Understanding the British Exhibition Budgerigar


A great deal of misunderstanding has arisen regarding the British exhibition budgerigar. This is particularly true with respect to breeders from other countries who have obtained British stock. Our own fanciers, who have limited experience with the long feathered, so-called ''power birds;' are appearing at shows and exhibitions and then walking away with the leading awards.

I know many of the breeders who have obtained these birds are enjoying limited or no success in the reproduction of these types of birds, yet when the birds reproduce, the offspring are in many cases inferior to the adult stock. This leads to the breeder believing he or she has been "ripped off" in respect to the original stock purchased.

I am not so naive as to believe unsatisfactory stock is sometimes supplied at exhibition prices. Such stock often gives poor results. However, the poor offspring can be the result of a lack of experience. For this reason, I have chosen the subject as the basis for this article. I want to, in some small way, attempt to put the record straight.

A Look at History

To understand, we must look into the history of the present day exhibition budgerigar. We must examine where and how the notable changes have taken place. Top class British budgerigars of today in no way resemble the Warbling Grass Parakeet (Malopsi ttiis undulatus), illustrated in Gould's lithograph of some 150 years ago. The birds have changed so drastically that the Australian Parks and Wildlife Department put forward a submission to the effect the birds were genetically different from the wild type. That was sufficient to block the importation of British stock into Australia. These writers cannot be criticized for their comments. Many breeders of pet class stock have mistakenly believed the birds were/are a different species due to the existance of diffrent chromosomes.

It was about 1840 when the first consignment of wild budgerigars arrived in the United Kingdom. Between that time and the year 1924, very little was done with regard to selection of type, other than the production of colors quite different from light green found in the wilds of Australia.

The "Budgerigar Club" was formed in 1925. Late in 1927, the name was changed by royal request and patronage to the "Budgerigar Society:' The new Society membership consisted of many established and internationally respected livestock breeders, with the objective of improving the budgerigar to a determined standard, with the stablishing of established varieties.

In the early 1920s, few of the budgerigar varieties we know and admire today were even to be seen. I believe the formation of the Budgerigar Society was the first step that, in later years, led to problems that I will go into and explain later on.

It is interesting to note, in 1927 an exhibition of budgerigar light yellows, a recessive variety, has now all but disappeared from our show benches. This species was the predominantly popular species. During this period of popularity (1930 to the early 1940s), many of the new mutations evolved. But as the yellow declined, the rate of mutations slowed considerably. Thus, over the past 30 years, only the dominant Pied and Spangle have been fully established.

The longflight Appears

During the early 1950s, the "longflight" mutation made its appearance. Breeders began to see characteristics never previously observed. The most notable change was, of course, the exceptionally long wing carrying additional flight feathers, as compared with the wiid budgerigar.


These added feathers, combined with a general increase in overall length of feather loading, exceptional depth of mask, size of spot, together with an apparent width of head and body size presented a dramatically different looking bird.

Exactly why these changes came about has not been determined. I believe the changes may be a natural evolvement of the species due to intensive breeding. A further element may have been due to the severe climatic changes existing between the species' natural habitat in Australia and the severe winter temperatures in the United Kingdom.

The longflight mutation created great interest and excitement in the United Kingdom. The birds were much sought after by breeders and the species was soon found on the show benches. It wasn't long until these special birds were penalized by a decision of the Budgerigar Society general board. The birds were banned from competition.

Despite the ban, the birds did not disappear altogether before their genes had infiltrated the British stock. I feel this situation led directly to many, if not all, of the birds seen in the United Kingdom today.

Also to be noted is the fact that at the time the "longflight" occurred, the number of budgerigars in the United Kingdom was limited due to the thousands of birds that were eliminated during the years of the Second World War. This was due to lack of feed, supply of which was, at best, severely limited. At times, adequate feed was totally unobtainable.

It is easy to understand that only the very best exhibition birds survived and the longflight soon infiltrated most of the desirable and sought after studs.