slate1.jpg (8216 bytes)

Second Revival For The Slate Budgerigar

by Ghalib Al-Nasser

slate2.jpg (7184 bytes)

The Slate Budgerigar is enjoying its second revival since it was re-introduced into the U.K. in 1992 by the late Cyril Rogers. This second revival was further enhanced by the introduction of the new Rare Variety challenge certificate issued by the Budgerigar Society at the commencement of the 2000 show season, catering for the Clearbody, Fallow, Saddleback and Slate. When both the Saddleback and the Slate were named in this new challenge certificate it was quite apparent that a new Colour Standard needed to be written for both these varieties. A Colour Standard for the Fallow had existed for a number of years and a Standard for the Clearbody has already been published in 1997.

The Judges Panel & Colour Standards Committee took on the task of writing Colour Standards for the above two varieties and were approved by the B.S. General Council in May 2001. This Standard was published and circulated to all Judges.

The Slate budgerigar has been around much longer than the Saddlebacks and their appearance was first reported in the period between 1933 and 1935. That is the period when different shades of the Grey were reported. We owe a great debt to the late Cyril Rogers for not only documenting so much history of all budgerigars in his famous book The World of Budgerigars but also for ensuring that the variety is still with us today.

His records detailed that the first Australian Dominant Grey (present day Grey) was bred by Mrs. S. Harrison of Murrumbeena, Victoria, Australia and the first British Recessive Grey was bred in 1933 by E. A. Brooks of Mitcham, Surrey.

F. S. Elliott reported (March 1935 Budgerigar Bulletin) that H.T. Watson of Bedford had in his possession a hen of a slatey blue colour. Mr. Watson obtained this bird in 1933 from a dealer but he had no records of its parentage. This hen was paired to a Cobalt White cock but bred two Cobalts only (cock and hen) before dying. The two youngsters were paired together but no slates were bred. Cyril also mentioned that the skin of the original hen was sent to him, which he kept for many years until it disintegrated. When he compared the skin, some years later, with Slate Cobalts he concluded that the skin colour was identical and confirmed that the Watson hen was in fact a Slate.

In May 1935 Mr. T. S. Bowman of Carlisle reported that he had bred a bird of a similar colour and called it a slate. This bird was bred from a Cobalt cock and a Skyblue hen. He further reported that he exhibited the first Slate in the AOC class at Dumfries in November of that year. Mr. Bowman further confirmed that his Slates differed in their breeding pattern from that of the two Grey mutations reported earlier. He further confirmed that his Slates were sex-linked. And that how the variety was established.

When the variety was well established it was discovered that the Slate form could exist in three depths of shade and in both the green and blue series and on all other mutations. During the sixties and early seventies the interest in the variety remained steady but with the popularity of the dominant Australian Grey it affected the Slate's popularity.

It was by chance that a young Dutch couple had visited the late Cyril Rogers in the summer of 1970 and on their return they obtained a suitable breeding pair of this variety. When the young Dutch husband was killed in a road accident, his sister took over the breeding stock and when she got married she passed on the only Slate that she had to Inte Onsman, a friend from Amsterdam.

The Slates virtually disappeared from the U.K. scene till 1992 when Inte Onsman sent two Slate cocks to Cyril to breed with. Ken Grey from Clacton on Sea reported that only one of the cocks was fertile and bred many chicks when paired to a Clearflighted Cobalt hen from Mr. Gray's stud.

Prior to Mr. Rogers passing away in August 1993, and while still in hospital, Ken Grey exhibited two Slate hens (an adult and a baby) in Mr. Rogers' name at the Specialist & Rare Variety Open Show. When Mr. Rogers passed away Ken Grey with the assistance of Dr. Margaret Young, Joan Denton, Ken Brock and Deamonn Mullee (all members of the Rare Variety & Colour BS) took on breeding programme to keep this variety alive and ensure its survival. Much of the credit goes to these fanciers that this variety is thriving again and also to that element of luck that the late Cyril Rogers shared with Dutch fanciers in that the variety left the U.K. just to come back from the same source many years later.

As mentioned earlier, and like the violet, the Slate can be combined with all colours in both the green and blue series and in all varieties but the B.S. have decided to recognise the Slate Blue only. It is difficult to recognise them in the green series, but to the experienced fancier a Slate Green could look like a Grey Green but with violet cheek patches rather than grey. That is why only the Slates in the Blue Series were recognised. It is also better to avoid pairing them to greys, which can give the bird an appearance of a very dark grey.

Like the blue colour, which comes in 3 shades (skyblue, cobalt and mauve) the slate can too be present in three shades.

Because the Slates are included in the Rare Variety challenge certificate the order of priority as laid down by the Budgerigar society still follows. This means that Slate Pieds and Slate Yellowfaces will have to be exhibited in the Pied or Yellowface classes.

When breeding with slates one will need to remember that the variety is sex-linked and improvement can be made rapidly if quality normals are used to improve the variety. I will advice fanciers who wish to breed slates to keep the variety to normals or opalines without mixing it with other varieties.

Pairings that are used as part of the sex-linked inheritance that affect slates are:

Cock Hen Expectation
Slate Slate 50% slate cocks + 50% slate hens
Slate Normal 50% normal/slate cocks + 50% slate hens
Normal Slate 50% normal/slate cocks + 50% normal hens
Normal/slate Slate 25% slate cocks + 25% normal/slate cocks + 25% slate hens + 25% normal hens
Normal/slate Normal

25% normal cocks + 25% normal/slate cocks + 25% slate hens + 25% normal hens

back.gif (2775 bytes)

Copyright Ghalib Al-Nasser 2002 all rights reserved.