Gray, mutations and combinations
First and foremost, I would like to thank the people I have worked with on the evolution of white cheek zebra finches over the past few years.
This text therefore not only tells about my experiences but also their experiences. Thanks to Paul Chabot, Jan Van Looy and Wessel Vermeulen. When I use the term "I" later, you must understand "we". We do not agree on all the details. Fortunately, because then we can discuss it. And we continue to encourage each other on the results to improve and the conclusions to be made.
At our zebra finches, everyone knows the cheeks and the black cheeks. In these two mutations, both males and females have colored cheeks. We now also have the white cheeks. So we have white, brown and black cheeks.
The first time a white-cheeked zebra finch appeared was when Jacques Vanduren wondered if he had bred a new mutation. Some of its birds could be admired in the exhibitions of the B.Z.C. (Belgian Zebrafinch Club).
Jacques also wrote an article on this subject in our magazine, illustrated with photos of details. It was the end of the 90s of the previous century. Jacques was unlucky enough to lose his breeding and eventually the white cheek zebra finch disappeared. However, he had even given birds to other hobbyists in order to avoid the risk of extinction. But these other amateurs couldn't build a strain. Result: the white cheeks are returned to square one.
A few years ago, the founding president of B.Z.C., Paul Chabot, discovered a "special" zebra finch. Paul Chabot is the one who, in his time, took the first steps with a male of the orange breast mutation. So he had experience building a "special" strain.
This bird also had black in its cheeks, which is why Paul went in search of a black-cheeked partner for this zebra finch. His mindfulness was good for the white cheeks. For he directly raised white cheeks !
That's why he decided the white cheek factor was dominant. But Paul also used other zebra finches besides the gray black cheeks. When Jan and I went to interview Paul, we saw White Cheeks combined with masked, Black Chest Mutation and even crested. Paul explained to us that he had had many deaths among his birds, he knew of Jacques's experience and he was betting on a lethal factor in white cheeks.
Paul gave each of us a zebra finch because he was afraid the next breeding season would be disastrous. His secret hope was that we would help him. Then it turned out that the health of his birds was the cause of his growing problems. So we were able to eliminate the lethal factor from our reasoning.
In Dordrecht Paul met Wessel Vermeulen who also had zebra finches with partially white cheeks. Wessel even bred zebra finches having three colors in the cheeks. They show white (the tear line is absent), then comes black and normal brown in the posterior arch of the cheeks.
In the meantime Jan and I have started breeding with our white cheeks. Our goal was to understand the inheritance of white cheeks.
When Jan and I started breeding many told us they thought it was a combination. Some thought of the black chest mutation, others of the black chest black cheek jumpsuit. Several had already seen traces of white cheeks. And indeed, we did not speak of white cheeks only with us. The internet, as we know, makes contacts all over the world. I know that in other countries we talk about white cheeks: Israel, Italy, France.
Let's take a more in-depth look at the white cheeks. What is important: we make a distinction between combinations of white cheeks with black cheeks and those without black cheeks. This distinction will be the common thread of this story.
Since we will be discussing the orange breast zebrafinch (PO) in this article, it is certainly interesting to dwell a bit on the history of this mutation first.
The orange breast mutation (PO) is believed to have originated in Belgium. I consciously write "supposed" because the first orange breast (PO) was actually found at a bird merchant. In Dutch literature in particular, long before the discovery of the first orange breast (PO) in Belgium, zebra finches were described there with characteristics that we can now attribute to orange breast (PO) wearers.
What we are certain of anyway is that the honor of the discovery of the orange breast (PO) goes to a certain Mr. De C. who in 1978 noticed a rather special gray male in a store. This male had an orange breast bar when normally it should have been black. Mr. DE C. bought this copy, but at the breeding nothing came out of what he had hoped for. At the end of 1978, Paul CH., President of the BZC at that time, acquired this male. There were good and bad surprises with this subject, because unfortunately this male did not live very long. Fortunately Paul CH. had been able to get some young people before. Orange breast (PO) is inherited autosomal recessively compared to the wild form. The orange factor must therefore be doubly present to become visible. He therefore crossed young people between them and quickly took out the first orange breasts (PO).
Already the first orange breast breeder (PO) made the mistake of not combining and developing the orange breast (PO) with classic colors (gray, brown, pale back, masked) but he rushed directly on the combination of the orange breast with black breast (PN) and other mutations. From that moment on, every orange breast breeder’s dream was born to produce an all-orange zebra finch.
Due to having burned the breeding stage in the classic colors, the following question remained :
Are there any specific characteristics that we see in our classic orange breasts, are they just annoying derivatives of the presence of the black breast mutation (PN) or are these specific effects of the orange breast mutation ?
What do I mean by that? Often the orange chest gray or orange chest brown reveal not well defined cheeks. Likewise, there is often an orange hem on the fenders. Also, the chest frequently flows upwards and the belly shows patterns. All these observed characteristics are quite disturbing.
Why are the mutations in zebrafinch of pale back, masked (new type) and masked old type combined with each other so difficult to predict !?
Quite simply because we cannot speak at the genetic level of different mutations but rather of allelic versions of a single gene. The pale back, the masked and the old type mask are due to the same gene but which has three allelic versions.
To understand well let's make the parallel with man, the color of the eyes for example, whatever our eye color, our iris color and coded by the same gene, but this gene has many different versions (alleles) which allow us to have the color panel that we know.
Now that we know a little more about what complicates these crosses, let's take a look at how each allele behaves in relation to each other.
Everything is a story of dominance and co-dominance or recessivity.
A small table to illustrate all this :
Allele / allele Pale back Masqued Masqued OT Pale back x Pale back Pale back Masqued Pale back x Masqued Masqued OT Pale back Masqued x
*OT = Old type
In this double entry table you can see that it allele dominates the other, the bird will therefore have the phenotype of the allele which dominates, be careful, it is not because the allele is dominated that it does not not influence. See pale back / OT mask, the back is more diluted because of the masked OT allele.
From this result we can draw the first conclusions :
- The pale back can be masked or OT masked.
- The masked can be a masked OT split but cannot be a pale back wearer (pb dominates masked = pb / masked). *pb = pale back
- The masked OT cannot carry a pale back, nor a masked person because the latter two dominate him.
The objective of this article is not to impose a management of breeding or create a controversy, but to share my experience of breeding, my observations as well as the difficulties I have encountered for about fifteen years of breeding zebrafinch in this combination of mutations.
The black breast is a mutation of design due to a different distribution of eumelanim in the plumage of the bird. The orange breast mutation is a color mutation: The eumelanin of the designs is transformed into brown orange phaeomelanin, which pulls towards the red-rust color for the best subjects. I do not think it is important to specify in detail how each mutation we already know alters on the mutated bird.
The ideal competition male, in addition to a correct shape and size such as a classic, must have no black discharge into the chest, must have a parotic zone (the color: between the beak and the cheek) white, a chest that rises as high as possible under the beak, a strong extension of the cheeks (the cheeks meet at the back of the skull) without running on the back (which for me represents a non-selective extension of the color), a gray back and not loaded with brown veil as is often the case, drawings on primary and secondary remiges (white+orange), the most intense red/rust color possible, the largest belly design (orange flames). To this it is necessary to add that the drawings of blanks must be marked with white ovals on orange background; The drawings of the tiles of tails are of course elongated.
The female as the male must be gray of back, shape and size correct, have a belly drawing (the flames)( note that this drawing is not orange as on the males but rather pulls towards the gray-brown), back drawings (on the outer edge of the remiges), a chest that rises very high, drawings of orange cheeks, flanks marked with dots and orange color also.
Should the female have the darkest possible cheeks and flanks ? I have no answer.
What is certain is that the first female orange breast had no orange cheeks and that the Dutch standard required females without cheeks a few years ago (now there are two standards accepted and judged differently: with drawing and without drawing…: type 1, type 2 in competitions). The female without drawn cheeks keeps the tail tiles as orange as possible. Most of my breeding females do not have cheeks, it is a character that I do not select specially.
I sometimes read on the internet that to release a good intensive male in color it is absolutely necessary a female with very orange cheeks, it is not true. We come out very good colored birds with females without cheeks if they are very grey. By “very grey” I mean birds whose eumelanin supersedes phaeo. This does not mean that certain characters should not be present (belly drawing, caudal overlying, eyelid etc.). I can say that the female without cheek has no influence on the intensity of the color on the males.
Some peculiarities are specific to the mutation combination
The orange breast seems to intensify the extension of the orange color of the drawings. We often observe subjects with a complete extension of the cheeks at the back of the skull, and this with a chest that goes up very high under the beak (compared with a pure black chest). This extension, when important, tends to color the color. I do not agree with those who say that orange-colored birds are black-faced birds. This coloration appears as well on black breast orange breast without the black face mutation for several generations.
I do not select the orange color of the color. Certainly it is a defect present in my birds but raising black face black breast orange breast, I do not pay attention to it.
In competitions, it depends a lot on the judges but in general, if the bird is good, they do not get heavily punished. Note that there are several kinds of orange colors, which a photo does not show well. Rusty orange colors like the chest and that come to blend with the cheek (not good) or an orange veil, lighter than the cheek and that stands out again (it goes better). But on big competitions, this is what the beautiful bird will miss to rank against the best.
The first zebrafinch presented at the exhibition were far from those we now have in our farms. They were rather filiform and small in all respects resembling the majority of the birds that we currently find at the pet store on the corner.
The evolution does not know made in a day but it has been relatively fast. Here we will talk about the grey zebrafinch, all simply because it is my specialty, and I am starting to know it well.
We can observe that the greys, which are a classic (We call «classic» the greys and the basic mutations that are the brown, pale back and masked.), presented in the major exhibitions is no longer very far from the perfect grey. The type and size are for the most part excellent level and the difference is mainly on the color.
To locate each descriptive terms used in the rest of the article, you can use this diagram: Descriptive terms in zebrafinch.
1. The main defects of grey males
In recent years many defects have appeared in the gray we have the leisure to see in our exhibitions. I’m going to introduce a few of them that I think are most commonly encountered on display or on our farms.
a) The stripes behind the cheeks
For the last couple of years, at least from what I’ve personally noticed, we’ve been seeing signs of zebra around the cheek. This defect is rather noticeable in black cheek greys, but rather recent in grey males. It is still time to eradicate it from gray strains before it is fully generalized to grey zebrafinch.
Because of the similarity to the defect in black cheeks, I do not think it can be equated with a black cheek factor. Indeed, this defect appears even in strains having no affiliation with a strain of black cheeks.
On the other hand, we can think that this phenomenon is due to a high concentration of eumelanin (black), which is sought in gray for a dark back and in black cheeks for an intense black color.
b) Tear spreading in the cheeks
Another defect is the tear, which gives an impression of diffusion in the cheek by the presence of some black feathers in them, and of a line under the eye. Usually in my breeding these are birds that have deep chestnut cheeks. I think we still have it, we can equate it to an excess of eumelanin in this area.
The zebrafinch gray is from the wild type.
It corresponds to the original type of Mandarin diamond. It is therefore strictly speaking not a mutation.
However, the gray zebrafinch we know to this day, is very different from its Australian ancestor. Following a selection by the breeders, the type, size and color of it have changed a lot.
Since gray is the basis of the mutations existing in the gray series (black breast gray, white breast gray, pale back gray, etc.), the rearing of this one is essential for the perennity of all these mutations.
The gray zebrafinch will thus "regenerate" all these mutations.
3. Who is gray breeding for ?
The breeding of the gray zebrafinch is recommended for beginners and can also become very exciting for the more experienced.
Indeed, despite an attraction at first glance less spectacular than a zebrafinch with orange or pastel colors, its breeding is even more interesting.
The aim of this article is not to establish an unstoppable rule for the recognition of a gray male split (carrying) the black breast mutation. Rather, it aims to gather the clues that will allow you to identify it.
For this, every detail of the mutation is taken over, according to what I observed during the selection of my strain of gray black chest.
Before starting to analyze each possible clue, it seems important to me to bear in mind that the black chest mutation changes the shape of the drawings. To identify a split of the black chest mutation, I also advise you to take into account all the clues described in this article.
Let’s proceed and analyze the phenotype of a gray black breast from the head to the rectrices in comparison to a gray split the black breast mutation. To identify each descriptive term used, you can use this diagram : Descriptive terms in zebrafinch.
1. Mustachial line
Black chest : The moustachial line will be pronounced and intense black.
Split (/) Black chest : The moustachial line may be more pronounced than on a gray, however this does not constitute for me a sufficient clue.
2. Tear line
Black chest : The tear line disappears (ideally according to the standard) or only a fine line remains.
Split (/) black chest : Different cases depending on the force of expression of the mutation in the split.
- The tear line is present and fine :
- Tear line is present and wide :
- In some cases, the tear line of a split black chest may also be absent. It will be necessary to rely on the other clues to know if it is a split or a black breast in its own right.
Black chest : The drawing of the cheeks will extend up and back of the head.