The grey male, in qualities and defects
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.
c) Overflow from chest to flanks
We descend a little on the body of the gray to stop at the junction between the stripes, the chest bar and the flanks. In the photos below two defects are visible.
We can notice at the birth of the flanks that the zebra appear to spread there giving gray zebra feathers in the middle of the flanks. The demarcation should be in the net ideal.
This defect often goes hand in hand with the second one visible on the second photo below:
The chest bar «flows» under the sides which forms a black border more or less thick. Sometimes this edge is only a few millimetres long but it happens that this edge extends on all the sides.
Here compared to the defect of flanks presented above, there is added chestnut feathers bearing the white dot or is at the base of the latter a black zone. I also think that this defect is due to an excess of eumelanin in the flanks.
d) Black spot under the beak
The defect to note on this photo is the black spot under the beak, sometimes it is a white spot caused by the lack of the last zebras. However, it is a flaw that needs to be corrected.
e) Lore rising above the eye
This defect is more and more noticed and frequent, it is the color that goes up well above the eye, while it should stop at its lower end. This defect is commonly called the spot.
f) Traces of eumelanin in the lores
Another defect more and more common in gray, traces of melanin in the color.
It comes in several forms, as in the photo above a line connecting the tear and the moustachial line (characteristic of some black-faced gray female strain) or then by a few small black spots distributed over the entire surface of the color.
g) Streaks in the cheeks
Here, contrary to the flaw presented above in this article, it is not a black spot present in the cheek, but zeroes.
I have never seen it on display but in my breeding. Not knowing how to explain it, I discarded the entire line. If you have any experience with this defect, please feel free to share it with me (in the comments).
h) Defects in the design of the tail and the colour of the rump
In this photo we can see two defects.
The tail tiles are in disorder (here the bird is not in condition), according to some judges this defect has become very common in gray.
Second defect, the rump is not pure white surrounded on each side by a black band, the white zone is colored black in the same way as the tail tiles.
2. The main qualities to be sought
a) A successful type
The zebrafinch grey being part of the classics the type and the maintenance must be irreproachable. For me, it is imperative qualities that the grey must have when one wishes to work with him in the direction of the exhibitions.
The two birds in the photo are identical, however a judge would choose the one in photo 2 because much prouder, presenting a better support than the one above.
Another important point is the alignment between the head, back and tail, which must form a straight line.
b) colour of the back
Let us also illustrate with these photos (above), the color of the back, if the goal is to make gray for gray, privileged a bird without brown reflection in the back. Be careful, remember that the first year of a young mandarin grey diamond, the back is «loaded» in phaeomelanin (brown). Here the gray presented still has phaeomelanin on the back due to its young age.
We will have to look for a grey slate color called «bluish» to hope for the best results in exposure.
c) Drawing of the tail
Let us dwell on the design of the tail tiles, the standard ask them well aligned which becomes less and less the case, if you have this quality in one of your gray and that it does not present major defects keep it!
d) Structure and colour of the head
In the photos below two points can be addressed: The structure and color of the head.
Let’s start with the structure and shape of the head which must remain an important criterion, the color is easier to catch up. You will select first by the 1st point then by the 2nd.
Look at the first picture below, you will notice that both subjects have a completely different head structure. One of them (from the point of default) is to eradicate from the breeding, it is the one on the left that is pinched, in addition to the pinched head this same subject to a beak too long.
Let’s now talk about the color, contrary to the first point mentioned the gray of better quality is the one on the left, the color of the head being more supported.
However, it should be noted that the two subjects are not the same age and that the one on the right is much older (+2 years), which generally plays on the intensity.
Another point we can note on the head: the hammering, the feathers must show darker traces similar to splinters caused by a hammer on steel.
I hope this article will help you in your future acquisitions and in the selection of your male grey zebrafinch.
Loïc Leducq, amateur breeder of selection.
Article published in 2020.