Photo: Geoff Gale pictured with two of his winning lovebirds at the Lovebird (1990) Society’s 2018 members’ show

 

Sometimes an unconventional approach can pay off, as Geoff Gale found when he tried breeding the rare pale-headed peach-face mutation, with some interesting results

 

THE pale-headed peach-faced mutation is an incomplete dominant mutation, which means it comes in single-factor or double-factor birds.

There is a difference between the two factors. Both differ from the normal green peach-face by having a dull pink forehead and face in the single-factor birds, whereas the double-factor birds have a dull pink forehead and brilliant pink face. The green of the body is a lighter shade than that of a normal peach-face, almost an apple green in colour.

This mutation first appeared in Holland in 1982. I first saw two examples at the Havant CBS & Solent CBS joint “South Coast Open Show” in 2015, when my good friend Neil Pegram showed a double factor that he had got from Belgium and a single factor that he had bred from the cock bird.

I purchased these two birds from Neil when, sadly, he gave up his successful stud of lovebirds. The youngster turned out to be a hen. In 2016, I paired father and daughter together, something that I do not normally do, but I wanted to breed as many pale-heads as I could to start up a line. The pair produced two clutches of five eggs, all being dead-in-shell. I put this down to them being too closely related and took the nest-box away.

I stuck with my plan, however, and at the beginning of 2017, I put the nest-box back in the cage. Although they used the box for roosting, the hen did not start to build a nest until March. I use willow for nest building.

The first egg was laid on May 12, followed by five more eggs, laid one every other day. The first of two eggs to hatch was on June 11 and the other one on June 14. The other four eggs were dead-in-shell.

The first chick had orange down and dark eyes, as expected with green-series birds. The second chick had a paler orange down and red eyes. I knew I had something different, which was not expected: it looked like a lutino hatchling.

I always hold the chicks from the moment they hatch, because I think this helps to calm them down and makes it easier for me to get them steady for the show cage. I closed-ring chicks between eight and 10 days old. The first chick was ringed successfully on the eighth day, but when I went to closed-ring the second chick, it was already too big to get a ring on its leg.

As the chicks grew, the eldest one coloured up as expected. The second chick kept its red eyes. The eyes didn’t darken like they do in pallids (Australian cinnamons) and as it feathered up it had yellow feathers and white flights. I thought I had a lutino, but then blue feathers appeared on the rump, which ruled out that mutation.

When this chick emerged from the nest-box, I could see it had a very pink face, almost white. I promptly looked through my books and came to the conclusion that I had bred a double-factor pale-headed fallow. I felt as though I had struck gold twice: first breeding the pale-head and second breeding a fallow, which I haven’t kept before. So this bird is going to form a line of fallows for me in the future. To have bred the fallow, which is a recessive mutation, the cock bird must have been split for fallow and passed the gene on to his daughter.

In the event, both chicks turned out to be double-factor birds. I took both of them to the Lovebird (1990) Society members’ show in 2017, where they had to be shown in the any other mutation class for peach-face. The oldest chick came second in its class for current-year owner-bred (CYOB) and, because the fallow had no ring on its leg, it had to be shown in the adult class. It came first, actually beating its father and mother in the process.

The two chicks turned out to be a cock and hen, and this year I broke two of my own rules. I do not breed brother to sister normally and don’t pair two double-factor birds together. The pair had one chick, which on hatching, had grey down and it turned out to be a double-factor pale-headed aqua (pastel blue).

Normally, pairing two double-factor birds is a no-no. It’s like pairing two buff canaries together and getting a large untidy chick. In my case, it produced a nice-size bird with very sleek and tidy feathering! For it to be an aqua meant that the original pair are both split for fallow and aqua, and had passed both mutations on to their chicks.

They had also produced a pale-headed chick of their own this year, which was aqua. The two pale-headed aquas do not look any different in the face to normal aqua, but the body colour is lighter.

At the moment, I have got eight pale-heads, consisting of one single-factor and one double-factor aqua, one double-factor fallow, and three double-factor and two single-factor pale-heads. The pale-headed can be bred with other mutations, in which case it will lighten the face and body colours. It has been another worthwhile journey.

Geoff Gale has bred lovebirds for some 40 years and has been a member of the Lovebird (1990) Society since 1994.

 

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