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Budgie parakeets > Exhibition budgerigars
Now for a short description of the ideal to be aimed at; we will take the Light Green as being the standard, and much of what is described as being desirable in this will apply to other varieties.
The bird should be of reasonable size, by no means small but not over big and cumbersome; it should be alert and active but much of this sprightliness has been lost by breeders attempting to produce oversize birds. Such outsize specimens are usually lethargic, nice to look at in a show cage but lacking much of the attractiveness of the smaller bird.
The body as a whole should be shapely and in proportion one part to the other; the head should be bold and wide and have two clearly-defined spots on each side of the centre line; actually there are three spots, but one is hidden in the purple cheek patch on each side. The portion of the mask above the beak should be clear, bright yellow and should extend well back over the top of the head.
The beak should be small and close-fitting; the cere should be smooth and coloured to indicate clearly the sex. Birds out of condition sometimes have ceres of pale putty colour. The neck should be thick and rather short; there should be no indication of where the neck begins and ends; the shape of the head, neck and shoulders should flow smoothly into each other without humps or hollows.
The shoulders should be wide but not prominent; the chest should be deep. The wings should fit closely alongside the body and the tips of the flights should just meet beyond the rump. The waist should be full and deep, not thin and cut away; the legs should be strong and sturdy, capable of holding the bird clear of its perch.
Many oversize birds are too heavy for their legs and, after a time, the legs relax and the bird rests its belly on its perch; this is definitely faulty. The tail should consist of two long, straight feathers neatly packed, i.e., close together and carried in line with the axis of the body; the head should be well held up; the eye should be bold and fearless and situated well down from the top of the skull. Colour should be bright grass-green on body and rump. The mask should be bright, clear yellow, free from flecking, and the wing markings should be deep black and not smoky grey, which is faulty.
How can improvement be effected with existing stock? This is the problem which faces every breeder, be he beginner or old hand. Improvement can only be effected by mating together the best birds one produces in a season; the best cock would naturally require to be mated with the best hen and this, within the limits of colour classes, should be the rule.
If we specialise in breeding light greens we should mate the best light green cock with the best light green hen, then the second best with the next best hen, and so on; from the first pair we expect to get the best young. It doesn't always follow automatically that the best lookers produce the best young but, until intimate knowledge of pedigrees and considerable experience is gained and what is known as the "fancier's eye" has been acquired, the system of mating best to best is the only sound basis on which to begin to build.
Later, when experience has been gained and one knows just what is wanted in an exhibition bird and when one has an intimate knowledge of the stock and the breeding capacity of individual birds, then and only then can the breeder aspire to the higher art of breeding, the mating of relations and the fixation off certain desirable characteristics in the whole stock.
At the commencement there is likely to be wide lack of uniformity; one gets large birds with small spots, large birds which fail in colour, small birds of bright colour with large spots, and so on. It is a matter of wrapping up all the good points in one or two birds to begin with and then, by systematic line-breeding, to introduce these desirable show points into others and, ultimately, to have every member of the breeding team of first-class quality and first-class pedigree, the state where one could show any bird with remarkable hope of success.
This state is difficult to attain, but it can be attained to such an extent that a breeder can scarcely make a mistake in his matings; his birds are uniformly good and they become known on the show bench for their excellence; the breeder's name becomes widely known; his stock is in great demand and by passing on the quality to some other breeder he not only does a service to the hobby as a whole but he enriches himself and really reaches the peak of attainment; the incentive should be not only to breed birds which win innumerable prizes but to pass on the high quality to someone who has been less fortunate or who is perhaps less skilful.
He will find the experienced fancier only too willing to help, not only by selling stock but by giving advice freely from his store of knowledge; the latter is frequently of greater value than the mere acquisition of birds.
The next step in the novice's education should be attendance at shows where he should, if possible, put himself in the hands of an experienced fancier who will indicate the finer points, just the small things which make all the difference between good and excellent birds.