Crested and Feather Dusters

Books with writings on these birds are hard to find and those that have information have very little to tell.

Crested Light Green:
Head: Ornamented with a Circular, half Circular or Tufted type of crest.
Circular crest--a flat round crest with the feathers radiating from the centre of the head.
Half Circular crest:--a half circle of feathers falling or raised in a fringe above the cere.
Tufted crest:--an upright crest of feathers up to three eighths of an inch high rising just above the cere.
Mask: buttercup of an even tone ornamented on each side with three clearly defined round black spots, one of which appears at the base of each cheek patch.
Cheek Patches: violet.
Body Color: back, rump, breast, flanks and underparts bright grass green of a solid and even shade throughout. The markings on the cheeks, back of head, neck and wings are black and well defined on a buttercup ground.

Crested Budgerigars have been in existence for a while now. It was in 1920 or thereabouts that the first Crests were reported, bred in Australia but nothing much was heard about them until the mid nineteen thirties and examples came to Europe and Great Britain during 1938. Two other Crested mutations have been recorded -- one in Europe and one from North America. The three mutations are all inter-related and reproduce in the same way which is rather more complicated than that of ordinary colours. A full history and breeding details of the Crested variety will be found in a handbook of The Crested Budgerigar Club and copies can be bought from the secretary. The Crested character as just quoted operates in a different manner to other characters but still follows Mendel's theory. There can be a Crested form of all varieties and colours with full Circular, Half Circular, and Tufted crests.

Three other feather varieties have appeared amongst Budgerigar stocks, the Long-flighted, the Feather-legged and the Feather dusters. The Long-flighted birds have large heads, very long, flatish bodies and extremely long flight and tail feathers. These features taken collectively spoil the fine outline of Budgerigars and they were barred from some clubs from show benches. However it is through these birds that the bolder heads of present day exhibition stock are due to the careful use of Long-flighted characters in the past. Feather legged birds have only appeared on odd occasions and have not been developed up to the present time. (1984 statement) Their unusual feathering does not appeal to Budgerigar breeders like it has done to Poultry and pigeon fanciers. The birds known to the fancy as Feather dusters have long, thin, weak feathers sticking out at all angles, they cannot fly and fortunately have quite short lives. It is thought by some breeders that they may be the result of a further mutation of the Long Flighted character due to excessive Buff matings.

Crested Budgerigars probably are the result of one basic mutation. Breeding them offers many interesting possibilities that often have been neglected. Some breeders have concentrated most on these possibilities, and they have developed Budgies with fancy crests and with feathering reminiscent of the frizzy canary. One of the most recent mutants is the so-called chrysanthemum Budgerigar, which has all its body feathers elongated and curled. The three standard crests are: (1) Tufted,(2) Half circular and (3) Full circular. The mutation originated in New South Wales, Australia in the aviaries of A. Mathews in 1935. It is inherited in the same manner as the crests of canaries and Bengalese finches.

To produce them, mate a crested bird with a non-crested one. If you breed two crested birds together, you get 25 percent birds without crest and 50 percent crested birds (with a single crested factor). The other 25 percent of the young die because they have the double crested factor. The preferred cross (crested x not crested) produces progeny, of which half are crested and half not crested. The crested x crested option produces the same percentage of crested birds (50 percent), but the total production of young is diminished by 25 percent. The crest can be improved by continuous selection of the best individuals.

Select uncrested birds with wide skulls for these matings. This will increase the likelihood that you will produce young with heads suited for crests. If one looks at the sometimes bizarre forms caused by mutation of plumage characters in chickens, pigeons, and canaries, changes in the form of the budgerigar seem modest in comparison. Crested budgies were produced in Canada and China beginning in the thirties and are still bred today. Consistently crested budgies cannot be produced, as crested birds with only one factor are very variable. Some have only crests of small raised feathers that seem out of proportion on the budgie's. The best crests look somewhat like caps and are on half-crested birds.

Feather crests are formed by a swirl at the root of the feathers, forcing the feather to grow upward and sideways instead of in layers as in normal plumage. Double-crested budgies are, regrettably usually not fertile and tend to have abnormal behaviour problems due to disorders in their nervous system. They are hardly for the beginning breeder and seem to appeal to only a limited number of people anyway. A separated double-swirl crest is also known. As far as known, feather-legs (birds with little feather on one or both legs) are very rarely seen and, in spite of systematic breeding experiments have not been genetically fixed. One must presume that the experiments were not continued with the necessary persistence because practical knowledge gained from pigeons would lead one to believe that feather-legs will reappear. Recently, in domestic Australian, British, and German birds, quite independently of each other. Some individual birds were bred that by far exceeded all known conventional mutations. Their down plumage grew sparsely but up to 12 cm (5 inches) long, so that the normal outlines of a budgie were not recognisable anymore in published photographs.

The throat spots, which are on one feather, hung down to the floor, and the body feathers grew in a twisted manner, probably caused by several swirls. Wing and tail feathers were normal with some of the birds, degenerate in others, these birds were unable to fly. Some died early, but others seemed quite healthy. It is not known if they have ever been mated, although for purely technical reasons this seems improbable. While the Australians poetically dubbed this aberration "chrysanthemums," the English named them, more appropriately, "feather-dusters." Color and markings of these birds were washed out but they at least showed what kind of surprises a budgie is capable of producing.

E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca