Exhibiting Lovebirds: A Novice Perspective


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Where do I even begin? My very first lovebird was a SplitCinnamino. I believe I initially heard about shows when looking for bird fairs in my neighborhood. In 2003, I went to my first gig in Chicago. I awoke at 6 a.m., thinking it was the first light of day, and dragged myself and my favorite lovebird, a Splitcinnamino, in his white cage to the Chicago exhibit. My bird was the only one in a non-show cage, so he did stick out a little. The little N in the upper left corner of my tag was perhaps unnecessary. Little did I know that in my future trips to performances, 6AM would be lovely and much superior than midnight travels or 3AM inter and intra-state speeding sessions. My Splitcinnamino was the only Australian Cinnamon variant I’d ever seen, and the amount of lovebirds there astounded me. I’d never seen so many before. I had no clue what to do or how to fill out the tag, but after asking around, my bird was assigned to the Australian Cinnamon Green class. It may have been assigned to the AOC class, but I didn’t know what it was at the time. It was then that I recognized my Sunny (yeah, really unique) was incredibly brilliant and golden in comparison to the other Australian Cinnamons, who had a lovely green hue to their yellow feathers. And thus the learning process started… Linda Brandt was the first person to approach me during the exhibition, followed by Doree Bedwell. It was lovely of them to do so since it meant that whenever I went to a play, I’d meet familiar people. There was also one exhibitor who said to me, “You traveled all the way here and just brought one bird?” My suggestion is to not be intimidated by folks like these. Also, the remark wasn’t necessarily intended negatively; they presumably had to travel for many hours, when I simply had an hour. We’re all at various phases of displaying, and it was my first time presenting lovebirds. Sunny did not get any honors that day, but she did receive a third-place sticker in her class. I, on the other hand, took a lot of notes and knew I had to see another play. Why? I wasn’t certain.

Before the show season was through, I had obtained 11 exhibition cages at a reduced price, which I brought home and restored with Monet precision and care using bird toxic-free black and white spray paint. I now had more exhibition cages than birds to fill them. There are some really fine new lock and key cages available, but for Novices seeking for older cages, the best thing to do is ask other ALBS members if they know of any for sale. I’ve done this twice, and both times they were able to point me in the direction of someone who had antique show cages for sale that just needed a little TLC. Buying vintage show cages allowed me to meet some of the exhibitors who had won Higgins Awards at earlier Nationals, such as Bob Ziegler and the Almy’s. Knowing exhibitor history is beneficial since they have a wealth of expertise to provide. “There have been a lot of Champions formed in those cages,” one exhibitor told me.

I met Doug Bedwell at the GLAS exhibition in Michigan. “Wow, this is the person who created the lovebird genetics calculator I’ve been using!” I thought when I heard his name. “Find a mutant you really like and work with it,” Doug advised me that day. He also told me, “Think about breeding for what you want in two generations or more.” Breed for size first, then for color.” I immediately discovered that finding two ideal birds with everything you desire is really difficult. I had already decided on my favorite, the Whiteface Violet Pied, a long time ago. And it was quite difficult to locate. I had been looking for it for about a year and had finally acquired a gorgeous bird from Barb Theeke. I told myself that because I couldn’t locate any, I’d simply manufacture my own from now on. And I did just that. Every Whiteface Violet Pied is a kaleidoscope of hues, some in patches, others in a combination of yellow, purple, and white where one color stops and another starts. I like pieds since no two are same, and when combined with violet and whiteface, their beauty becomes more more complicated and exquisite. Then you add a dark element, or a double violet, and the bird’s attractiveness alters somewhat and deepens to another color. Soon after, I discovered that the phrases pied and symmetry should go together but often did not. But that’s a different narrative and a different issue. I also discovered that both violet and pied might possibly reduce a bird’s size, thus size became an even more concern.

My first show season was gone before I knew it, and although I was upset that I hadn’t won anything, not even a modest section medal, I was eager for more. Unfortunately, I had to wait almost 7 months until the next concert. The 7-month wait was unsettling, as it is for many individuals. The joy of seeing your birds on the stand, the thrill of the display. The 7-month gap was beneficial since it allowed me to work with my new birds.

My second show season began at the Illini Bird Fanciers, and I was ecstatic about my new Whiteface Medium Double Violet and Whiteface Violet Pied progeny, among others. My juvenile Whiteface Medium Violet lovebird, which I nurtured and banded, was awarded “Best Unflighted.” This one ribbon meant so lot to me because it confirmed that I was, maybe, just maybe, on the right route. Best Novice was still out of reach for me. There are five beginner prizes in SPBE, but only one in ALBS. More Novice prizes, in my opinion, are necessary since winning motivates Novices to return the next year and bring more birds. However, when novices attend a few of shows and return home with no medals and no validation of what they’re doing, it may be depressing. For exhibitors that have been exhibiting for many years, the ribbons themselves don’t mean much; what matters is knowing that they are doing something right in their breeding program by breeding to a standard and witnessing the fruits of their hard work and spreading the specifications. For Novices, comprehension is something that is learnt and developed through time rather than something that is instantly understood. Confirmation from other exhibitors is also beneficial. That second show season, the purple Best Unflighted medal was the sole ribbon I received from ALBS.

After the second show season, I realized I needed to add some fresh stock to my aviary. One thing I learnt was to get birds from other successful exhibitors. Work from the bloodlines they’ve established. Don’t expect a bird from the pet shop or a local breeder/non-exhibitor to meet the requirement. Of course, every now and then, an amazing bird may appear at a pet shop, but as a beginner, you may not be able to identify them for their potential.

Another issue I had was that I couldn’t hand feed my lovebirds due of my job schedule. According to everything I’d read and everyone I’d spoken to, handfed lovebirds were generally bigger, calmer, and made better display birds. So I discovered a buddy in the local bird club who hand fed birds to remedy this issue. Darla Dandre then became the lovebirds’ hand feeder. And I could notice the size difference between the small Dutch Blue and his prior parent-raised siblings with the first chick she brought me back. Even my wife, whose only interest in lovebirds stems from our marriage, could tell. (I’ve been working on her; she’s getting better.) Of course, there are certain lovebird parents who are amazing feeders and will fill their chicks better than or as good as any human could, and then there are others who do not.

Another thing I learnt is that it is critical to observe the sorts of birds that each exhibitor brings to the show table. Some focus on Rares and Eyerings, while others specialize in American Cinnamons, Whiteface Violets, or Opalines. There were no American Cinnamons at one of the shows I attended, and I had a Whiteface American Cinnamon at home with clipped wings that I couldn’t bring with me. At another, there were only three rares and eyerings, and at one, there were only two Longfeathers, both of which were mine. Many exhibitors have certain mutations that produce the best display birds. This is significant since they are the folks from whom you want to purchase that specific mutation. When you look at seasoned exhibitors who have been displaying for a long time, you will see that they plan out what they will bring. They send birds that they believe the judges would like. They bring immature unfledged birds or fresh birds to assess their potential. They often bring additional birds with good genetics. They may bring fewer birds in an area where they know they will not be able to compete, particularly if another exhibitor usually consistently wins in that division.

Take notice of the birds that won at the events as well. I’ve seen several combos that I would never have thought to attempt to make. There are approximately 5000 varieties, and it’s difficult to conceive of them all. However, once you see it, you can imagine it and work from there. When you get home, make a list of all the prospective pairings you want to explore, and then adapt your breeding program to match what you want to generate and observe in your kids. Coming up with your next probable coupling and future kids might be really thrilling.

I’ve certainly been disheartened at shows because I didn’t feel like I was increasing the show quality of my stock. This was not the case since I had been introducing fresh blood into my aviary as well as growing and working with better birds. This everything takes time and does not happen overnight. There were undoubtedly occasions when I wondered, “Why did I come today?” I went to a few of concerts that would not have been significant shows without my birds. Thinking about this helped me feel better since my birds did have a purpose. My birds were able to assist other birds achieve champion status and bring other exhibitors closer to their own objectives. I discovered that ALBS can only succeed as a whole. Novices are valuable because they may introduce fresh ideas and perspectives to the organization. They may also carry on the effort that others have put into their birds and lineages.

Another issue is that some beginners feel uncomfortable about showcasing other people’s birds. Do not be discouraged!! Everyone I know began by exhibiting a bird with someone else’s band. Even if you have a good bird, you must still put in the effort to train and condition it. Also, when your bird wins, not only do you win, but the breeder from whom you purchased the bird also wins. It informs everyone that they have excellent ancestors and are doing the correct thing.

My wife and I relocated shortly after the second season of the program owing to a work change. One of my primary needs for a home was the ability to have an aviary. My real estate agent was also aware of this. I’m not sure when lovebirds became such a significant part of my life. My wife (God Bless Her) backed me through all of this, possibly against her better judgment. We were eventually able to locate such a location.

I put my birds out a week before my first show in my third year showing(2005), and I employed a strategy I learnt from one of the judges. I covered the bottom of the cage with paper, and they had to perch in order to see outside the cage. (Alternatively, ping-pong balls or flipping the cage upside down may be used.) I performed this as well as practicing perching them with the chopstick (the judge’s unique instrument). For those of you who know me, we have a lot of them throughout the house. I believe I had one in each corner of the table. At the show, the judge complimented my Unflighted Green Violet, stating it’s a fine bird that would sit anytime he wanted. That meant a lot to me since it confirmed that I was performing the appropriate sort of training for my birds and that the work I invested in the previous week was worthwhile. Best Novice went to my Green Pied Violet, and Best Unflighted went to my American Cinnamon Opaline. My Green Pied Violet was developed from a Whiteface Pied Violet progeny that I had worked on raising to bigger birds and into several classifications. This was my first time winning Best Novice. It wasn’t so much about the ribbons as it was about the joy of being able to produce and train two high-quality birds while also contributing to something bigger. I’m hoping to keep going in the correct path.

The emphasis for a Novice should be on learning rather than getting a ribbon. Of course, this is far easier said than done. Some things to discover include which of your birds has the ability to achieve well. Also, just because a bird does not show well does not indicate that it cannot have good-showing offspring, particularly if the bird comes from strong bloodlines. After the presentation, if you have any questions about a bird, you may always ask the judge. They’ve always been more than happy to answer any queries I’ve had. You should also discover what the standard is for the mutation you’re displaying. The whiter the face of a Whiteface Violet, for example, the better. A pied should be as symmetrical as possible. How far down does an Opaline’s crimson hood extend? Or what distinguishes a Longfeather from a regular. You may even ask the judge whether your bird has a chance of making it to the top bench. If they say yes, you must figure out what you must do to get this bird there. Conditioning and training might be included. It’s possible that it’s not taking the bird out as it’s going to lay an egg. And if none of your birds ever have an opportunity, you may need to get some new birds to display. This very likely entails purchasing fresh stock and bloodlines from other exhibitors. If you go to show after show and you bring the same birds that end up placing at the end of their class and section every time, you need to find out why, and do something about it, else you will become discouraged. It could be size, conformation, or many things. Look at what the winning birds are, and why they win. Also, it’s good to know what each judges’ likes and dislikes are. There’s at least 1 judge who doesn’t take off as many points for unsymmetrical pieds(which is usually a must), there are judges who favor certain mutations, and there are other judges who do not like messy show boxes and unclean perches. Sometimes other exhibitors will tell you these things and other times you just have to attend the shows and watch.

One thing that I still struggle with(among the many) is which birds do I sell and which do I keep? I do have next generation birds that I’m now breeding out to other birds for size and other color variations, but I wish I had kept more. I always had a fear that I would end up with too many birds, and now I wish I had kept more. My advice for novices is to keep more of them and weigh them and bring them to shows. I know that for some breeders, the bare minimum requirement for them to even keep a peachfaced bird(unless it’s a rare mutation or color variation) is 60-70g. And then on top of that, they will look at the other show attributes. Whereas there are other breeders, who may only keep 1 out of every 50 birds, because that is the only 1 they think is worthy of the top bench. As a Novice, I don’t have as many birds or as many young as many of the more experienced breeders. That’s why it’s even more important that the birds I do sell are not the ones that I really should be keeping. A good thing to do is to keep them and bring them to a show and have the judge tell you.

My experience showing as a new exhibitor has been fun, discouraging at times, and also quite exciting. At the end of the day, I have learned more about lovebirds than I could ever have hoped for. I have made friends and have begun to feel that I’m contributing to an organization that promotes something larger than I could ever do by myself. I know now why I go back again and again and will probably for a long time. I would like to thank Linda Brandt and Doree Bedwell for their help, encouragement, and support. I know that without them encouraging me onwards, I would have stumbled and never gotten up. They were my Ribbons and my Novice awards.

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