Give Judges A Break

There have always been poor judges since there have been judges. That has always been true, at least in the perspective of exhibitors. Is it simply terrible judgment that drives away exhibitors? It is quite unusual to find a football fan who is objective about their own team. Regardless of the fact that their center striker stumbled a yard from the penalty spot. He was obviously scythed down inside the box. “Penalty referee,” and if the official disagrees, he’s obviously blind. Perish the notion that the fan, when it comes to topics close to home, could be seeing the situation through rose-colored glasses. I was reminded of such beliefs lately when I couldn’t pick up a bird magazine without reading yet another vitriolic onslaught on our judges. Much of it felt unjust, unfounded, and lacking in impartiality.

A Matter of Opinion

What exactly is judging? It is the application of a set of established rules and circumstances. There is a point scale to consider, a visual ideal, and color guidelines for each type. Remember that color standards range from one another, with the scale of points varying based on the variation. There are even two visual ideals, one for each gender. Finally, although condition is highlighted as “important,” no points are assigned to this attribute of the exhibition bird. The text states Flecking must be punished, but by how much?
Are you thinking about becoming a judge? It is not simple. In the end, everything boils down to personal preference. Set firmly inside the framework given by everything I’ve discussed before, yet still subjective. Different judges perceive different parts of judgment in different ways. Some punish flecking heavily, while others tolerate little flecking. Others, on the other hand, may be excessively indulgent with flecked birds. Why else do flecked birds earn CCs and significant specialties? Spangle spots and the absence of spots on Dominant Pieds are two further areas where judgement may and does differ. I’m being cautious not to state which interpretation is incorrect since it’s not appropriate for me to do so, despite the fact that I’m a judge and have passed the BS exam to become one. Others, some of whom are not judges, are not so reserved. It is obvious that many of our most frequent judges are hesitant to criticize judging standards. Perhaps they are all too aware of the dangers.

Some Myths

It’s long been claimed that judges glance at the cage numbers. “The low numbers are on the left again,” an exhibitor will remark. To be honest, I don’t get it, and I’m sure that if someone did their research, we’d discover that more beginning and novice Budgerigars are earning CCs and big specials today than ever before. Because novices and beginning have better birds, not because judges are better or less prejudiced. Is it any surprise, therefore, that champions win more specials than inferior sections? If this were not the case, we may have greater reason to doubt our judgment criteria. Do we really expect Bowley, Topliss, Snell, the Norris and Heale partnerships to choose only a few top champions without having the advantage, with their years of success and knowledge, over most beginning and novice birds the majority of the time?

Judges Are Elected Every Year

Articles claiming such prejudice are detrimental to every single BS judge and the Budgerigar Society. Can judges truly live if they put the incorrect bird first? Talk of cartels hurts the hobby, especially when no evidence is provided. Let politicians deal with sleaze. Every five years, they must be re-elected. Mick Freeborn, a frequent visitor to my birdroom and aviary, is one of my greatest friends in the sport. Despite this, he put a superb Grey Green cock of mine second in the class last year. I had great expectations for the bird, but they were crushed. I’m not sure whether he recognized the bird, but he put it where he felt it belonged. That was almost the day I failed to practice what I preach! Every year, when clubs choose the judges for the upcoming event, judges are eligible for election. How long would a judge’s reputation last if he consistently got it incorrect for whatever reason? Engagements would dwindle. Everyone in your neighborhood undoubtedly knows an elderly judge who is no longer active because he or she has not kept up with recent advancements in the exhibition bird.
Judges are often accused of placing well-known birds with a track record of success. Yet how frequently are judges chastised when the bird that won last week or two weeks ago is defeated? Exhibitors are often guilty of “judging by reputation,” in my experience. Some birds always win, or are constantly in contention to win. Other birds get their “day in the sun” as well. They win, and if the exhibitor is truthful, they understand that the bird is unlikely to win again. It does not imply that the judge was incorrect; rather, the conditions that led to the victory are unlikely to be reproduced. Although the competition was not the finest, the bird was in excellent shape, sat perfectly, and “blew” at the correct moment. Other birds that could and would have defeated it on another day were either out of shape or “acted up” at the crucial time.

Several Options Are Best

Last year, I won six different Lutino CCs. Which one do I believe is the best? It won best Lutino at the Club Show and was featured in the January edition of The Budgerigar. However, it is not the greatest Lutino I have in everyone’s opinion, and it may not be the best at every exhibition, depending on condition and how it presents itself at the moment of truth. As a result, I often exhibit five or six Lutino cocks. In 1996, another of my birds in the class defeated the identical bird twice. He once won the class but lost the championship to my own hen. I was relieved when a judge decided another of my birds was worthy of defeating the huge cock. With three other Lutinos, I can now declare I defeated the finest Lutino in Doncaster. The most astonishing judging complaint, and you will hear it at every show this year if you listen, is “I won, but you know I should have won with my Green cock, Blue hen, etc.” Imagine Alex Ferguson whining that the winning goal in the Cup Final was scored by the incorrect player! Many exhibitors just display one bird each class. I only exhibit one Light Green or Grey Green cock, but I will display more when I have greater depth of quality, such as my Lutinos.

Clearly Interpretations Differ

Judging is a matter of opinion or, more accurately, interpretation. Going around demonstrates that the standard, scale of points, and graphical ideal are all viewed differently by various individuals. How else might flecked budgies receive significant honors, including some”CCs? How much flecking is excessive? Personally, I am particularly tough on Lutinos who have any green suffusion. Judges’ interpretations of punishing bad Spangle spots, for example, differ. Some judges may be harsher on Dominant Pieds who lack a complete set of spots. I’m not claiming that any judge is correct or incorrect. It is not appropriate for me to decide which of the several degrees of judgment is the best. I’ve seen Spangle and Pied certificates awarded to birds who didn’t have a complete set of spots. Exhibitors will often argue that when would a Light Green or Grey Green win a CC with a space or spot missing? Again, the analogy is not accurate. At most shows, there are much more Light or Grey Greens than Dominant Pieds. Would the CC still be won by a Grey Green if the winning Dominant Pied was a Grey Green and the other Grey Greens were as scarce and of comparable quality? Many times, the response is that a case might be made that it would. Spangles are often as many as several of the Standard colors. There aren’t many numbers with the original Spangle commercials. Is it implausible that a judge would be forced to award one Cinnamon as best of color if most Cinnamons may be condemned on the spot?

Do Bad Spangles Beat Good Ones?

Is it true that Spangles with excellent head quality and size, as well as good Spangle markings and spots, are being defeated by Spangles with equal quality but inferior Spangle markings? I sincerely doubt that, just as I have yet to be persuaded that when a Dominant Pied without all of its spots wins, the second best bird in the class is a gorgeous bird with all of its spots. The mistake made by “the critics” is to look at the winner and compare it to a bird that only exists in their heads. What they truly mean is, “a bird with such a flaw should not win.” I’m sure the judge would frequently agree or sympathize with this point of view. The judge, on the other hand, cannot afford to think in such abstract terms. The judge “lives in the real world,” and as such, must choose the bird with the greatest overall performance, regardless of flaws. Do exhibitors check over every other Blue in the exhibition to determine whether the best Blue was really a horrible decision? Even if this occurs on a rare occasion, they are at a twofold disadvantage. To begin with, many hours have passed, and we all know that birds change. Second, only the judge and his stewards are allowed to compare the birds side by side. Few shows arrange their birds such that all of the Blues, for example, are together. People evaluate the novice bird after walking through two rows of staging to compare it to the intermediate bird. If it is so simple to have an accurate mental image of a bird, why do we frequently advise individuals when purchasing birds to “take one of your best birds with you”? We do so because too many customers have brought their buy home just to discover that it does not compare favorably to their current stock.

Judging is Judging

I also disagree with the premise that we want specialized judges, and I say this as a specialist breeder of Lutinos. Some expert breeders, I believe, believe that if we just had specialist judges, “my Lutinos would win,” or “my Clearwings would win,” or “my Crests would win.” Is this supported by evidence? Consider assessing as a whole, rather than just one show. Albinos, Recessives, and Crests that win under expert judges are, for the most part, the same ones that win under ordinary judges. Though I breed Lutinos, my goal is to give them the same head, size, and style that I strive for in my Normals. If you can judge, you should be just as at ease with a Whitewing as you are with a Grey Green. After all, while deciding on best in show or best young bird, you’ll be comparing birds of different shapes and sizes.

Clubs Can Play A Part

Show venues differ and might have an impact on judging. I loathe having too little staging and may get “pushy” if I don’t have enough to properly stage the birds. I prefer to have three layers, each of which can hold seven birds. Last year, I judged 33 beginner birds of any age. I requested more staging. Some judges may not be so bold, resulting in cages on top of cages with birds sitting on the floor. I believe that by creating a nuisance of myself, I am helping the exhibitor. Light is one thing that especially affects Redeyes. There is seldom anything incorrect, however there may be insufficient natural light or dark-colored walls. It is more difficult to assess Lutinos or Albinos and discern those regions of blue and green feathering that sometimes peek through in such conditions. In reality, most clubs do well considering the expense of venues.

My Method

I make no claim to special merit in my approach; after all, I just passed my judging exam in 1994, but I have never regarded myself to be under time constraints. It is up to the show’s administration to take action if there is an issue. To be honest, I don’t mind if I finish my judgement last. Because of the colors you have, you may complete rapidly. The next week, you will be judging the Greens, Cinnamons, and Lutinos. You risk making mistakes if you attempt to complete before the man completing the Crests, Recessives, and Greys. Having said that, I feel that initial impressions are often true. Unless you notice a missing spot, tail, or flights, the winner is generally the one with the best head, size, and kind. I am a big fan of the judges’ training program, which I feel helped me grow as a judge. I attempted to absorb the positive aspects of the nine judges that evaluated me. In addition, the modification proposed by the BS General Council and approved at the AGM is a beneficial one. Allowing intermediates to join the program is, in my opinion, forward thinking. After two years, I am less optimistic about the show cage adjustments, which, although beneficial, do not go far enough. The slant on the cage roof, in my opinion, should have been eliminated. Today, we have several quite large birds that just cannot be accommodated in either the old or new cage. I also want all judges deciding on best in show. With the rule that a bird must get a majority of votes to win best in show, we made a step ahead. A bird may no longer win best in show if it receives three votes and two other birds get two votes apiece. Nonetheless, if only three judges out of five chose, two votes constitute a majority; however, three judges did not choose or were unable to determine the winner. The main specialities should be decided by all of the judges.

Less Than 1 An Hour

As we enter the 1997 show season, I hope this essay causes one or two of you to pause and reflect. Consider the judge, who may have traveled 100 miles from home on average. A two-hour travel there and back, for a total of four hours. Judging and waiting a respectable amount of time after the event opens implies that a day that began at 6.30am will conclude at 5.30pm. Excluding gas costs, the price for the 11 hours spent away from wife and family is likely to be ten dollars. We’ve heard about a minimum pay of $3.50 to $4 per hour. Now, I would not advocate for judges to begin collecting more reasonable fees for their time and services. I volunteer with South Hampshire BS and am well aware of the financial difficulties that most clubs face. To put the task of judging in context, even the much-maligned football referee I mentioned before does not endure so much abuse for so little pay. Give the judges a break this show season.

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