Photo: Colin O’Hara. A young pied just showing its first pied feathers. It can take 15 months for the definitive markings to show up

 

This mutation of the splendid parakeet is not one of the newer ones but, says Colin O’Hara it still raises as many questions as answers – and it’s one he loves to breed for pure pleasure

 

IT IS possibly not a true mystery because their genetic inheritance is definitely dominant… but after decades of breeding them, I am still no further forward in understanding pied splendids than I was when I started breeding them all those years ago. There are two elements that make these birds both interesting and a challenge:

■ It can take 15 months to know if the bird is pied or not.

■ How pied will the bird be?

A restricting factor is how much aviary space can be given to holding a lot of splendids that may turn out to be pied or not. Youngsters bred from pied parents leave the nest not showing any form of pied markings at all. Some, in their first moult – which is about eight to 10 weeks after leaving the nest – will start to show markings, while others will develop a small amount of pied over the next few months.

But it is not until the first adult full moult, at about 12-15 months, when the tail and flight feathers are also replaced, that the beauty of the pied is revealed. Only then is it possible to tell if the bird is a pied and the extent of pied markings it will show. If it is a good specimen, the flights and tail will also be pied.

There is no guarantee what percentage of the young birds will turn pied either. Some years it is as low as 10 per cent, while in others it can be as high as 80 per cent. I have tried pairing all combinations in the hope of producing a bloodline that will be consistent.

The mutation is no doubt dominant, because only one of the pair needs to be pied to produce pied. The advantage of this is it makes introducing new blood very easy. After countless pairings, it would appear that the pairing that produces the best and most constant pied is a bird that is 80 per cent-plus pied to a bird carrying no pied blood.

Yet for some years now, I have been pairing pied to pied purely for the reason I enjoy them in my stud. They are a delight to the eye, although using this method cuts down the number of young birds that need the long holding process.

First-round splendids will breed the following year, and many of the young potential pieds would not have revealed whether they are pied or not. This makes pairing difficult and, in most cases, pieds are two years old before I use them for breeding.

The final part of the mystery is that with each moult, the bird’s appearance can change – not the amount of pied the bird carries, just a different pattern. A breeding project I have been working on for years is to produce the black & white splendid. This can be achieved by making a combination mutation of white-breasted, pied and dark factor (grey green). With these three mutations on one bird and the pied at only 50 per cent, the result would be a black & white. ■

 

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