SHORT HISTORY OF BUDGERIGAR COLOURS
by The Late Cyril H Rogers, FBSA
During the year 1840 the famous naturalist Gould brought to England the first pairs of wild caught green budgerigars. Their attractive ways and easy adaptation to cage and aviary life soon made them popular favorites with bird keepers.
The budgerigars in their natural state are all light green but mutations have and do occur in the wild state, both yellow and blue coloured specimens have been seen flying together with the flocks of natural green birds. In the Kensington Natural History Museum, London, England, there is a skin preserved of a dark green budgerigar that was caught wild. Within a few years of their first importation green budgerigars were breeding freely and in 1870 to 1875 a light yellow mutation appeared in England. However, the very first yellow coloured birds to appear as mutation occurred in Europe and there seemed to be 2 distinct kinds, one, the ordinary light yellow with dark eyes, and the other a clear yellow with red eyes. The ordinary dark eyed yellow types were quickly established and it is from these birds that our present day light yellows have descended. Disaster overtook the first red-eyed yellow birds and the strain was not fixed at the time and it was not until many years later that they reappeared again.
During the years 1880-1885 the sky blue mutation occurred also in Europe and the strain was very carefully preserved. These first sky blue birds were not very strong or prolific and it was not until 1910 that the first specimens of this really attractive bird were seen in England.
A number of years went by before any further colour mutations were noted - odd specimens may have occurred but were not noticed by their owners and preserved. In 1915 the dark green budgerigars, or laurel greens as they were first termed, appeared in France, and the following year olive greens were evolved from them. Then came the first of the big colour experiments, the sky blues were crossed with the olive greens and in 1920 the first cobalt budgerigars were bred. In the same year the first white sky blue was raised in England, this was by chance and not be definite colour crossing as with the cobalts. As it would be expected, once cobalt birds were bred it was only a matter of a generation or so before the mauves appeared.
It is not quite clear when the first greywing greens were produced: they were originally called apple greens or jades. However, it is definitely known that they appeared as mutations several times between 1918 and 1925 both in England and Europe. The blue form of the greywings were bred some time during that period by crossing the green type with the ordinary blue and white varieties. The blue form also appeared as a separate and distinct mutation in Germany during 1928 and was quickly established in all the various shades.
Before the greywing types were really well known to breeders many other mutations started to appear in rapid succession in various parts of the world, the keeping and breeding of budgerigars had become so universally popular. Early in 1931 the first of the cinnamon group, originally called cinnamon wings, were produced in England in their light and dark green types. Almost at the same time a cinnamon mutation occurred in Australia quickly followed by a further one in Germany. Since the appearance of the sky blue budgerigar the cinnamon mutation was the most outstanding event in the evolution of colour breeding in budgerigars, the cinnamon being a new and sex-linked character.
The year 1931 also heralded the appearance of a further striking mutation, the red-eyed fallows in their green and yellow types. These first fallows were raised in California and it is to be regretted that these birds did not become established. Fortunately enough an identical mutation put in an appearance in Germany the following season and the majority of fallows seen in England at the present time are descended from this mutation. A year or so later more fallow mutations occurred, both in Australia and South Africa, with another following shortly afterwards in England: all of these strains have been fixed and developed. During 1932 another type of bird having deep plum coloured eyes and similar colouring to the fallows appeared in England and soon became established in many different colours.
Quickly following the German fallow mutation was an albino mutation, which was soon established and both the red-eyed whites and red-eyed yellows were soon seen in considerable numbers both here and in Europe. In the same year an albino mutation occurred in England but was unfortunately lost, but a further red-eyed mutation occurred in 1936, a lutino type this time, and this was fixed. Other clear red-eyed types have appeared in various aviaries but unfortunately exact details of their breeding behavior have been lost.
Somewhere about 1933 the opaline mutation appeared in England, Australia and Holland. All these 3 separate mutations showed exactly the same colouring and behaved in the same way in the breeding pen. The opaline was the second sex-linked type to be produced in the matter of 12 months or so. It is an interesting point to note that the Australian opaline type was evolved from a wild caught opaline light green hen.
1933 Rich in Mutations
The year 1933 was rich in mutations, Australia producing the brilliant clearwings and also the Australian dominant grey. Although the clearwings appeared in Australia in a very fine and brilliant form similar birds had appeared in England and in Europe at odd times but unfortunately the strains had not been perpetuated.
A further type of grey mutation appeared in England during 1934 but this type was recessive, quite the opposite to the Australian form, although almost identical in colour.
In the following year a mutation occurred in several places that rather shook the budgerigar fancy, it was the yellow-faced blue form. The appearance of these strangely coloured birds dispelled the idea that it was not possible to have yellow and white colouring on the same bird.
For a number of years past odd specimens of pied or variegated birds have occurred without a strain being established. However, during 1935 a true breeding strain of yellow and green and blue and white pied types were established in Denmark.
During the war period a further mutation of the opaline form appeared in Belgium. These birds being similar to the opalines in colouring with the exception that all the long flight feathers and long tail feathers are white, in the case of the blue birds, and yellow in the case of the green birds, rather an interesting colour combination.
It will be seen from the above that it is possible to produce a tremendous number of different colours and shades by crossing the already known and distinct varieties. It is likely to be many years before all the possible crosses have been produced. Budgerigar breeders have a very interesting time in front of them, even if no further mutations occur, and this is hardly likely in view of all the other mutations that have occurred.
Since this article was written further mutations have indeed occurred, including Spangles, Clearbodies and Saddlebacks