During the course of my 26 years spent caring for and raising Budgerigars, it is common knowledge that I have maintained a lifelong fascination with color mutations as well as specialist variations. To the astonishment of many, this does not deter me from the objective of breeding and exhibiting quality budgerigars of the more typical and dominating types.
One of the Australian mutations that I’ve heard about but that hasn’t made its way to the United States is called the saddleback, and I’ve been hearing about these for a number of years now. I received slides of this mutation many years ago, but the slides were of poor quality when I looked at them. Therefore, when the opportunity presented itself to view these varieties when I was invited to lecture and judge in Australia in May and June 1994, I was fortunate enough to see the Saddlebacks as well as the Mottled, Faded, and Dilute Greywings (the Australian version of the Clearbody), the Dutch Pied, and most of all the Light Yellow. I was fortunate enough to see the Saddlebacks when the opportunity presented itself to view these varieties when I was invited to lecture and judge in Australia in May and June 1994. (which is now extinct in the UK).
During the breeding season of 1975, Les and Barry Ryan of Sydney kept an aviary where they discovered the Saddleback for the first time. When I met Barry for the first time at the Sydney Seminar, he shared with me the news that he and his father had started a new line of Blues by mating a pair of Normal Skyblues. One of the chicks in the first nest started exhibiting opaline traits, and that chick was selected. The opaline characteristics became more apparent in the head and the saddle area as the bird grew and its feathers grew in, but the wing marking was different to that of an opaline in that the ground color of the wing was white rather than that of the body color like in a true opaline. This was one of the distinguishing characteristics of an opaline.
Additionally, it was observed that the marking on the wing was two-toned, with the shoulder region being gray and transitioning into black in the region encompassing the secondary and main feathers. However, as the chick grew older and left the nest, it became clear that the bird in question was a cock and could not possibly be a sex-linked Opaline in the manner in which we are familiar with the species.
Following the Ryans’ request for a second assessment, it was determined that the bird in question was distinct from the other birds. Because it was the sole bird to hatch during that particular breeding season, they made the executive decision to re-breed it with its own mother in order to continue the lineage. The union resulted in the birth of four young birds: two of them were normal, while the other two (both cocks) were genetically identical to the father. The Ryans made the decision to keep the variety as pure as possible after the previous season’s production of hens, which is why there were very few instances of outcrossing that took place.
Genetics of the Saddleback
The Ryans quickly learned that the novel mutation they had developed had a recessive form of inheritance as a component of its genetic makeup. As a result, if two Saddlebacks were to mate, their offspring would all be Saddlebacks, and this would be true for both the cocks and the hens. It should come as no surprise that the Sky-blue Saddlebacks were mated to Normal Greens, Cobalts, and Mauves in order to obtain the variation in the Green series and the Dark components. As a result, all of the chicks produced were normals but split for the Saddleback trait. During the next breeding season, they re-mated the splits to saddlebacks, which resulted in the production of additional saddlebacks of the Green series as well as Dark Factor birds in both the Green and Blue series. Therefore, after a few seasons of breeding, the Ryans were able to establish this new mutant, which they named the Saddleback.
I counted somewhere about fifty Saddlebacks during my time at the aviary that belongs to Pam and Vic Giles, which is located on the outskirts of Sydney. The sight of so many different types of horses housed in one stud was fascinating to me. I shot a lot of pictures of the Saddlebacks, and the contrast between the Normals and the Opalines is immediately apparent when the pictures are compared side by side with one another. Opaline qualities can be found in the Saddleback, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Because the markings in the saddle area are dark gray on an otherwise typical background (black-marked) bird, the saddle, also known as the V-area, is easily identifiable. This is not because the area lacks any markings; rather, it is because the markings in the saddle area are dark gray. The head patterns on the bird are similarly very faint, but when they do appear, they are a dark gray color rather than black. This is another way in which the bird is comparable to an opaline. In addition to this, I observed that the zebra-like markings, or striations, of this Opaline were significantly more compact than those of the genuine Opaline. The remainder of the bird, including the colors of the body and tail, legs, beak, cere, and eyes, are all the same as they would be on a normal budgerigar.
After conducting additional research into the base color of the wing, I came to the realization that the wing is either white in the Blue series or yellow in the Green series, and not the same color as the body, as one would anticipate for the Opaline kind. Bi-color is another term that can be used to describe the appearance of the markings on the wings. In the region of the shoulders, the markings are a grayish color, but they transition into a distinct black color when they reach the region of the secondary and main flight feathers.
After acquiring stock, I left Australia with an interest in both the Light Yellow and this particular type (referred to as Black-Eyed Yellow). On the other hand, it was nearly impossible to bring them into the country. Two months later, I was fortunate enough to be a judge at the European Championship Show in Germany, and one of the animals that I had to evaluate was a saddleback. When I told my colleague and fellow judge Rienhard Molkentin about this, he informed me that he had imported the type from Australia a few years earlier and successfully bred with it. When he made the decision to go from Germany to South Africa, he parted ways with his whole supply of Saddlebacks and sold them all to Wilfred Kopp. He went on to introduce me to Herr Kopp, who sold me two pairs of shoes in December of that year, which I was able to purchase from him. Both a visual Saddleback cock and a split hen were used in these pairings, as well as a split cock and a visual hen.
The mating season of 1995 was one that produced a good amount of offspring. The first pair was exceptionally fruitful, and the average number of eggs deposited and babies born was also eight. I was able to get three rounds out of that pair, and a large number of Saddlebacks were produced. The Saddleback hen that was part of the second breeding pair never produced an egg, but I was satisfied with the results of my efforts. During that year, I participated in the Specialist and Rare Variety show, the BS Club Show, and the National. I displayed some instances of the variety at each of these events. The breeding season in 1996 provided me with the option to increase the number of pairs I had by making use of the split cock from the second pair as well as the first pair once more. In addition to that, I married one Saddleback hen with a regular cock in order to produce more splits. When compared to other areas, the fertility was fairly high.
Once more, birds were entered into the aforementioned events as well as the newly established London and Southern Counties BS Rare Show in both the adult and young bird divisions. Those individuals who appreciate new mutations and the fewer types displayed a greater interest in the topic.
Even if the specimens that I now have are on the modest side, there is a lot of room to increase the size of the collection by mating the specimens that I have with quality normals in order to obtain splits that will increase the variety.
In addition, I discovered that the Saddlebacks that were made in the medium and dark factors had a more arresting appearance than their counterparts that were produced in the light factors (Light Green and Sky-blue). I aim to restrict the variety that is bred back to only Normals and not mix in any other varieties such as Yellowface, Opaline, Cinnamon, etc. into them at any point in the future.
You might have noticed that the pronoun “I” was used multiple times throughout this piece of writing. This is due to the fact that my partner, Janice, has disowned that aspect of the partnership; nonetheless, I am delighted that I have done something to this lovely hobby of ours by introducing a new mutation to the United Kingdom known as the Saddleback.
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