reccobalt.jpg (14935 bytes)

Breeding Quality Recessive Pieds
Ghalib Al-Nasser

(Photo. Recessive Pied Cobalt cock. This bird has many records when shown under the Bisell & Al-Nasser Parnership including Best Recessive Pied at the 1984 & 1985 BS Club Show and Best Pied at the 1985 BS Club Show. This is still a record today. It was also Best Recessive Pied at the 1985 BS Convention.)

No other lesser variety has made so much progress in the past two decades as the "Danish Pied" better known to fanciers in general as the Recessive Pied. The advancement achieved by this variety is perhaps best illustrated by drawing a comparison of entry over the years in the Budgerigar Society (BS) Club Show.

In the 1973 BS Show I exhibited, as a beginner, one adult Recessive Pied and one breeder. In those days there was one class for cock and hen and only one Challenge Certificate (CC). I won the CC and best Recessive Pied in Show that year with the young bird. There were seven exhibits in the adult class and six in the breeder class from six exhibitors. The champion section was very poorly supported with three entries in the adult class and five in the breeder class. Only two exhibitors supported that section.

When I won the adult CC and best Recessive Pied in 1987 as a champion exhibitor, (having also won CCs in this variety in 1977, 78, 83, 84 and 85) there were twenty-nine exhibits in the cock class from which my CC winner came, and twelve in the hen class. The champion breeder cock class had an entry of twenty-one and the hen class an entry of fourteen. There were sixteen exhibitors in the champion section alone. The beginner section was not as well supported as the champion section but was still far better than that of 1973 with nine and five exhibits in the adult cock and hen classes respectively while the breeder classes had had an entry of fourteen and seven respectively. Total exhibitors in that section were seven. The beginner breeder cock class, however, produced the breeder CC winner as it did for me in 1973.

In 1990 when I won the CC and Best Recessive Pied in Show again from the adult cock class, the statistics were about the same as 1987. The champion section had entries of twenty-six, twelve, twenty-two and eleven respectively from fifteen exhibitors while the beginner section had entries of nine, four, four and three from seven exhibitors. A coincidence it was, but the winners of 1973, 87 and 90 were all Grey-green cocks; the latter two being father and son.

This comparison clearly indicates the advancement mentioned earlier on. Going back to my early years in this variety, the fancy in general made their usual jovial and disparaging remarks to those few who wanted to specialise and devote their resources to the advancement of this variety. Because it is well accepted that any fancier who breeds and exhibits lesser varieties becomes typecast as a "specialist", so I and few others, like my two friends Jim Rowe and Mike Ingham, came to be known as specialist Recessive Pied breeders and we have competed against each other on the show bench since then. The scene is totally different now as there are many exhibitors of this variety throughout the sections. We are still called "specialist" but have been joined by many more now. One other fact that is worth mentioning is that the three of us are still dominating the scene with this variety fifteen years later; Jim won the BS Club Show in 1986 whilst Mike did in 1988 and myself in 1987 and 1990

In order the pinpoint the rise in popularity of the Recessive Pied perhaps some background from it's introduction to this country in 1948 would be useful


Appearances of different forms of Budgerigars with pied or variegated plumage can be traced as far back as the early nineteen twenties. But the first Pied mutation to be fully established was the Danish Recessive Pied and the founder of the strain a Green and Yellow cock was displayed in Copenhagen at a bird show in 1932.

The first of this mutation to arrive in this country was in 1948 when Cyril Rogers received his stock from the late Herr C. af Enehjelm, who at that time was the Curator of Helsinki Zoological Gardens in Finland. Cyril exhibited this variety at a Cambridge show in 1950 for the first time.

These birds are very colourful in appearance and usually it is the brilliance of their colouring that attracts the average breeder. Being a recessive mutation, it is more difficult to breed to exhibition standard. The incorporation of the multitude of genes which make up top-class exhibition specimens of a strain of any recessive characteristic is far more challenging that that when combining together dominant characteristics.

Breeding Pattern

As to the inheritance of the Danish Pied, the pied is recessive to Normal and their method of production acts as a simple autosomal recessive gene. The Normal here meaning a non-pied Budgerigar. Because of that its expectation table can be readily calculated (irrespective of colour or sex):

Breeding Pattern



Recessive Pied Normal 100% Normal/Recessive Pied
Recessive Pied Normal/Recessive Pied 50% Recessive Pied
50% Normal/Recessive Pied
Recessive Pied Recessive Pied 100% Recessive Pied
Normal/Recessive Pied Normal/Recessive Pied 25% Recessive Pied
50% Normal/Recessive Pied
25% Normal
Normal/Recessive Pied Normal 50% Normal/Recessive Pied
50% Normal

One must understand that this variety is not a sex-linked one, so the above expectations do not depend on which parent has which genotype, and the expectation applies to either sex. In some cases those Normal/Recessive Pieds "splits for convenience" show a small clear spot on the back of the head.

Those specialists referred to earlier realised that the only way to make progress with this variety was to pair the best Recessive Pied to the best available Normal, even to a dirty-headed Opaline as long as it was of good size. Splits will be produced, called first splits, of good quality to pair back to Recessive Pieds so that the desirable Recessive Pieds will be produced at the next breeding season.

I have only used pairing 1 and 2 (from table above). I have stated earlier that the only way to progress is to keep outcrossing to the best above Normals available. I also thought pairing 3 to be a waste of time from a quality point of view but of course, ideal for quantity. In 1988 however, I was in short supply of split hens to pair back to Recessive Pied cocks. One split hen, which was paired to my 1987 club show winner, died of egg-binding, so I was forced to pair him to a Recessive Pied hen. Two Recessive Pied cocks were produced in the first round and one in the second round. One of the first round chicks developed into a stormer (for that variety), while his two brothers were not in the same league.

Unfortunately, that bird seems loathe to grow tail and flight feathers; one might say a mild and permanent spot of French Moult. I still cannot make up my mind with this type of pairing, although a number of breeders, including successful champions seem to use it. I still do that type of pairing occasionally but have not bred another stormer yet.

When it comes to pairing 4, serious breeders ought to consider it if the quality of their splits are far better than their Recessive Pieds. One might just hit the jackpot and produce an acceptable specimen of this variety. However, the 75% non-Recessive Pied chicks produced ought to end up in pet shops.

Pairing 5 is a total waste in my opinion. Virtually no merit can be achieved from such a pairing. The added difficulty of course is in distinguishing the normals from the splits.


Let us now examine more closely the pitfalls with this variety. Firstly let us consider the Budgerigar Society Colour Standard for the Recessive Pied Light Green which was updated in 1994.

Buttercup yellow, ornamented by up to six evenly spaced large round black throat spots, when present, the two outer spots to be partially covered by the cheek patches. The buttercup yellow of the mask extending over the frontal and crown, to merge with the black undulations at the back of the head. The frontal and crown should be clear and free from all markings.
Cheek Patches
Violet, silvery white or a mixture of both.
General Body Colour
Irregular patches of clear buttercup yellow and bright grass green with the latter mainly on the lower chest rump and underparts.
Markings on cheeks, back of head, neck and wings
Should be black undulations or polka dots on a buttercup yellow ground, random in pattern and distribution and covering approximately 10% to 20% of the total wing area.
Primary Wing Flights
Buttercup yellow but odd dark feathers are not faults.
Primary Tail Feathers
Clear yellow, variegated or dark blue.
Fleshy-pink in cocks, brown in hens.
Orange coloured.
Feet and Legs
Dark and solid in colour without a light iris ring.

The eye is the only special distinguishable feature of Recessive Pieds and the only way that one can identify them from lightly marked Dominant Pieds or Clearflights.

Yet at the 1987 BS World Show, two specimens of this variety exhibited in the champion section did not comply with that. A Recessive Pied Spangle was exhibited showing the white iris ring on both eyes. The bird was bred from a single factor Spangle/Recessive Pied hen to a Recessive Pied cock. The Spangle in turn was bred from a double factor Spangle cock with a Recessive Pied hen (all young being single factor Spangle/Recessive Pied). So why has the white iris ring appeared in that Recessive Pied Spangle? That is genetics for you. The other bird had all the appearance of a Dominant Pied in coloration, including the blue, and yet it had no white iris ring. One can debate the validity of both exhibits being exhibited in the Recessive Pied class. It would have been interesting to see the results of the progeny from those two birds in question if, hopefully, they could both be successfully mated that season. As the Spangle was mine I could have kept a close scrutiny on the results. Unfortunately, both birds failed to make it to the breeding pen.


Two changes I would like to see in the Budgerigar Society Colour Standards - 1989 for Recessive Pieds. One is the statement about the number of spots (present from one to full number). There are a huge number of Recessive Pieds that do not have spots at all. One can always see them on the show bench and winning specials. It would be better for that statement to read "present from none to full number". The other regarding wing marking "should not cover more than 15-20% of total area". Again, Recessive Pied breeders will agree with me that it is virtually impossible at times to guarantee such a fine percentage margin. Recessive Pied hens are prone to darker wing markings. Perhaps allowing the flexibility of say up to 30% would be more realistic. The new revised Budgerigar Society Colour Standard - 1994 has gone a long way to satisfy those needed changes.

Another pitfall with this variety is the head quality or rather lack of it. Is it the characteristic of this variety that the heads are small and narrow in general. One cannot say it is because they are recessive variety as the Yellows and Whites which are recessive have the desirable head quality of the big normals.

One cannot help wondering is top specialists have reached the end of the road with advancement with this variety; I hope not...


BS Standardised Scale of Points
Variety Size, shape, balance and deportment Size and shape of headincluding mask and spots Colour Variety markings

Recessive Pied




Points for contract of colours and variegation and % of wing markings.

back.gif (2775 bytes)

Copyright Ghalib Al-Nasser 2000 all rights reserved.