HAMILTON & DISTRICT BUDGERIGAR SOCIETY INC.



OPALINES
Colors, History, Genetics, Breeding, and Whats wrong with Opalines.
COLORS
Opaline Light Green: Mask is buttercup yellow to the tip of the wings, where it shades into bright grass green. The green should continue between the wings and form a triangle there, with little, or preferably no wavy design. The rest of the body is bright grass green. The wings show a symmetrical design on a grass green reflecting background. The long tail feathers not lighter in color than the rest of the body. The neck has 3 large, round spots on both sides, the last of which are hidden under the purple check patch.
Opaline Dark Green: The color distribution is the same as opaline light green, but is a darker grass green. The long tail feathers are darker than with the opaline light green.
Opaline Olive Green: The color distribution is the same as opaline light green, but is a bright olive green. The tail feathers are again darker.
Opaline Skyblue: The color distribution is the same as with opaline light green, except the body is bright, light skyblue. The mask is white. The long tail feathers are a darker blue than the rest of the body.
Opaline Cobalt: The color distribution is the same as with opaline skyblue, but the color itself is bright cobalt blue. The long tail feathers are darker than with opaline skyblue.
Opaline Mauve: The color distribution is the same as with opaline skyblue, except the body is mauve. The long tail feathers are darker than that of the oplaine cobalt.

HISTORY
Opalines show the wavy design as usual on the wings, but not on the rest of the body. The mutation 1st appeared in 1933, but where it happened is not known for sure. The early green opalines had top feathers on the wings with a border of green on a blue foundation. The opalines that were bred later had blue with a white or black border. The green with its yellow head became more or less multi-colored: green, yellow, blue and black. Further breeding developed the graywing opaline, the cinnamon opaline, and the fancy opaline. The last of these was a further mutation, which reduced the number of rows in the wavy design on the upper part of the wing from five to three. The mutation is said to have appeared in the wild earlier than in an aviary controlled environment. In Australia around 1932 it was common practise for large quantities of budgerigars to be trapped in the wild and sent to bird markets. A few Opaline hens were said to have been seen in the Adelaide market in nest plumage.

The British mutant is said to have appeared in the nest of Normal Cobalts in early 1934. The sire was a normal Sky Blue and the hen was a normal Mauve. The breeder was an A. Brown of Kilmarnoch, Scotland. When feathered one of the chicks displayed a white cap with an intense cobalt neck, back and body. The European bird is believed to have appeared in 1935 in an aviary of L. Raymaekers of Brussels. In Australia in 1934 the first bred mutation was formed by mating a Light Green hen to a White Sky Blue cock. The young from this pairing were Light Greens and in 1935 the young cocks were mated to normal hens. One of the cocks when paired to its mother produced the first Opaline cocks which confirmed the mutation was sex linked.

GENETICS
The Opaline factor is sex-linked in the same way as the Cinnamon factor. Just as with Cinnamon, it seems that the Opaline Budgie has more factors than the normal bird, but again, this is not the case. In reality something is missing--the wavy design on the head and neck (although vaguely visible). On the upper part of the back, between the wings, the wavy design is somewhat more visible. The degree to which the wavy design is visible on the head and the neck determines the quality of the Opaline. The less visible, the better. The Opaline factor goes along with a less bright colors, but the sheen and silkiness of the Opaline exceeds that of normal birds in most cases. Ordinarily, Opalines have very distinct throat spots, and the black of the wavy design also is more distinct than with normal Budgies. This situation is explained by the theory that the Opaline has the normal amount of black coloration (melanin) but that the Opaline factor distributes this black coloration over a limited surface. This makes the color more distinct or deeper.

The inheritance of the opaline factor works as follows.
1. Opaline male x Opaline female: This combination will produce Opaline males and Opaline females.
2. Opaline male x normal female: This combination will produce split for Opaline males and Opaline females.
3. Split for Opaline male x Opaline female: This combination will produce split for Opaline males, Opaline females, split for Opaline males, and normal females.
4. Split for Opaline male x normal female: This combination will produce split for Opaline males, normal females, normal males, and Opaline females.
5. Normal male x Opaline female: This will produce split for Opaline males and normal females.

With Opalines, also, the first three matings are the most important because they allow us to produce the largest number of Opalines and split for Opalines. We know that all males are Opalines or split for Opalines, so that they may or may not look like Opalines but always at least have the hidden factor for Oopaline. The sex linkage determines that the females of these matings are either Opalines or normal. The fourth and fifth matings are less useful. The fourth can produce both split for Opaline and normal males, which can't be distinguished visually. The fifth produces only split for Opaline males. It could be of use, however, if a breeder only had an Opaline female available. The split for Opalines that would be produced by this mating would then have to be backcrossed on the Opaline female (mating #3). One could develop a line of Opalines in this way from a female Opaline. If a breeder only had a split for Opaline male on hand, he still could develop a line of Opalines. He first would do mating #4, and then he would backcross the Opaline females from that mating to the male. The requisites of a good Opaline include an even wavy design on the wings and a very large vague or totally visible wavy design on the back and neck. Continuous selection is essential. The Opaline Blue has a tendency to have the blue run into the white mask. Selection is needed also to sharply seperate the yellow or the white of the head from the rest of the body.

As Opalines are sex-linked the usual rules with regard to sex-linkage apply. I know of no variety that attained good exhibition standard so rapidly after its first appearance. It was comparatively soon after they were first being regularly seen at shows that Opalines of quite outstanding merit were being staged. Two properties in which many of these birds excelled were heads and spots. Their large, round skulls were most appealing, and in spots they were quite the equal of the best Light Greens. This laudation does not, of coarse apply to all the earliest Opalines, nor does it to-day. Yet the fact remains that amongst Opalines we have seen, through the years since they were first exhibited, specimens of really excellent merit exist. The need for out-crossing to Normal varieties, as in the case of all new colours when they are being established, could not be disregarded, undoubtedly the Light Green then proved to be the most valuable bird for this purpose.

Out-crossing to other colours has been pursued with good and bad results, mainly according to the quality of the Normals introduced. Years ago the position arose that instead of the Normal improving the Opaline the Opaline improved the Normal; and so it is to-day. The development of the Opaline was so satisfactory that much sooner than in the case of the Lutino, for instance, it was desirable to mate Opaline to Opaline extensively. Opalines have helped in Violet breeding. In some aviaries we have found the Opaline one of the most valuable out-crosses. For instance, they have had much to do with establishing strains of Violets.

When Opalines are crossed with Normals, all those principles of colour crossing can be employed. The mating of Opalines to Cinnamonís and to Greys has provided us with the Opaline Cinnamonís, Opaline Greys and Cinnamon Opaline Greys. In selecting mates the fancier has to consider one property much more seriously than has the breeder of, say, Light Greens or Sky blues, which is the markings on the wings and on the mantle, or saddle. One problem with which he has to deal is that of achieving the desired colour on the wings. When one gets a clear saddle there is a danger of its being accompanied by a shortage of black on the wings. This has to be borne in mind by judges as well as breeders, but the latter must strive by skilful selection to breed a bird with a V as clear (or as clear as possible) of black, and at the same time with an equal distribution of colour on the wings.

The Challenging Opalines
In some Normal studs there is a tendency to keep Opaline hens for their excellent fertility and for the way they can improve overall size, spot size and shoulder qualities. It has been said that many a good stud of Budgerigars, whatever their colour -- has been founded on Opaline hens. Perhaps that is why the quality of the Opalines themselves has suffered. When it comes to producing exhibition quality Opalines, contrary to the opinion of some breeders, we prefer Opaline to Opaline pairings. Some care has to be taken about maintaining the depth of colour and markings, and for this reason we prefer not to pair Sky-blue or Light Green Opalines together. Opaline Grey Greens make excellent partners for Opaline Skyblues and Opaline Light Greens. Not only do these pairings help to maintain evenness of body colour and blackness of markings, they also ensure that no substance or size is lost. Another advantage of an Opaline Grey Green x Opaline Skyblue mating is that it can produce Opalines in Light Green, Sky-blue, Grey Green and Grey. If the Grey Green is of a medium shade, you can also produce Opaline Dark Greens and Opaline Cobalts - overall a very nice range of colours. In our opinion and experience there is much to be said for breeding Opalines for their own attributes and not just as a means of improving other varieties. It is true to say that Opalines can bring marking problems with dirty backs, badly marked wings and head flecking. The result is that these disadvantages may incline some breeders to try an easier variety. However, surely one of the attractions of breeding birds is overcoming such difficulties. I can assure you that there is much to be gained from facing up to the challenge posed by Opaline Budgerigars.

Whats's wrong with Opalines
The Opaline is the most criticised of the Budgerigar mutations, and I can't understand why so many articles advise beginners to avoid Opalines. I can only assume that the writers of such advice just do not understand how to breed and exhibit Opalines to their best advantage. I believe the problem has two aspects, the way the Opaline factor is inherited and the variety's markings. It is possible to breed Opaline hens from two Normal looking Budgerigars, leading to the statement, your stud can become over-run by Opalines before you know it. Interestingly this is also said of Cinnamons, but not Albinos and Lutinos even though all three (like Opalines) are sex linked varieties. As far as I am concerned, there is nothing wrong with an Opaline appearing in the nest of a pair of Normals, though I can see how this could be disappointing for a breeder whose only aim is to breed Normals. All too often it is the Opaline factor that gets the blame when, in fact, the breeder's lack of knowledge of genetics would be a better target. Now to the markings. The first Opalines were brilliant little Budgerigars, clean-headed, crisply marked, with sparkling body colour. Unfortunately, one of the penalties of improving the overall shape and size of Opalines has been a loss of colour and a change to the markings. But the Opaline is not alone in this. I cannot think of any other variety that has not suffered the same fate, in the name of improving exhibition quality. The desirable, body-coloured wedge between the wing butts is not often seen on a top exhibition Opaline these days, but worst of all has been the "head flecking" problem. Black markings on the centre of what should be a clear yellow or white crown.

It is generally accepted that flecking first appeared on Opalines, and so they have been blamed for spreading it to every other variety -- even Albinos and Lutinos. Once again I blame the breeders, because some flecked Opalines had wonderful feather texture, they were crossed into every other variety. To make matters worse, some breeders appeared to have the mistaken idea that any flecked Opaline, even one of low quality, could be used to improve other varieties, including Normals. Fortunately, the number of flecked Opalines on the show bench has reduced, as the Budgerigar judges now know the seriousness of the fault. However, they are still there in virtually every top Budgerigar breeding team in the land. Even the keenest Normal specialists (and most critics of the Opaline variety) are prepared to breed from Opaline hens for their wonderful physical qualities. Some breeders have thought that Opalines studs seem to be more fertile than Normals. Unfortunately, the Opaline has entered into a vicious circle. As fewer people set out to breed Opalines for their own value, fewer good ones are bred and so it goes on. Fortunately major awards are taken by Opalines ever year, and as long as this continues to happen the variety will be able to withstand any criticism that ill-advise "experts" might throw at it.

E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca

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