Breeding the Crested Budgerigar: Origin, Types, Genetics & Mutation Colors


The Crested Budgerigar is not the result of a recent mutation, an aberrant proliferation of feathers, nor is it in any way connected to other species of “feather-dusters.” However, it is a naturally occurring mutation that owes nothing to man for its appearance, save for its development. The only thing that man is responsible for is the mutation’s development. This mutation causes the feathers, in certain limited sections of the bird’s body, to change the direction of their growth, causing feather disruptions. This mutation only affects certain limited areas of the bird’s body.

The earliest instance of a Crested mutation that has been documented took place in Sydney, Australia, in the year 1920. It is likely that the Australian strain of Crests descended from this particular bird. At that time, there was no regulation in place to prevent the export of Crested birds, therefore it is possible that some of these birds were transported to other nations. But here at the CBC, we are of the opinion that the Crested variation, just like some of the other Budgerigar variants, has more than one origin (e.g., Yellow-Face and Opaline). According to the records, further Crested mutants made their debut on the continent of Europe shortly prior to the start of the second World War. It is likely that these were the source of the Crested variety that quickly swept across Europe in the brief time before the war.

There is documented evidence that another Crested mutant appeared in Canada in the year 1948. This bird is the progenitor of the Crest family in the United States, although the path that was taken to get there was not the most direct one. The United States of America illegally imported crested birds from Mexico. The Crests that were brought into this country from Canada in the early 1950s are the ancestors of the Crests that were brought into this country from this country. This serves as an excellent illustration of the capacity of a variety to rapidly spread around the globe in a relatively short amount of time.

In 1938, Mrs. R. Brown of Morecambe, Lancs. was the first person in this country to import examples of the Crest. These examples originated from an Australian variety. By 1938, they had begun to reproduce without restriction.

The above mutations are typically referred to as the “Continental strain” and the “American strain” by those of us living in the United Kingdom. The sole difference between the two strains is where the center (or locus) of the Crest is located. The breeding strategy for both strains is exactly the same. The center of the crest on a bird of the Continental Strain is located immediately above the cere, which results in a powerful splay of feathers that bend over the head and descend to eye level. The center of the Crest on the American strain is significantly further back on the head than it is on the European strain. This causes the feathers to stand more or less upright, with a splay occurring only at the ends, if at all. However, due to the fact that these two strains have interbred over the course of time, it is now possible for either strain to create the other.

Type of Crest

There are three distinct varieties of Crest: tufted, half-circular, and round in its whole. The Budgerigar Society has validated and acknowledged the standard and graphic ideal that were both developed by the Canadian Budgerigar Club (CBC). However, when it comes to a feather mutation such as this one, the myriad different varieties of feather disturbance and the amount of uplift prevent the CBC from applying its rules in an overly rigid manner. The criteria, on the other hand, do serve as a guide for both judges and breeders. The level of neatness of the Crest, as opposed to its shape, is the primary factor that will be taken into consideration during the judging process. The most frequent type of crest is known as the tufted type (also known as the Cockatiel type), and it can range from a slight disturbance on the head to a robust tuft. However, there should always be an upright crest of feathers rising just above the cere, and its height should range from a quarter of an inch to three-eighths of an inch. The type of Crest that is a half-circle is the next most prevalent type. This style of crest should consist of feathers dropping or rising in a fringe above the cere, arranged in the shape of a half-circle. It’s important that the feathers near the crown of the head are relatively flat. The full circular form of Crest wraps completely around the head and ought to be a flat, round Crest with the feathers spreading outward from the center of the head. This kind is the most aesthetically pleasing, making it the most popular among fanciers.

There is an infinite number of ways in which each category of Crest can be customized. If the locus of the crest is moved ever-so-slightly to one side of the head, the result will be a crest that seems to be asymmetrical. However, this will not in any way affect the pattern of their reproductive behavior. There are even some birds that have two crests on their heads, which gives them a very messy appearance. These birds have one crest in the front and an additional feather disturbance directly behind it. There is also something called a “Frilled” form of Crest, which appears once in a while. Not only on the top of the head and at the back of the skull, but also in the space between the wings, the feathers of birds of this kind are messed up in a way that seems like a disturbance. “Crest-bred” birds are the offspring of Crest matings that do not produce crested offspring. These birds cannot be distinguished from regular Budgerigars in any way. However, the value of Crest-bred birds greatly increases for the development of Crested offspring when they are mated with Crested partners. As a result, it is essential to maintain an accurate record of their identities.

Crest Genetics

It is not feasible to categorize the Crest gene as either dominant or recessive, nor can it be related to either sex in any way. Crest genetics are notoriously complicated. When a Crest is bred with another Crest, the likelihood of producing crested offspring is higher than when a Crest is bred with a pure normal. This means that the Crest gene cannot be entirely dominant like the Grey or Dominant Pied genes (i.e., a bird with no Crest background). If a crested parent is mated to a regular one, the offspring may still have the crested trait. On the other hand, the Crest gene cannot be entirely recessive because crested progeny can be created from a first cross between a Crest and a pure normal. This indicates that crested progeny can be formed from a cross between a Crest and a normal. Because of this, members of the CBC never refer to the offspring of non-crested parents as “splits,” but rather as “Crest-breds.” There is no connection between the “Crest-bred” birds and the “split” birds, such as those with recessive pieds or sex-linked opalines, for example. We have also found that the principles that regulate the sex-linkage hypothesis do not help in explaining Crest genetics. This is due to the fact that there is no difference between the genetic potential of cocks and that of hens. Moreover, the sex-linkage theory has been disproven.

The “Initiator” Theory

In point of fact, I have been breeding this variety since 1971, and during that time I have come to the realization (which is shared by the few genuine geneticists involved in the fancy) that the Crest gene exhibits behaviors consistent with that of a semi-dominant allele when compared to the wild type.

Throughout the years, other hypotheses concerning the genetics of the Crest have been proposed; nevertheless, the “Initiator Theory” is the one that the CBC has chosen to support. This idea, which was proposed in June 1970 by Dr. J. E. Fox of Kansas University, in the United States, superseded his prior theory, which he referred to as the “Inhibitor Theory,” and which he published in Cage and Aviary Birds on May 28, 1964. According to the “Initiator Theory,” the formation of a crest is dependent on the complementary action of two types of semi-dominant genes: a gene that initiates the formation of the crest, and a gene that determines the appearance of the crest. The Crest is tufted when both of these factors are present as a single factor; it is half-circular when there is one inhibitor and two determiners; and it is fully circular when there are two inhibitors and either one or two determiners. In addition, according to this idea, if there is only one semi-dominant gene present in the bird but not the other, then there would be no visible crest on the bird, and it will be classified as a Crest-bred (which is different from the pure normals which have no Crested genes).

Breeding with Crests

Even if the “Initiator Theory” is proven to be correct, there is still a certain portion of the breeding pattern of Crests that has not been adequately explained. Although the Crest type, when bred with a Crest-bred, can produce any other types of Crest, we can say with absolute certainty that Crests as a variety are true breeding in terms of the transmission of the visual Crest character. This is one of the things that sets them apart from other varieties of Crest. That is to say, a Tuft paired to a Crest-bred has the potential to produce all three varieties of Crests; a circular Crest paired to a Crest-bred also has the potential to produce all three varieties of Crests; and finally, a circular Crest paired to a Crest-bred also has the potential to produce all three varieties of Crests. The parentage of the Crest-bred is the primary consideration in this case.

In order to make my explanation of the breeding pattern for this variety as simple as possible, I will use the term “Crest” to refer to any sort of Crest, regardless of whether it is male or female.

  • Crested Crested matings will yield the greatest number of Crested offspring in addition to a small number of Crest-bred offspring. However, in my opinion, there is little benefit to be obtained from such pairings as they will almost always result in the production of Crests that are of low quality and have very little substance.
  • Crest Crest-bred matings will generate Crested progeny with the next highest proportion possible, in addition to Crest-breds and pure normals (with no Crest background). In point of fact, this is the kind of combination that is recommended the most for the purpose of keeping one’s size and type consistent. It is essential, when employing this combination, that the Crest-bred come from a pairing in which at least one parent was visibly Crested. This is because the Crest-bred will have a better chance of inheriting the trait.
  • Crest and normal matings will result in the birth of a few Crest offspring, although the majority of the offspring will be Crest-bred or normal. However, in order to increase the size and quality of Crests and Crest-breds, it is sometimes necessary to engage in this type of mating. The usual parent that is utilized, on the other hand, ought to be of exceptional size and type.
  • Crest-bred by Crest-bred by Crest-bred and Crest-bred by Crest-bred have been known to produce the odd Crested bird through normal matings. (This demonstrates that the Crest gene has a more significant role in character than simply being dominant.) However, unless one is breeding for the pet market, it is not recommended to use this mating for Crest production because a large amount of “waste” is created by the offspring of this pairing.

The twisted appearance of the stubble on the head of a Crested chick in the nest can be used to differentiate it from a non-Crested chick in the nest as early as 12 days after the chick’s birth. On the other hand, it’s possible that the type of Crest won’t be able to be identified until the chick is three weeks old.

In closing, it is my sincere hope that I have been successful in conveying some facts on the Crested variety and have whetted the appetites of those who are interested in the breed. The variation does present a difficulty in terms of breeding for color, in addition as breeding for crest.

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