Above: the black-faced zebra finch shows a black triangle on the face instead of a tear mark

LARRY MANN explains why the striking black-faced mutation is becoming more popular on the show scene.

In most cases, black coloration splits opinions, since some people like to dress in black and others in lighter colours. My elder brother has always owned a black car, whereas my cars are usually a light colour.

The same rule applies to birds. My favoured colours in zebra finches are the lighter mutations, such as phaeos and fawns. There is a lot of interest in black mutations nowadays, though, and more and more breeders are taking up the challenge. The black-cheek is very popular and if combined with the black-breasted mutation, an even darker zebra can be produced.

The mutation that is the darkest is the black-faced, so called because it has a black large triangle instead of a tear mark. The chest is solid black which continues to the tail, and all white spots on side and tail barring are missing on the best examples. The hen should have a “V” shaped tear mark and dusky coloured underparts. This mutation comes in all colours but the normal obviously is the most effective. If combined with the black-cheek, all orange will be replaced with black.

The now very rare eumo is the only other near-black zebra mutation, but it suffered from health problems and constitutional weakness and hasn’t been widely established. The black-faced has not been popular on the show bench mostly due to its irregular marking, leaving the black-cheek to take prominence. It is classed as a partial dominant mutation and can be tricky to establish a strain showing consistent regular feather colour formation.

I see many examples of black-faces that can be bought at the big sale events and many are imported. They are worth considering if you like something different.

Interestingly, in Australia a black-bodied mutation has been established that has different characteristics, a large amount of black and does not appear to have the health problems associated with other melanistic mutations.

Larry Mann is well known as a populariser of the newer mutations of zebra finch in the UK.