by Ghalib Al-Nasser

THERE ARE qualities, which a judge requires, other than simply sorting a class of birds into a ranking order. This skill is necessary, but only as one of many. Newcomers to the fancy will start to compare birds at an early stage. This tends to be done by comparing young birds with their parents or by comparing birds at a show. These are good methods of developing an eye. But as I said before, that is only one part of the formula for becoming a judge and a good one at that.

Judging ability starts with most fanciers at their first breeding season if not before. At that time a fancier is comparing his birds with others and with the ones he/she bred. An eye for the bird will develop with time.

To become a judge one needs to develop knowledge of show procedure and other requirements of a judge having already gained the ability to compare birds over the years. Judging not only depends on judging ability even though that is the most important part. A judge will enter an elite group of fanciers that is above the rest as he/she is relating to the Rules and Standards as laid down by the Budgerigar Society and its affiliated Area Societies. This will involve knowing the Colour Standards, Ideal Budgerigar, Scale of Points, Show Rules, Patronage Conditions, Judges’ Panel Conditions, Standard Show Cages and the Guidelines as laid down by the B.S. in their current Rule Book.

Nowadays judges training schemes are devised by the Budgerigar Society and also by a few area societies. Having passed the tests and qualified as a Main Panel Judge of both the Budgerigar Society (1988) and the London & SCBS (1986) I found them to be extremely useful. Because a prospective judge will be required to pass exams, it is important to prepare, study, read and ask questions. Indeed for those fanciers who are on the subsidiary panel and those intermediates who would like to proceed to the next status and furthermore want to become judges will find judges training schemes very useful.

For those fanciers who wish to become judges you first need to read the Conditions relating to Subsidiary Panel Judges as found in the current B.S. Rule Book and apply, in writing, to the B.S. Office by 31st January having fulfilled the conditions of entry.

In order to become a judge it is important to develop knowledge of show & judging procedure. A judge will become part of an elite group of fanciers (from status point of view). A judge will have to conform to the current Rules and Standards, which are laid down by the Budgerigar Society and its affiliated Area Societies. This requires knowledge of the Ideal Budgerigar, Standard of Excellence, Colour Standards and the Scale of Points. Knowledge of the show regulations, show procedures, show complaints and patronage conditions will be necessary. All of these are found in The Budgerigar Society's Rules, Regulations and Conditions booklet.

The purpose of this article is to provide an insight into the qualities which would be expected of those recently qualified judges or for those who hoping to qualify in the future. The key learning points can be summarised as follows:

Invitation: Your judging engagement commences with the initial invitation some months, or a year, prior to the show. This could be in the form of a letter, verbal or telephone. In all cases give your answer promptly. Do not drag on in giving your answer; just because you are awaiting an invitation from a better show, neither change your mind after accepting because a better offer arrives. The new B.S. Rules will put a stop to such behaviour.

If the invitation is by phone or verbally then insist that a letter of confirmation is sent as soon as possible.

In all cases, and if you have accepted the invitation, reply in writing by stating your requirements to the show promoting society:

- Judging fee (10.00 as currently laid down by the B.S.)

- Travelling expenses (Petrol or train fare)

- Accommodation if the place is too far for a morning travel

You must enter the appointment in your diary to avoid double booking. You can then forget about the show, if both sides have agreed, until a few weeks before the show.

If for any reason, and it needs to be a good one, you are unable to fulfil your commitment to the show then inform the person who invited you well in time to give them the opportunity to engage another judge, better still recommend one or two judges to them. Every one will understand extenuating circumstances.

Schedule: A few weeks before the show you should receive the schedule. Make sure you contact the show secretary if you have not received it by the last week. Study the schedule and the specials that are allocated. Make note of the "odd" specials such as "Best Ladies Exhibit" and "Best Junior Exhibit in a mixed show". These awards do not come out of the "Board" system that is used by most show promoting societies.

At Cage Bird Societies they have an overall award for Best Exhibit or Best Junior whereby all the different varieties compete against each other. You will need to have some knowledge of the other varieties to stand your ground when selecting the Supreme winner.

Also at the smaller open shows and Cage Bird shows there may not be sufficient "Specials" paper work so you may have to do the lot yourself. If you have acquainted yourself with the schedule, classification and specials this will prove to be beneficial later on in the day. Now there is a standard classification for all type of championship shows down to Diploma patronage level and a recommended one for those below the Diploma patronage level.

You must always have the B.S. Handbook with you for reference. It is your Bible. If you are allocated certain colours to judge then a few minutes reference to the Colour Standards pages prior to the day will be highly recommended.

The Show: Depending whether you wanted overnight accommodation (you would have arranged this well in advance with the show officials and on your letter of acceptance) or you are travelling on the morning of the show, sort your route to the show. If a morning travel set out early and give yourself plenty of time to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to the commencement of judging.

It is most infuriating to show officials and to yourself if you arrive late. It will set you back both mentally and time-wise. Try to avoid many hours of travelling on the morning. Under three hours of travel will be sufficient.

Arrive well in time, make yourself known to the show manager, relax have a cuppa if offered and have a look at the birds, if permitted. This will set your eye and mind in the right frame for the task ahead. Have a chat to your fellow judges and try to avoid chatting too much to exhibitors prior to judging.

Essentials: The essential items that you will need to have with you when judging (and I recommend you having a zip up case or folder) are:

Remember that there were extra varieties that colour standards were written for but are not included in the 1994 (or 1998) issue of the Colour Standards book and you should make photocopies of them and include them in your Colour Standards book and these are:

Other non-essential items that you may consider having in your case/folder is a small magnifying lens (for those rings that are difficult to read) and a notepad.

These are the items that come under your responsibility. Other items that the show office will need to supply you with are:

Judging: The show manager should take you to your stand and introduce you to your chief steward. Introduce yourself to your stewards and find out their duties. See if you are happy with your stand position and level of shelves (should be eye level with perches for top shelf). If they need to be re-positioned/altered then ask your stewards to do so. It is now B.S. condition for show promoting societies to provide adjustable judging stands.

You are now about to judge your first class and invariably you hope that the BOC and the Best in Show award will come from that class. Give yourself plenty of time to judge the first few classes; you will gain speed as time goes by. Get stuck with the job and treat it with utmost respect. Don't spend too much time chatting to your stewards and explaining your positioning. It is your opinion that you are employed to pass on.

Always have a quick look at the class before starting to sort them out in an order. It takes less than 30 seconds to look at the class (provided it is not a huge class) and establish that all the birds are in the correct class. Things to look for in the class; correct class number, colour/variety, sex, and number benched.

Always consult with other judges about difficult situations or if you are not sure of something, especially the border cases of the sex of the bird and scaly face.

Some stewards/chief stewards like to put birds up in the order that they like them to be judged. You can always reverse the procedure of placing awards, this hint will soon stop them interfering.

Wrong classing: You, as a judge, can wrong class birds, on a matter of fact, for the following reasons:

* Note the B.S. order of priority (Crest, Spangle, Dominant Pied, Recessive Pied, Yellow-faced, Rare Variety, Any Other Colour).

You can ask the show manager to remove birds from staging if they are:

Most important throughout judging is that CONDITION IS ESSENTIAL.

Types of shows: There are a number of different types of shows. Most of the information outlined above will apply; the differences are in the judging/show procedure. Shows fall into the following categories:

All the open shows that have received B.S. or Area Society patronage will run under the Rules & Conditions of The Budgerigar Society. One of the most important criteria of such Rules is that only first class winners will be eligible to compete for specials.

Open shows with B.S. championship, etc., patronage are the easiest to judge from a procedure point of view. Invariably you will have experienced personnel officiating. Here the Best of Colour (colour dots) and challenge certificate system operates.

There are nineteen colour groups with BOC award for each group. It is important to remember that the BOC (Dot) awards are for open competition and they MUST be awarded. The challenge certificates are awarded at the DISCRETION of the judge to birds that are rung with B.S./Area Society closed coded rings purchased through the B.S. and owned by fanciers who have nominated B.S. on their entry form. Although the C.Cs are awarded at the discretion of the judge one other important qualification for awarding the C.C. is that there must be a benched entry in excess of 2 for that particular colour from 2 different exhibitors or 7 exhibits from one exhibitor.

The show procedure for the DOT system is as follows:

At ordinary championship shows the dot colours are:

At area and 2* shows there are two sets of challenge certificates; one set (19) for the any age and the other set for the young birds. In this case you do not need the orange dot as the red dot is for Best of Colour Any Age, and there is no overall BOC.

The procedure to judge the colour will be as stated above depending on the type of show.

At championship shows when completing judging all the BOCs then the five major awards of the Budgerigar Society should then be selected in the following order:

1. Best Budgerigar in show from the 19 red dots line up.

2. Best any age in show from all the orange dots line up (it could well be your BIS bird).

3. Best any age opposite sex from all the yellow dots (some can be orange dots depending on the sex in 2).

4. Best young bird in show from all the blue dots (it could well be your BIS bird).

5. Best young bird opposite sex from all the green dots (some can be blue dots depending on the sex in 4).

At ordinary championship shows your Best of Colour (red dot) will also have either the Any Age (orange dot) or Young Bird (blue dot) award. After that you will look at the highest placed Any Age or Young Bird Opposite Sexes.

The introduction of the orange and green dots for the first time at the 1990 show season at ordinary championship shows has confused many judges. The task of placing these dots is very simple.

The Best of Colour bird (regardless of age or sex) will receive the red dot. If the bird has been put in the any age classes (remember the bird could be young bird wearing a current year ring) then it will receive the orange dot as well. If it is a young bird put in the young bird classes then it will receive the blue dot as well.

You then proceed to select your highest any age bird (if the BOC is a young bird) and the highest Any Age Opposite Sex. The same procedure follows for the young bird awards.

With area and 2* shows there are challenge certificates for each of the 19 colours in the any age and young birds. So it is slightly easier to award the dots, where in each category you will pick the BOC and its opposite sex. At these types of shows you will pick your BIS last, i.e. you will proceed with steps 2-5 first and then compare the winners in 2 and 4 for best in show.

There are also certificates of merit awarded by the B.S. for the best in section in each of the novice, beginner and junior in both the any age and young bird categories (total of six). These are awarded to the best exhibit in each of the above six sections that have not won a C.C. and are B.S. rung and belong to B.S. nominated members.

If your BOC is an unrung bird or not belong to a B.S. member, the second in that line up can be considered for awarding the Budgerigar Society challenge certificate. Remember, they are awarded at your discretion.

It is useful to make a note of your dot winners. Also you will be asked to judge the colour as a complete class so that specialist societies awards can be allocated to their members. With 10 sections (including the juniors) and 2 class winners you can have a maximum of 20 birds in the line up. Remember, you must fill in the placing from 1 to 20 in the bottom right hand side box of the cage label. It is essential to do that simple task.

The B.S. Mandatory classification makes things simpler with using the hundreds columns. I always tell my subsidiary judges to try to remember the classification order by heart as you learn the arithmetic tables. Try to remember three things:

  1. The section numbers: 0 hundred is champion any age, 100s for champion young bird, 200s for intermediate any age, 300s for intermediate young bird and so on till 900s for junior young bird.

  2. Even hundreds (including 0 hundred) are adult birds and odd hundreds are young birds.

  3. Odd class number for cocks and even class numbers for hens (for ordinary championship shows at least).

Major Awards: Having completed your task in judging the various colours that have been allocated to you, you then will be required to judge, with other judges, some of the major specials as laid down by the colour dot category. Set your standard of judging and don't just push your previous winners.

Watch out for the dominating judge who picks up a bird and puts it up front and says, "that's the best" and defies any one to go against his/her decision. Don't be intimidated. Assess all birds and make your own selection and pass your decision to the show manager.

After selecting the major awards, you then be asked to judge one or two sections. Here you must ensure that birds of the same colour in the section line up cannot beat BOC birds. This is a B.S. Rule and you cannot do anything about it whatever disagreement you may have with the other judge who placed them in a different order before you.

After completed the judging tasks thank your stewards for their assistance. You will then be required to sign the B.S. and area societies patronage forms. You will also need to take the ring number of the BOC birds that you have judged (assuming that you are going to award the C.C. to that exhibit) and the best young bird in the section that you have judged. It is important that the ring number is recorded on the C.C. and the B.S. forms in the correct fashion; AA1088/19/02 and not AA1088/02/19 or 19/AA1088/02. Sometimes a code will have more than one letter as well as an area society code. For example my area society London & Southern Counties BS has the prefix LS written sideways so the above ring details should be recorded as LSAA1088/19/02 for example. However, the maximum digits a code can have (including the area code) are 6.

There is also a golden rule on how to describe the colour of the bird on the C.C. and I have seen so many variation in that over my years in the fancy. Just imagine my total disappointment and annoyance back in the late 1970s when I had a wonderful Lacewing White hen who won C.C.s at 2 area championship shows and was described on the C.C. as A.O.C. in one area and White Fallow at the other. You can imagine what I thought of the two judges at the time and I was only a novice exhibitor at that time. A clear indication that those judges had no knowledge of some of the specialist varieties.

It is important to describe a bird correctly and I have always taken issue with editors of magazines on how to put the correct captions to photos as after all these magazines are the teaching grounds for newcomers. The rule of thumb in correct description is variety, body colour, sex. For example the dominant pied C.C. winner is a grey green and it is also an opaline and a hen so the full description that you should write on the C.C. is Dominant Pied Opaline Grey green hen. You should always commence with the variety that the bird had won the C.C. at. On many occasions you will have a composite bird (a bird with more than one variety) in front of you such as a crest, spangle and a yellowface blue all on one bird and again there is an art on how you correctly should describe the bird and that is following the B.S. order of priority. So the bird is first a crest, exhibited in the crested classes and have won the crested C.C., and that is how I shall start my description of the bird (it could be a tuft, half circular or full circular). Now, if it was not a crest then the bird would have been exhibited in the spangle class because of the order of priority and the description should commence with a Spangle. Finally, if it was not a crest or a spangle then it is a yellowface blue and would have been exhibited in the Yellowface class. Here you will have built your colour matrix based on the B.S. Order of Priority and the full description of this particular bird will be Crested Spangle Yellowface Opaline Cinnamon Cobalt cock (just for example). You can see how the picture can be built commencing with the variety followed by the body colour and finally the sex of the bird and believe me it is not rocket science in remembering this order.

The C.C.'s will then need to be signed. Hopefully your judging task is then completed to be followed by a good lunch (the usual salad!) and expenses to be claimed.

At Diploma and other patronage shows, the procedure is slightly different in as far as you judge the sections first then you select the BIS from the line up of ten birds. Other specials (such as best any age, best young bird and best opposite sex) can be sorted out afterwards.

Members and Young Stock Shows can be a bit difficult, as you may not have experienced fanciers running these events. Be careful here, use the schedule and tick each class you judge. Note the winning birds and judge the major specials as per procedure laid down in the Diploma shows.

Wrong classed birds in the lower sections can be re-classified at Cage Bird shows at the discretion of the show manager. After lunch try to stay behind for a while to assist beginners with their queries and don't be in too much of a hurry to leave.

Placing of Awards: Some of the following tips can be useful to you when placing your awards.

- Beginner classes are usually large and can be hard to judge.

- Discard the worst ones to reduce the number in that class.

- Pick the bird that strikes you to be the best and compare the rest to it.

- The Scale of Points is for your guidance.

- Condition; use discretion on other faults such as missing spots, flights etc.

- Check that birds are exhibited in standard show cages.

Fault Areas in Birds: It is important that you keep an eye of the following faults and penalise the birds accordingly.

- Beak size and prominence.

- Flecking; eye/central cap.

- Opaline wing & mantle markings.

- Tail carriage.

- Narrowness of face.

- Narrowness of shoulders.

- Depth of mask/spot spacing.

- Long flighted characteristics.

- Scaly face (will need to be removed from staging).

- Shortness of body.

- Carriage/back line.

- Feather quality.

- Under/over shot beaks.

- Claws missing.

Required Qualities in a Judge: It is important that a judge posses certain qualities. These can be summarised as follows:

- Ability; you will need a natural eye for the bird.

- Confidence; try to suppress your nerves.

- Courage; stand by your decisions.

- Thick skin; you will always get disagreement so don't let it worry you.

- Patience; spend time with the difficult birds but do not dawdle, neither rush your job.

- Unbiased; judge birds on the day and not on past reputation.

and most important of them all

- Ethics; do not criticise your follow judges especially in front of exhibitors.

Well with all this in mind and reference to the B.S. books one can feel confident to progress from the champion status to become a judge.

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Copyright Ghalib Al-Nasser 2005 all rights reserved.