The World Of The Exhibition Budgerigar

This essay assumes you have an interest in cattle breeding and want to pursue a competitive, socially useful, and worldwide pastime that, if you ultimately become a judge, may take you to nations where the hospitality is second to none.

The Early Years

I’ve been doing it for 51 years, starting when I was 12 years old, just after World War II ended in 1945. As a result, I grew up with the hobby’s pre-war pioneers, who founded The Budgerigar Club in 1925. These breeders were largely from the Midlands and Northern England. Many of them had canary-keeping relatives or acquaintances. Pigeon fanciers, rabbit breeders and exhibitors, chicken producers – these were those who helped the UK become the world’s best small animal breeder at the time. Budgerigar enthusiasts were a splinter group that saw the potential of growing this little Australian Grass Parakeet, introduced into the nation in 1840 by naturalist John Gould, to an exhibition level, and saw the pleasure of competition and breeding.
Some of the big names of the past were familiar to me. In my youth, I placed such seasoned fanciers on a pedestal, something I now counsel fans never to do. Only humans have mastered a single talent in a single tiny area and had a lot of success in the process. Nobody would recognize any of us if we walked out the front door into “regular” life, therefore it needs to be maintained in balance and your feet planted firmly on the ground, while you appreciate every facet that the pastime has to offer.

Who were those legendary pre-war fans? There was William (Bill) Watmough, Chairman of The Budgerigar Society and maybe the finest Chairman the Society has ever had. He and his wife Elsie had a superb stud at Bradford, Yorkshire, complete with their own servants, including Alf Garnett. The Lintonholme Stud, as it was called, was a popular destination for people to come and acquire fresh stock.

Harry Bryan was already the fancier, and he had the desire and ambition to become the top guy of his day. Andy Wilson, FZS., and Ralph Frayne were capable and trustworthy leaders of the hobby. Will Addey was an early Secretary. Top breeders included Percy Norman of lutino renown, who regrettably committed himself when he became unwell and his birds were not winning. Margery Kirkby-Mason and her boyfriend Len Dabner had a lovely collection of lutinos and opalines. They met amusingly during a performance when the young Margery was having trouble with the latch on her carrying bag. The young Len loved the way she looked; she had always been a very gorgeous woman, so he took off his braces and fastened the box that way. A modern-day Queen Elizabeth I and Sir Walter Raleigh, when braces were out and cloaks were in! The ruse succeeded in both circumstances.

There were two persons with the same name but different spellings. Joe Collyer of Surrey was a breeder of some of the best greys, grey greens, and opalines ever seen. Arthur Collier was a well-known and regarded breeder and judge. Vera Scott, like Frank Wair, was an avid cinnamon breeder. Johnny Landsburgh was a Scottish breeder of lutinos, who always used to market his birds by filling in the selling price column with values of several hundreds of pounds, on the premise that, “if they were insane enough to purchase them, he was mad enough to accept their money.”.

Cambridge and Hertfordshire grew to become popular tourist destinations. Along with Frank Wait, there was a young sophisticated fancier who was a milliner by profession and spent hours every day studying budgerigars from every perspective. The thought occurred to him that if it were able to imbue the budgerigars of the day with the head quality that the Norwich Canary had, then you’d truly have something worth looking at, as well as a huge competitive advantage in the hobby. Ken Farmer of Luton was the young guy, and this author considers him to be the creator of the contemporary display budgerigar that we have today. Suddenly, or so it seemed to the rest of us in 1950, a new budgerigar, generally in the light green kind, arose. For a long time, the rest of the fancy was left for dead, while a select number of fanciers seized over in order to secure some of the F92, Ken Farmer blood. At the same time, Harry Bryan explored the country for a hen with considerable head-feather breadth. He soon found one in a little show stud and pushed and pressed his way to it. It was a cinnamon grey opaline. We were soon all at it, and putting heads on our birds became an absolute need if we were to live and have our birds in demand in the future.

During this time, the Budgerigar Society, as it was then known, had grown to 20,000 members due to popular demand for budgerigars. In the UK, there were 4 million budgerigars as home pets, compared to 1.5 million currently. Since the postwar boom, the BS Membership has stayed around the 5,000-6,000 range.

The Middle Years

Perhaps I might begin with the late 1950s and early 1960s, when the concept of allowing youngsters to “find their own path without punishment” was introduced, and from which we have all suffered ever since. Yes, I’m from the old-school brigade, and I’m proud of it! The majority of us were more concerned with the budgerigar front. Meetings were conducted by men of integrity, many of them were professionals who understood how to run and manage meetings based on their business expertise. They were highly attended, with 200 individuals attending the major AGMs from regional organisations. Aside from the administrative region, there was a buzz across the nation that Joe Colllyer had produced a nest of grey greens and greys that were well ahead of their time. Three of them were grey greens. A rookie breeder, a Kent fruit producer, had also surfaced at the same time. This was Maurice Finey, who could be seen sitting in his vehicle ready to purchase new birds every Sunday morning when Harry Bryan opened his bedroom curtains. Money did not seem to be an issue. These two breeders were separated by 200 kilometers. Of course, both of these breeders were aware of the Collyer birds and were interested in them. Joe Collyer refused to sell to Bryan for personal reasons, but the latter sent Will Addey down to purchase, and the bird changed hands when Addey returned, to to Collyer’s chagrin. The bird, on the other hand, was sold for $250, a substantial amount in 1960.
Maurice Finey chose another sibling, as did Kirkby-Mason and Dabner, who purchased the standard grey. Finey paid 225 for his bird and produced 39 offspring from it in its first full season by running it to a large number of hens. Seven of the grey green chicks competed in the London & Southern Counties Budgerigar Society Area Championship in 1961, finishing first through fifth and seventh. Even if the bird “out of the cards” was the greatest, the judges had issues! Ironically, Bryan’s bird did not reproduce, but that did not deter Harry from earning 25 “Best in Show” medals at the BS World Championships, a record that may never be broken. For many years in the 1960s and 1970s, Bryan and Finey, later joined by Angela Moss and Alf Ormerod, among others, dominated the scene.

This author published a new book called Best in Show in 1974, which sold over 30,000 copies over the course of many years. It was originally priced at $3.25, or little more than $5. Booksellers may still get used copies, which are normally priced above? ($30). It was always popular.

The hobby thereafter evolved rapidly on a global scale. America and Canada. South America, South Africa, Japan, and Europe all established their own organizations, each with its own vision of the Ideal Exhibition Budgerigar. Naturally, all of those concepts, which were often the outcome of committee choices based on the greatest attributes known to exist from their experience, resulted in various kinds of Ideals. We are still hampered to some degree by the international dilemma.

Moving into the Present

This author then left from his job at British Petroleum Co Ltd. in 1982 to launch the Budgerigar World magazine, which is distributed in over 34 countries and is based in Bala, North Wales. This is a monthly 40-page color magazine published in both English and German.
Budgerigar World’s Directors chose to join the exhibition scene in 1983. Shows in the UK were produced in a well-meaning, but definitely not at top level, in horrible show halls, and, as the UK was being visited by many people from outside at the time, we believed a more professional approach should be adopted. Within six months, the Directors had assembled a great team, mostly of fanciers from south-east England, to manage the show’s actual manning, which our county excels in. The two Directors at the time, John Blance and myself, were in charge of the show’s presentation.

The event was held at Sandown Park Race Course in Esher, Surrey, and it has never been exceeded in terms of excellence. Two things contributed to the unexpected complications. The Exhibition Hall came at a high price, to say the least, and there was no return on the restaurant, where a franchise was in place. As a result, the hobby needed a large number of participants from all across England, but it was not anticipated that many fanciers from the calmer regions of the nation were terrified to travel in the south on the rapid highway networks. As a result, many people did not participate. The inaugural exhibition, on the other hand, had 4,500 entries, with a top prize of 1,100 won by Barry Wild. A second concert was attempted, but the necessary level of support was not there. Following migrations to Blackpool and Stoke-on-Trent, the Budgerigar World Open Championship gradually declined, until it became “simply another entertainment,” which was not the intention in the first place. As a result, it was discontinued for aesthetic and budgetary reasons.

However, there was a good side effect of the Directors’ influence. The Budgerigar Society recognized that it needed to follow the precedents set by others, and to their credit, they upgraded their National Budgerigar Society World Championship by choosing another race venue, this time Doncaster Race Course, as the location for their event. They ultimately bought the Budgerigar World staging, and the BS now has a wonderfully well-presented and legitimate performance to be proud of. Visitors from other countries will find this event to be first-rate, and a fantastic representation of the best of British Exhibition Budgerigars, who are still the finest in the world in terms of depth of quality, and the most difficult to win as a rider.

My next book, this time a complete manual with 150 color images, a recommended World Ideal Budgerigar, 44 black/white photographs, and 44 chapters, will be launched into the international stage in November 1997. This book, The Challenge – Breeding Championship Budgerigars, is available directly from the author. It is not a continuation of the author’s earlier work, but rather a whole new and significantly more extensive book, with every aspect described. The author purposefully included top fanciers from various nations in submitting their feeding and breeding programs, being conscious of the differences in seeds and foods accessible in other countries. All of these diets provide outstanding breeding outcomes. The book’s ordering information is provided at the bottom of this page.

With the founding of the World Budgerigar Organization, there has been some movement toward embracing the hobby’s internationalism. This group meets yearly, although its mandate is merely consultative, as opposed to the World Budgerigar Association, established by Budgerigar World in 1985 to change the way National Societies were structured, based on a corporate structure with democratic participation from all nations. Unfortunately, it was too soon for the hobby to adopt and comprehend in 1985, but it is now generally recognized. Time will tell whether or not the existing system will continue.

The Australian Government chose to establish a National Quarantine Station in Melbourne in the 1990s. The author arranged for all of the cattle to be quarantined in the UK. Thus, 4,500 birds were sent to a nation that was deficient in quality birds and feather length. After a few years, an issue emerged with the introduction of the Canadian Ostrich species. These had been checked for certain illnesses before being given to their new owners, but they were later discovered to be harboring another condition. All imports were halted, and discussions were underway in 1997 to restore imports if at all feasible.

Looking to the Future

The hobby’s future is dependent on many shifts in perspective by committees throughout the globe. They must reflect on the previous 50 years, during which their inward attitude and internal organization of rules and displays were great, and now move into a state of readiness to welcome change and market the hobby to a public that is ignorant of its existence. Acceptance of running the hobby commercially is essential, and this must be accompanied by a shift in the hobbyist’s attitude toward paying significantly more for entrance fees to exhibitions, the cost of which, to show organizers, is very significant, as the hiring of halls increases with the cost of living. Exhibitions are necessary for the hobby to not just survive, but to thrive. Their presentation must be exceptional, which definitely requires money, which must come from the fanciers themselves; otherwise, a downward cycle might culminate in the demise of our worldwide interest.

In terms of the birds themselves, the author has seen a dramatic improvement in quality throughout the course of his breeding of this lovely parakeet. The seasonal question at the time was always, “How can the exhibition budgerigar become much better – it’s impossible.” Time, on the other hand, has dictated differently. It has become better, and it will continue to improve in the future.

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