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Yellowface, Goldenface, Whiteface

by Ken Gray

 That heading puts the subject I am writing about in a nutshell. It is about the whole of the Blue series - not just what many fanciers thinks of as Blues, the ones with a white face. Have I aroused your interest, or have my words created a certain antagonism?

Why? Well, most books on budgerigars convey the information, and most fanciers believe, that a Blue is a mutation from the Green whereby all the yellow has been lost leaving a blue body color bird with a white head and mask; and a `Yellowface' is something that can be added to any Blue or Grey bird by introducing a dominate mutation in the form of a bird that already shows the characteristic.

What then are the real facts? They are that there have been a number of different mutations of the Light Green (what is known as the `wild-type'), all affecting the body color, and therefore creating a number of mutant varieties. The yellow of the green bird is wholly or partly suppressed in certain areas and in varying degrees. These are all mutations of the same pair of genes and are actually alternatives, each producing a different visual effect. As all genes must be in pairs, (one or other gene of each pair being duplicated by each parent and passed on to each chick), each mutant gene can be just one gene of the pair (the other gene being `wild-type'), or doubled up by being duplicated by being both genes of the pair, or paired with a gene of alternative mutations. There are quite a number of permutations.

In one case - the most well-known one - the whole of the yellow of the 'wild-type' Light Green has been suppressed and we do have a blue body colored bird with a white head and mask and with no trace of yellow anywhere in its body or tail feathering. That is what we, as a Fancy, tend to call a Blue, but is better described as a Whiteface Blue. It is, of course, known to be a recessive mutation, as any Green bird can be split for it. The visually blue bird has two identical mutant genes; a Green/Blue has only one, the other of the pair being the `wild-type'.

It was not the first mutation affecting the body or mask color reported - there had been reports of a blue budgerigar with a yellow face being in existence in 1881 - but it certainly was the first mutation of this sort to be `fixed' and bred on a regular basis.

Blue budgerigars with yellow head and mask did appear again - this time in England. It was in the 1930's. After some time it was realized that they did not all pass on their characteristics in the same manner. Cyril Rogers tells of the story of the discovery of this in his most excellent book The World of Budgerigars; and from that information and from other breeder's experiences and experimentation, including much of my own, I was able to write a chapter on the subject in great detail, in my own book Rainbow Budgerigars and constituent varieties.

One mutant variety, it was discovered, only showed the yellow face when the character only existed in single factor - that is, only one gene of the pair was for 'Yellowface', the other gene of the pair being for 'ordinary' Blue produced both yellowfaced and whitefaced young in the nest (approximately 50% of each over a number of nests) it was conveniently labeled as a dominate mutation. That is the mutation we usually see on the show bench in the yellowface classes. It is known as Yellowface Blue Type 1, or preferably, Mutant 1, as the word 'type' has other meanings.

It was discovered much later, and proved only after years of experimentation, that when this mutant gene (Mutant 1) was inherited in double factor the result was a whitefaced bird indistinguishable from an 'ordinary' Blue (or grey). That bird which was genetically double (which of course also had a white face), produced 100% yellowfaced young. It would have to do so, if you think about it, as the double factor 'Yellow face' parent must pass on one or the other of its Yellowface Blue Mutant 1 genes, and we know that that mutation in single factor actually shows a yellow face. The yellow face and blue body are the product of the same mutation from the 'wild-type' Green; they are not two separate mutations. We can, and do, have visually Green birds, say Normal Light Greens, which are split for Yellowface Blue Mutant 1.

So that is two varieties of the group - our 'ordinary' (Whiteface) Blue and Yellowface Blue Mutant 1. Now to the third.

This we know as Yellowface Blue Mutant 2. When a chick has inherited in single factor (ie, a mutant gene from just one parent) it is of similar appearance in nest-feather to a chick of Mutant 1 - yellow head and mask, blue body. At the first moult, the yellow of the mask floods down over nearly all of the body feathering, making the bird look more like a Green than a bird of blue body color. THe true blue can usually be seen under the lifted wings and near the vent. When the mutant gene is inherited in double factor (ie, from both parent) this flooding down of the yellow at the first moult does not happen to anywhere near the same extent, the yellow being more restricted to the head and tail with a yellow flush to the wings. Even so, there is more yellow than seen on the Mutant 1 bird first described, so that it cannot comply with the existing Yellowface Blue color standard which is really for Mutant 1.

There is another similar mutation to Mutant 2 (or it might actually be Mutant 2 plus a color modifying gene) which reproduces to exactly the same pattern but has a richer, more golden yellow head and mask. It has been known as Goldenface Blue for as long as I can remember - at least as long back as the 30's. As it did not conform to the Yellowfaced exhibition standard, and was mostly confined to the composite variety known as Goldenfaced Rainbows or to Goldenface Blue Recessive Pieds, the exhibition breeder knew very little about it.

There is more interest shown now since it has been reintroduced as 'Australian Yellowface'. It is the same, or a second identical, mutation. That has been proved. I have Goldenface birds from both sources. It can only be hoped that when eventually a proper Color Standard for the mutation is devised, that its original name of Goldenface Blue will also be standardized. I should add that a green bird can be split for Yellowface Blue Mutant 2 or for Goldenface(`Australian Yellowface') Blue, or for Mutant 1 or for Whiteface Blue. It can, of course, only be split for one of them, or it would not visually be a Green. So you can see that the 'wild-type' Light Green, and the various mutations from it affecting the yellow body color, all form a group of alternatives, the 'wild-type' Green being the only dominate, and all the other being recessive. They are a group of what are called 'multiple allelomorph', and as earlier stated can provide a number of permutations of color of body and mask feathering.

It is to be hoped that the Color Standard Committee will soon include standards for all the Yellowface and Goldenface Blue varieties, so that they can be exhibited with the others of their own kind. It will mean a complete revision of the existing standards.

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