|The Budgerigar Council of Victoria Inc (A10055P)|
|The Greywing Mutation
Alistair Holmes © 2003
The Greywing continues to be bred quite widely in Australia although it has suffered as a result of the importation of birds from the UK. Very few Greywings were included in the imports that occurred in the early 1990's and many of the successful Greywings shown in recent years have been bi-products rather than the outcome of a breeding program dedicated to breeding the variety. In the UK at some point in the past it became common practice to combine the Greywing and Cinnamon varieties into a single show class. The relative ease of breeding Cinnamons meant that they dominated the classes and breeders lost the incentive to breed Greywings. The advantage Cinnamons enjoy is apparent in Australian Opaline AOV classes where few Opaline Greywings are seen and it is rare indeed for the class to be won by anything other than an Opaline Cinnamon. In recent years good Greywings have appeared in the UK from time to time, but it seems that no one actively sets out to breed the variety. We may be in danger of going down the same track in Australia.
The ANBC Championship show was designed to complement the Inter Branch and Shield Competitions that are run in a number of states. These competitions have been a powerful mechanism for the protection of the full range of varieties and have been a constant encouragement to breeders to devote time, energy and resources to breeding birds of all varieties. Unfortunately it has become apparent that there has been a decline in the standard of some varieties in their representation of the characteristics of the variety. The new ANBC Standard clarifies some of the issues relating to a number of varieties, among them Greywings. In this article I will discuss some of the problems that breeders and exhibitors of Greywings face.
There are two fundamental problems that face the Greywing breeder; the variation that can occur in the depth of colour and marking in Greywings and the tendency for Black Eyed Self Colour birds to appear in Greywing breeding programs and even sometimes to be confused with Greywings. I will deal with each in turn.
Variation in colour and intensity in the Greywing
The evidence does not support this theory. If these darker birds are a combination of the Greywing and Clearwing the result of mating two dark Greywings together should be to produce offspring in the ratio 1:2:1 light Greywing: dark Greywing: Clearwing. In fact, mated together they do not produce any Clearwings among their progeny. They may produce examples of the two forms of Greywing, but I know of no cases where a Clearwing has been produced from such a mating. Of course, this may be because no one has bothered to report such a result or it may be that the Clearwings produced from such a mating have such heavy markings in the wing that they look like Greywings. I would suggest that birds that look like Greywings probably are Greywings. If there are recorded breeding results showing that Clearwings can be bred from dark Greywing to dark Greywing matings I would be most interested in the details.
Further, the Clearwing mutation had not been identified by 1933, yet the two levels of intensity in the Greywing had already been well established. This is illustrated clearly in the books of the time and was included in the NSW Standard of 1936. It seems more likely that modifying genes were already present in the Normal budgerigars and when the Greywing mutation appeared these modifiers were expressed in the breeding of the new variety. The variation in the intensity of the colour of the wild budgerigar is well noted, to the extent that some authorities have suggested that in the wild there are two races of budgerigars - a dark form and a pallid form. Certainly the breeding patterns of Greywings are consistent with this idea.
I think it is likely that we observe these intensification genes at work in many varieties of the modern bird. The existence of such genes is suggested by the variability in the intensity of the colour of most other varieties. Often judges remark on the intensity of colour some Normal birds shown and breeders of varieties such as Fallows or Lutinos know that strongly coloured birds pass on this characteristic to their young. I am sure this intensity is driven by genetic factors and I suspect that there may be two genes at work. When the two genes are present the full effect on the body colour and the markings is visible.
The Standard for Greywing in Australia calls for this intensity and judges penalise the lighter coloured and more lightly marked birds. In a Greywing breeding program breeders should select for darkness and intensity. The best mating is to mate two strongly coloured and marked birds together. If I am correct that the feature is controlled by the genes it can be expected that lightly marked or lightly coloured birds will appear among the young, but that the majority of young will be like their parents in these respects. Light coloured Greywings should be discarded if possible.
In practice most Greywing breeders are not in a position to discard light coloured Greywings and must use them in some way. How should they set out to improve them? Many people advise using dark factor birds such as Dark Green and Cobalts. This will go some way towards addressing the challenge, but is not the whole answer. After all, we do want to breed Greywing Light Greens and Skyblues. I would recommend seeking Normals that show intensity and brightness of colour as outcrosses. Another worthwhile outcross would be a strongly coloured Lutino. Many years ago breeders commonly interbred Greywings and Lutinos and I believe the reason they did so was that each variety requires the same colour intensifying gene and its presence is very visible in a Lutino. Perhaps it might be worthwhile experimenting with Lutinos that show markings Ė it is a fault in the Lutino variety, but may well have a positive effect on Greywings. If I can find a good enough Lutino carrying this fault I will carry out the experiment. Mating dark and light Greywings together does not produce an intermediate version, just examples of each.
Good record keeping is essential, too. As well as recording the variety of the birds in our Greywing matings we should record their depth of markings and the strength of their body colour. We should record the same aspects in their offspring. In a short time it would be possible to distinguish how the genes are operating and we would be able to make decisions about whether or not to retain particular birds on the basis of more complete knowledge.
The Yellow mutation
Other problems for Greywing breeders