Where Has The Body Colour Gone?
By Malcolm Freemantle

Recently, many Clearwing breeders have been striving to improve the wing clarity on their birds. After all, the variety is called the Clearwing! The results are there to see on the showbench, with most of the top Clearwings now exhibiting wings reasonably free of heavy markings. The size factor has been held in most cases, despite the recessive nature of the variety. The battle to improve the shoulder and width of head remains and will always be there. If the challenge of the variety was missing, I feel sure many of us breeding the Clearwing variety would have opted for other colours long ago.

What is now noticeable to the experienced breeder, is the loss of body colour in the lighter shades. In the Blue series the Whitewing Skyblue suffers. In the Green series the Yellow-wing Light Green is increasingly poorer. Is the poorer body colour a side effect we can reasonably expect when we concentrate our efforts on improving wing markings? If we are serious Clearwing breeders and serious about improving the Clearwing variety, the answer must be an unequivocal "No". We must however, blame ourselves for not selecting our pairings correctly, or for not taking into account the depth of body colour in the birds we are pairing together. Further we must go back in our records to find out whether the parents came from a solid background of good deep body colour.

It has always been recognised that the mating of two Whitewing Skyblues will retain and even improve, size. I am equally sure that many Clearwing fanciers have gone down this path to the detriment of colour in both wing and body. Wing clarity has been achieved in many cases and body size held, but body colour has suffered by using too many Budgerigars that lack the required depth of body colour in their background. Unless this is corrected and quickly, some breeders run the risk of breeding Clearwings which will be wrong-classed as Dilutes.

Imprint Through Breeding

What can we do to bring the body colour back you may ask? The answer, as with any feature to be imprinted through breeding, is to be more selective in our pairings. Use only birds with strong body colour in all pairings, over two to three breeding seasons. Cross-pairing Whitewings and Yellow-wings will help you to keep that depth of colour in your stud, assuming you have not already lost it!

Yellow-wing Light Green to Whitewing Skyblue has always been a favoured mating of mine and it does give you a selection of both colours for future use. If your light shades of Clearwing have lost their depth of body colour, then you have little option but to dip into the dark factor birds. I like the Whitewing Cobalt (medium-dark) as a colour outcross for the Skyblue because they nearly always have a good even colour that is essential to bring about the desired effect on the body. From this pairing you should produce 50% light factor birds and 50% dark factor birds.

A White Cobalt will do a similar job on body colour although finding the right White will be difficult because the quality of body colouring is not easy to distinguish. The advantage of using a Dilute is that it will retain the wing clarity and indeed, if the White is free of heavy wing markings it should improve them.

In the Green series I favour pairing the Yellow-wing Light Green to a Yellow-wing Dark Green. This will give you similar results to the Whitewing pairing with 50% of young birds being light-factor and 50% being dark factor. If the Yellow-wing Dark Green is split for Blue so much the better for it will give the pairing a boost as regards colour.

That Something Extra

There is a great need to be selective when choosing pairs of Whitewing Skyblues and Yellow-wing Light Greens for the breeding season. None of the three important features of a top show bird can be overlooked. These are size, wing clarity and body colour. The Clearwing breeder has to put something into his pairings over and above that put in by the breeder of Normal or Opaline varieties. That something extra is contrast, for without this important factor we do not have a Clearwing show bird.

Contrast is the difference in the degree of colour between the wing-clarity and the depth of body colour. Even the lighter shades of the Clearwing variety must be seen to have this, although the medium and dark factor Clearwings will show it to greater advantage. Judges should allow for all three of the Clearwing shades to show contrast, otherwise there would be little point in the fanciers keeping anything but dark factor Clearwings.

In planning ahead for future pairings and to ensure that body colour remains always strong in your stud, I recommend you try pairing a double factor Whitewing Mauve to a Whitewing Cobalt. This is one of the pairs we have put down and the results are startling, with good-contrasted Whitewing Violets and Whitewing Cobalts coming from the double-dark/medium-dark pairing. The reality is, that the Whitewing Mauve, which is a double, factor Clearwing, ensures that all the offspring will be Whitewings with no Whites turning up.

Those of you who have read my book will know that I regard the Whitewing Mauve as a particular colour which can be a key to general improvement in colour in most departments. My subsequent breeding with them has supported and confirmed my argument. The Whitewing Mauve will continue to play a prominent part in our future breeding, and the destiny of our stud could rest firmly on the results.

In finalising, the message I wish to convey to all breeders of Clearwings, is that the variety must be uppermost in your thoughts at breeding time. Clarity of wings and deep body colour coupled with size and type should be our objective. It can be achieved, but not easily or quickly. I am sure most of you have this objective in mind. It is simply that even the best plans can go astray now and then. We can only show what we breed be it good or be it bad. Let us hope it is good!

Malcolm Freemantle is Author of the book The Art of Breeding Clearwings.