because of the order of priority these composite birds must be entered in the Yellowface classes and not the rare or any other colour classes. 

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Copyright Ghalib Al-Nasser 2001 all rights reserved.