VIOLETS

By Paul Russ

In the article I wrote on Dominant Pieds that appeared in the June 1999 issue of ‘The Bulletin’, I mentioned that when I first started out in budgerigars in late 1977, the birds I bought were "pretty" ones which appealed to me. One of my initial purchases was a Normal looking cock whose jade green colour struck me. It turned out to be a Type II Australian Yellow Faced Skyblue/Opaline and started in me an interest in the Yellow Faced Blue variety. This culminated in 1987 with me having the best Yellow Faced Blue Hen at the Interbranch Challenge and this bird going on to represent the State at the Australian Championships in Perth where it came seventh (cocks and hens combined). Not long after, I got out of budgerigars completely. The biggest problem with Australian Yellow Faced Blue budgerigars was keeping the yellow up in the mask. The first way to do this was to breed Double Factor (Type I) Australian Yellow Faced Blues and the second was to also breed them in Dark Factor birds, particularly Violets, as they seemed to a degree to mask any yellow that spilled into the chest region. This is where my initial interest in Violets started. Being back in budgerigars for about six years and having achieved some success on the show bench, I have now looked for another challenge – Violets; including Yellow Faced Violets, Violet Dominant Pieds and even Yellow Faced Violet Dominant Pieds.

WHAT ARE VIOLETS?

In the Australian National Budgerigar Council Standard, the VIOLET is a Standard Normal Blue Series variety.

The back, rump, breast, flanks and underparts should be a solid full intensity shade of violet throughout. Markings on the cheeks, back of head, neck and wings are black, clearly defined and symmetrical on the ground colour (white). Eyes are black with a white iris ring. The cheek patch is violet, the tail quill black and the tail feather a deep royal blue.

This exhibition Violet coloured bird is often called a visual Violet and is a combination of the Violet factor, with the medium shade of blue (Cobalt). Violets first appeared in Australia and England in the early 1930s. In 1983 I interviewed the late Joe Wilmott, who in 1967 bred the first Danish Recessive Pieds (Harlequins) in Australia. He told me that Bill Frost, a friend from his school days, bred the first Violets in Australia from mating an unusually coloured green cock that he obtained from a person on boat at Carrington, with a Cobalt. Joe was breeding Whitewing Violets in the late 1930s.

Violets are among the most beautiful of all budgerigars. However, they tend to be one of the less competitive of the Normal Blue series budgerigars (Skyblue, Cobalt, Mauve, Violet, Grey). There are probably a combination of reasons for this, including that dark factor birds often lack size, visual Violets are not that simple to produce in numbers and few fanciers specialise in this variety and so its progress has lagged.

THE VIOLET FACTOR

Budgerigars come in three depths of colour: light, medium and dark. The light shade represents the absence of a "Dark Factor", medium represents the presence of one "Dark Factor" and dark represents the presence of two "Dark Factors".

The Violet factor is a colour modifier, that is, it exists in conjunction with another colour to change that colour’s appearance, giving it a violet overlay, and darker appearance. Violet is not a colour in itself and appears as the beautiful visual Violet shade when in combination with Cobalt. The Violet factor can be carried by all varieties and as such, the word Violet is used as a prefix when describing any bird having the Violet character in its makeup.

Blue Series

Green Series

Violet Skyblue

Violet Light Green

Violet Cobalt = Violet = visual Violet

Violet Dark Green

Violet Mauve

Violet Olive

The Violet factor is a Dominant one, meaning that it can only be present in a visual form and consequently, it is not possible for any bird to carry the Violet character in "split" form. A bird having the Violet factor must show it in its plumage by an altered colouration. As a Dominant factor, it can be carried in a single or double form, which gives expectations parallel to those of the Dominant Pied and the Spangle. However, the Violet factor is more akin to that of Grey, as it alters the body shade of each variety and colour, in both the Green and Blue series. When it is combined with Blue and Dark characteristics we get the beautiful visual Violet and in other combinations when the Violet factor is present, the result is a change in shade.

BREEDING VIOLETS

Because the Violet factor is Dominant in its mode of inheritance rather than recessive, it does not take long to build up a number of Violet factor birds, though not necessarily visual Violets.

The various rules that govern the inheritance of the Violet characteristic, irrespective of the actual colour are:

One needs to realise that the number of birds possessing the Violet factor produced in a particular nest a may differ from these theoretical expectations.

In order to breed visual Violets in numbers we must use the table above in conjunction with those that follow.

Most Violet factor birds, including the visual Violets, are only single factor birds and this is due to the general desire of breeders to improve their Violets by pairing them to good quality Normals. The following table shows the mating expectations when pairing single factor Violet Blue birds to non-Violet factor Blues.

x

Skyblue

Cobalt

Mauve

Violet Skyblue

50% Violet Skyblue

50% Skyblue

25% Violet Skyblue

25% Skyblue

25% Violet Cobalt

25% Cobalt

50% Violet Cobalt

50% Cobalt

Violet Cobalt (visual Violet)

25% Violet Skyblue

25% Skyblue

25% Violet Cobalt

25% Cobalt

12.5% Violet Skyblue

12.5% Skyblue

25% Violet Cobalt

25% Cobalt

12.5% Violet Mauve

12.5% Mauve

25% Violet Cobalt

25% Cobalt

25% Violet Mauve

25% Mauve

Violet Mauve

50% Violet Cobalt

50% Cobalt

25% Violet Cobalt

25% Cobalt

25% Violet Mauve

25% Mauve

50% Violet Mauve

50% Mauve

As can be seen from the table, pairing a visual Violet to any shade of Blue produces 1 in 4 (25%) visual Violets. You will also see that a Violet Skyblue mated to a Mauve, or conversely, a Violet Mauve mated to a Skyblue produce twice as many (50%) and are a better pairing if your desire is to produce visual Violets in numbers. However, breeders seem to be reluctant to purchase Violet Skyblues, often through ignorance of their existence or worth. (Violet Mauves are quite rare and often of inferior quality to other Violet factor birds).

So what do Violet Skyblues look like if you were to buy one or breed one from a mating involving a visual Violet?

The body colour of Violet Skyblues is very similar to normal Cobalts and a knowing the genetic makeup of the parent birds is not always helpful, as the previous table shows, many matings that produce Violet Skyblues also produce Cobalts. Generally Violet Skyblues are a pale bright cobalt colour. However, as with any colour, there is a variation in the depth of colour from bird to bird. Violet Skyblues can vary in shade from nearly as pale as the deepest shades of Skyblue to body colour similar to a medium shade of Cobalt. Most Violet Skyblues fall somewhere in between the two extremes and resemble pale or poorly coloured Cobalts. When trying to distinguish between Violet Skyblues and Cobalts, natural indoor light or outside on an overcast day is best; direct sunlight and fluorescent lighting worst.

A good guide to distinguish Violet Skyblues from Cobalts is the colour of the upper region of the two primary tail feathers, where they join the quill. In Violet Skyblues the colour is only a little deeper turquoise than in normal Skyblues, whereas in Cobalts it is a dark navy blue. The two central tail feathers of Cobalts are a solid navy blue, whereas the tail feathers of Violet Skyblues are turquoise near the quill end darkening to blue towards the tip. Similarly, there is a difference in the leading edge of the flight feathers of Violet Skyblues and Cobalts. In Cobalts it is dark blue while in Violet Skyblues is a brighter, iridescent and slightly darker turquoise than that of Skyblues.

In general, Violet Skyblues have a brighter appearance than Cobalts and show more iridescence in the rump region.

As mentioned, Violet Mauves are quite rare and often of inferior quality to other Violet factor birds. They are quite similar in appearance to normal Mauves. However, when birds of the two colours are compared side by side, a violet tinge is usually apparent over the entire body of Violet Mauves, particularly in the rump and flank areas. They are also usually a much brighter and more attractive colour than are the majority of Mauves which seem to be a dull greyish-mauve colouring. Also their cheek flashes and primary tail feathers are very deep.

Mating Violet factor Blues to Violet factor Blues gives a percentage of Double Factor Violet factor Blues as can be seen from the following table.

x

SF Violet Skyblue

SF Violet Cobalt

(visual Violet)

SF Violet Mauve

SF Violet Skyblue

25% DF Violet Skyblue

50% SF Violet Skyblue

25% Skyblue

12.5% DF Violet Skyblue

25% SF Violet Skyblue

12.5% Skyblue

12.5% DF Violet Cobalt

25% SF Violet Cobalt

12.5% Cobalt

25% DF Violet Cobalt

50% SF Violet Cobalt

25% Cobalt

SF Violet Cobalt

(visual Violet)

12.5% DF Violet Skyblue

25% SF Violet Skyblue

12.5% Skyblue

12.5% DF Violet Cobalt

25% SF Violet Cobalt

12.5% Cobalt

6.25% DF Violet Skyblue

12.5% SF Violet Skyblue

6.25% Skyblue

12.5% DF Violet Cobalt

25% SF Violet Cobalt

12.5% Cobalt

6.25% DF Violet Mauve

12.5% SF Violet Mauve

6.25% Mauve

12.5% DF Violet Cobalt

25% SF Violet Cobalt

12.5% Cobalt

12.5% DF Violet Mauve

25% SF Violet Mauve

12.5% Mauve

SF Violet Mauve

25% DF Violet Cobalt

50% SF Violet Cobalt

25% Cobalt

12.5% DF Violet Cobalt

25% SF Violet Cobalt

12.5% Cobalt

12.5% DF Violet Mauve

25% SF Violet Mauve

12.5% Mauve

25% DF Violet Mauve

50% SF Violet Mauve

25% Mauve

So what do Double Factor Violet Skyblues, Double Factor Violet Cobalts and Double Factor Violet Mauves look like?

DF Violet Skyblues can vary in body colour. In the palest, their body colour is nearly as pale as the deepest shades of Cobalt, while in the darkest their body colour is similar to that of visual Violets. In general their body colour approaches that of visual Violets but with a more satiny appearance. By observing the colour of the primary tail feathers and the leading edge of the flight feathers, as with differentiating between Violet Skyblues and Cobalts, DF Violet Skyblues can be distinguished from Violet Cobalts. Violet Cobalts have evenly coloured deep royal blue to purple tail feathers and similarly coloured iridescence in the leading edge of flight feathers. Double Factor Violet Skyblues have tails that are usually similar to those of Single Factor Violet Skyblues but darker. Their tails are dark blue to violet depending on the colour intensity of the DF Violet Skyblue but not even, as the quill end is a paler blue or turquoise. The flight feathers of DF Violet Skyblues carry a dark turquoise iridescence.

Generally, the only difference between DF Violet Cobalts and SF Violet Cobalts is that they are a deeper richer violet colour. Similarly DF Violet Mauves are also a deeper richer colour than SF Violet Mauves.

In their book, Genetics For Budgerigar Breeders (2nd edition), Taylor and Warner have a plate facing page 90 showing a Skyblue, Single Factor and Double Factor Skyblues, Single and Double Factor visual Violets and a Cobalt, along with a tail feather from each.

Double Factor birds can be used to give 100% Violet factor birds. The following table shows the results from mating Double Factor Violets to Normal Blues.

x

Skyblue

Cobalt

Mauve

DF Violet Skyblue

100% Violet Skyblue

50% Violet Skyblue

50% Violet Cobalt

100% Violet Cobalt

DF Violet Cobalt (visual Violet)

50% Violet Skyblue

50% Violet Cobalt

25% Violet Skyblue

50% Violet Cobalt

25% Violet Mauve

50% Violet Cobalt

50% Violet Mauve

DF Violet Mauve

100% Violet Cobalt

50% Violet Cobalt

50% Violet Mauve

100% Violet Mauve

Mating Double Factor Violets to Single Factor Violets results in 50-50 Double and Single Factor Violets as can be seen in the following table.

x

SF Violet Skyblue

SF Violet Cobalt

(visual Violet)

SF Violet Mauve

DF Violet Skyblue

50% DF Violet Skyblue

50% SF Violet Skyblue

25% DF Violet Skyblue

25% SF Violet Skyblue

25% DF Violet Cobalt

25% SF Violet Cobalt

50% DF Violet Cobalt

50% SF Violet Cobalt

DF Violet Cobalt

(visual Violet)

25% DF Violet Skyblue

25% SF Violet Skyblue

25% DF Violet Cobalt

25% SF Violet Cobalt

12.5% DF Violet Skyblue

12.5% SF Violet Skyblue

25% DF Violet Cobalt

25% SF Violet Cobalt

12.5% DF Violet Mauve

12.5% SF Violet Mauve

25% DF Violet Cobalt

25% SF Violet Cobalt

25% DF Violet Mauve

25% SF Violet Mauve

DF Violet Mauve

50% DF Violet Cobalt

50% SF Violet Cobalt

25% DF Violet Cobalt

25% SF Violet Cobalt

25% DF Violet Mauve

25% SF Violet Mauve

50% DF Violet Mauve

50% SF Violet Mauve

Mating Double Factor Violets together produces all Double Factor Violets as can be seen in the following table.

x

DF Violet Skyblue

DF Violet Cobalt

(visual Violet)

DF Violet Mauve

DF Violet Skyblue

100% DF Violet Skyblue

50% DF Violet Skyblue

50% DF Violet Cobalt

100% DF Violet Cobalt

DF Violet Cobalt

(visual Violet)

50% DF Violet Skyblue

50% DF Violet Cobalt

25% DF Violet Skyblue

50% DF Violet Cobalt

25% DF Violet Mauve

50% DF Violet Cobalt

50% DF Violet Mauve

DF Violet Mauve

100% DF Violet Cobalt

50% DF Violet Cobalt

50% DF Violet Mauve

100% DF Violet Mauve

IMPROVING VIOLETS

A good Violet must be a good exhibition Budgerigar in terms of type (general outline, balance, deportment), head, mask, size and colour. Often Violets are lacking in head, mask and size, particularly if the breeder has concentrated on colour. Conversely, Violets having better type features can be let down in the depth and evenness of body colour.

If your long term aim is to produce Violets in numbers, breeding Violet factor birds to Violet factor birds is the way to go. However, while you may maintain good colour in the Violets this way, continued such matings will result in a deterioration of type and size in the Violet stud, and it can be quite a problem getting these features back. If your aim is to produce Violets for the show bench you must not breed for colour at the expense of type and size, but should aim to produce exhibition Violets which excel in head quality, size and type, while maintaining the desired colour. To breed size into Violets it will be necessary to outcross to large Normals not carrying the Violet factor. As good coloured birds are generally bred from good coloured birds, it will be necessary to select as outcrosses, birds of good type and size with outstanding heads and of a rich solid colour. In terms of the size and head qualities of Blue budgerigars, normally the order would be Skyblues, then Cobalts and finally Mauves. This means the preferred outcross to a Visual Violet would be a Skyblue and for a Violet Skyblue a Cobalt. While a Violet Mauve mated to a Skyblue is a better mating for the production of numbers of visual Violets, generally Violet Mauves are the poorest quality of the Violet factor birds, meaning progress at producing quality Violets will be slower.

Having mated the Violet factor birds with the best size and type, to the best available Blue series outcrosses, particularly birds of a deep even colour, retain as stock birds the young Violet factor birds that show the better characteristics of the parents and some improvement in colour. This way it should be possible after a few generations to improve your Violets in type, size and colour, particularly if the outcrosses are related as you will be able to inbreed their desired features into your Violet stud.

If you are serious about breeding quality Violets rather than numbers, at some stage you will have to, what old breeders used to say, "dip into the Greens", as generally Green series birds are superior to Blue series. In addition to being more plentiful in quality, Greens can improve the richness of colour in Blues. A quality Green split Blue will offer advantages over one not, in that Violets may be produced in the first year.

You will be confronted at some stage with having to recognise Violet Greens, which will be valuable stock birds for producing Violets. In general, the effect of the violet factor is to intensify and deepen the colour shade. The outstanding feature of Violet Green series birds is the evenness of their colour. Violet Light Greens have an even pale dull dark green body shade. The darker better coloured Violet Light Greens generally look like Dark Greens. Tail feathers can help in differentiating them. The tail feathers of Violet Light Greens are generally like those of Light Greens, i.e., mid blue with turquoise suffusion, while Dark Greens have dark or navy blue coloured tails. Also Dark Greens have a dark blue colour in their flight feathers while Violet Light Greens do not. When viewed side by side, Violet Light Greens show a more satiny finish to their feathers than Dark Greens. Violet Dark Greens have a deep dull dark green colour and are generally midway between Dark Greens and Olives in colour. Violet Olives are very rare and are an exceedingly heavy dark shade of green and not the sandy shade usually found in Olives.

Another aspect to be aware of is that numberwise not all Dark Green/Blue budgerigars are of equal value in the production of Violets. The experienced breeder will probably know there are two types of Dark Green/Blue budgerigars. A Type I Dark Green/Blue is a bird who received its dark factor from a green parent that was darker than the blue (or split blue) parent. When paired to a Skyblue it should produce 43% Skyblues (and 43% Dark Green/Blues). A Type II Dark Green/Blue is a bird who received its dark factor from a blue parent that was darker than the green parent. When paired to a Skyblue it should produce 43% Cobalts (and 43% Light Green/Blues).

Mating a Type II Dark Green/Blue with a SF Violet Skyblue gives the following theoretical expectations:

21.5% SF Violet Cobalt (visual Violet) 21.5% Cobalt

3.5% SF Violet Skyblue 3.5% Skyblue

3.5% SF Violet Type I Dark Green/Blue 3.5% Type I Dark Green/Blue

21.5% SF Violet Light Green/Blue 21.5% Light Green/Blue

Another consideration not touched on that is important in the production of quality Violets is feather. Not only types of feather and how they affect the size of the bird and richness of colour, but also feather direction. Also, if you should purchase a Violet Green bird be aware that it may not be split blue.

It is not easy to consistently breed good Violets. This is not just because visual Violets are not true breeding. It takes a lot of patience and hard work, but the rewards are worthwhile.

OTHER VARIETIES OF VIOLET

As mentioned at the start of this article, I have been breeding Violets in a number of varieties in addition to Normals. These include Opalines, Yellow Faced Violets, Violet Dominant Pieds and Yellow Faced Violet Dominant Pieds.

For sheer contrast, I like Violet Dominant Pieds and Violet Clearwings. The addition of Cinnamon tends to lighten the body shade of Violets and although pretty, they lack impact. However, I must say that the Violet Cinnamon Spangles that the late Joe Wilmott bred were certainly an appealing bird.

I would not introduce Greygreens into a Violet breeding program, both because Violet Greygreens are extremely difficult to recognise and the Grey factor will halve the number of potential Violets. However, Violet Greys are recognisable by their unusual plum colouring and can be useful, but again cut down on the number of potential Violets. This plum colouring varies depending which shade of grey (light, medium or dark) the bird is.

While for the show bench Albinos should be free of blue suffusion, Violet factor Albinos, depending on the blue shade masked (Skyblue, Cobalt or Mauve), can take on a pinkish appearance.

All budgerigars can carry the Violet factor. I have only touched on its combination with some varieties and make sure if showing the birds you enter them in the correct class as many Violet factor birds must be shown in the Non Standard Variety/Non Standard Colour class.

PRACTICAL BREEDING RESULTS

Finally, last season I mated a Violet(SF)/Opaline cock to a Yellow Faced(SF) Cobalt Opaline Pied(SF). This is what they produced from three rounds:

Yellow Faced(SF) Skyblue Opaline Pied(SF) hen

Skyblue Pied(SF)/Opaline cock

Yellow Faced(SF) Cobalt Opaline hen

Yellow Faced(SF) Violet(SF) hen

Yellow Faced(SF) Violet(SF) Pied(SF) hen

Yellow Faced(SF) Violet(SF)/Opaline cock

Violet(SF) Mauve/Opaline cock

Violet(SF) Skyblue Opaline Pied(SF) hen

Violet(SF)/Opaline cock

Yellow Faced(SF) Violet(SF) Opaline Pied(SF) hen

Yellow Faced(SF) Cobalt Opaline Pied(SF) hen

Violet(SF)/Opaline cock

Yellow Faced(SF) Violet(SF) hen

Yellow Faced(SF) Skyblue Pied(SF) hen

Yellow Faced(SF) Violet(SF) Opaline cock

Not a bad mixture. You may care to compare the results with the theoretical expectations.