Hugbook  not all about Fallow budgerigars 

This book is addressing some interesting points that may be relevant to the breeding of Fallow budgerigars and to the breeding of other recessive budgerigar varieties. This hugbook is not for free. However, the costs are very limited: Give someone a hug and the book will be found below.






by the publisher


The Fallows are beautiful birds if you like pastel colors and birds with red eyes and silky feathers.
Goldenface Opaline Fallows are my favorite budgerigars. A very interesting combination that few people have seen so far is the Double Factor Spangle Fallow in Green or in Blue. Visually these budgerigars are completely free of suffusion and resemble the sexlinked Ino mutations. It will be very interesting to evaluate whether these birds are recognized on the show bench as Fallows. Fooling around with judges is fun.
The Fallows together with the Crests are the most ridiculed budgerigars in the fancy. People indeed claim that the Fallow gene smashes size and type and breeding of Fallows is a waste of time. This is of course an old wives` tale and proves only the level of ignorance that can be perceived in the fancy.

The intention of the publisher has been to produce a practical textbook based on theoretical experience. The statements are the view of the virtual experts and sometimes reflect opinions found at the extreme corners of the fancy.

I hope that some of the information gathered together by the experts will be highly disputed. However, please remember that naked kings are very rare and if not all of your questions have been answered you may at least realize that you are still confused but confused on a higher level.

Budgie people are known to have a peculiar humor I heard.




by the publisher


Fallow budgerigars have been regularly bred since 1930. It is published that at least three different mutations with a very similar phenotype/appearance exist. Fallows can be bred in the Green as well as in the Blue and Yellowface series of colors and in combination with most of the mutations. The wing color of Fallows is described as pale brownish grey and the body color is gradually diluted (to White or Yellow) with the original color best visible between the wings on the back of the birds (see picture). This beautiful COLOR GRADIENT   is typical for all Fallows. The cere is pink colored in cocks and brown in hens. Throat spots are brownish and legs and feet are pink. The eyes are red. The English (and the Scottish) Fallows do not show such a perfectly white iris ring as do the German and the Australian Fallows. The color of the iris ring appears to be the only visual difference between these mutations. In Fallows the black pigment is not altered to brown pigment. The visual effect is apparently due to reduced enzyme activity (German Fallows) and due to defects in melanocyte morphology (English Fallows).


A new page in the history of Fallows has been written recently. In 2003 a male budgerigar with red eyes was found in a pet shop by Kanji Kawabata. He bred with this bird -it was a Goldenface-Bergman-Blue Clearwing Opaline Fallow- and made public the Japanese Fallow. Based on his observations the Japanese Fallow mutation is autosomal recessive and has white iris rings, exactly like the German and Australian Fallows. He combined the Japanese Fallow mutation with the Clearwing, Danish Pied, Opaline, Violet, Cinnamon, Japanese Crest ("helicopter") and the Goldenfaces. The resulting birds are unique.


Breeding experiments have shown that the English, Scottish and German Fallow mutations are not allelic. In other words mating of two Fallows from different mutations will result in offspring that look perfectly normal. These chicks are split for both Fallow mutations. The Fallow mutations are recessive and therefore only visible if two copies of the Fallow gene are present. Today it is not known whether one of the Fallow mutations is linked to a commonly accepted mutation or not (Dominant Grey and Australian Fallow? Spangle and English Fallow?). It is not known whether the Australian, Japanese and German Fallow mutations are allelic.

It may be anticipated that a Fallow mutation is allelic to the Non-sexlinked Recessive Inos.


The name of the Fallow mutation was adapted from the German word “Falben”. The corresponding adjective “falb” describes the yellow-brownish color of horses`hair (Falbe or Falber), cats`hair (Falbkatze) or budgies`hair (Falbe Wellensittiche).  Currently, it is believed that the word “fallow” is (exclusively) used to describe uncultivated land that is allowed to idle during the growing season. A classical memory problem. However, it is a nonsense to apply this particular meaning to the pigment of budgerigars because “fallow" is also an adjective in English describing a  light yellowish brown color (Meriam Webster) e.g. Fallow Deer. The adjective “fallow” is derived from Old English “fealu” that is akin to Old High German falo; “falb” is derived from this Old High German falo. In other words the translation of the word “Falben” to “Fallow” was very intelligent and not as queer as people suggest today. "Fallow" in our context does not mean untilled and undeveloped but is describing the color of the birds.

Please adjust future publications on Fallow budgerigars accordingly.

Breeding of exhibition quality Fallows is a task for stubborn people with a thick skin. This may be the reason why some of the comments from the virtual experts appear to be very spicy.



SM: My birdroom is 60ft by 20ft (18m x 6m). It is a brick construction with two internal flights. The 48 breeding cages measure each 24in x 18in x 15in (64cm x 45cm x 37cm) and the corresponding outside nestboxes are 6in x 6in x 10in (15cm x 15cm x 25cm).
I do not believe that my birds are suffering by being housed inside. Lighting is provided by fluorescent lamps and is constant throughout the year (14 hours). Budgerigars, unlike many other species of birds, are not susceptible to light stimulation.

FM: We have two birdrooms. One birdroom with 8 breeding cages each 30in x 18in x 16in (75cm x 45cm x 40cm) and an internal flight measuring 8ft x 5ft x 7ft (2.4m x 1.5m x 2.2m). Nestboxes are 10in x 6in x 10in (25cm x 15cm x 25cm). I am a great believer in true light fluorescent lamps that provide a spectrum similar to natural light including the required UV light. The day length is adjusted to stimulate natural cycles. To optimize the breeding of birds you have to understand the role of circadian rhythms and photoperiods too. The timing of the artificial light is as important as the quality of the light. In general I suggest that the photoperiod is gradually increased from 9 to 10 hours to 15 to 16 hours a day within 6 to 8 weeks. Less than 9 hours of light per day appeared to abolish breeding condition. The second birdroom is an external flight with a connected small inside flight to guarantee shelter during the night from e.g. cats. Birds always move into the inside flight over night. During wintertime all birds are kept inside. It is feasible to condition budgerigars in a way that the first chicks are hatched precisely on the ring issue date if required, starting for example conditioning in September. If lighting is kept constant over several years birds will breed very well the first year but fail to breed in the second year. This observation I made at the very beginning in the fancy and I of course blamed the birds or the former owner of the birds. Depending on the distance of the breeding cage from the artificial light source you can even direct the sex ratio in the clutches (!). Move the cage closer to the source and you will have more cocks.
We do not use “ladders” to allow molting birds to reach perches. In fact even molting birds should be able to fly. The “ladders” found in many birdrooms are there to allow the overweight monstrous show potatoes to walk to the perches as most of them cannot fly anymore.


SM: Organization is essential in my birdroom. Normally I check nestboxes twice everyday. However when eggs are due to hatch I check more often to make sure that hatched chicks are being fed properly. A record card is attached to each breeding cage and notes are made about fertile, addled or damaged eggs. My feeding routine takes about 3 hours a day. Water is changed every day and cleaning is done every week, mostly at weekends.

FM: In the inside birdroom the light is turned on every morning and turned off every evening by a timer. The exact time depends on the condition of the birds and on the season. Our birds are fed every day and sufficient water is provided too but we do not stick to a defined routine. Our birds know that they will receive a delicious piece of greenfood when we enter the birdroom, but they do not know whether this will be at 6.00 a.m. or at 6.00 p.m. Nestboxes with chicks or with eggs due to hatch are inspected twice a week and records are updated accordingly. In our notebook we record the age of the breeding birds, the size of the clutches, the number of chicks hatched, the number of chicks fledged and the amount of rounds performed. We have individual files for all birds specifying all the details of the birds and the number and quality of the offspring. We do not mark eggs and we aim to cause as little disturbance as possible. Most of the time in the birdroom we simply sit there and observe. We spend a lot of time with particularly sympathetic youngsters. The “lazy breeder” method, also called “deep litter” method, is preferred. We do not think that a weekly disinfection is appropriate.


SM: I use a basic seed mixture that is composed of millet (Japanese, White, Yellow, Panicum), plain canary and grouts. Grit, cuttlefish and mineral blocks are always available. Hardboiled eggs are mixed with breadcrumbs and used as softfood every day during the year. The water is filtered and vitamin supplements are added throughout the year. Entrodex (probiotic) is added to the softfood.

FM: We feed a commercial basic seed mixture of canary seed and different millets. If possible the birds get greenfood everyday. Our tap water is of very good quality and not chemically treated. Carrots or apples are distributed in the flights regularly. Mineral blocks and softfood are available for breeding pairs only. A commercial softfood is given to birds with chicks starting 2 to 4 days before chicks are due to hatch and removed after the chicks are fledged. We do not add vitamins to the food and the concept of stimulating a bird’s (or a human’s) natural intestinal flora is of course a marketing gag and nothing else (if your birds are not treated with antibiotics every month). It was shown that a raw protein content of 10% in the seed is sufficient for nonbreeding birds [see reference 1]. Also it is not necessary to supplement the food with the most critical amino acid lysine. We believe that the situation is different in breeding birds rearing a dozen chicks and we provide enough softfood with lecithin.


SM: Today’s showbirds are of such high quality that they are reacting more sensitively to invading pathogens as compared to wild budgerigars. I use Ramizol for treating trichomoniasis, Nystatin to control fungal infections, Virkon S to kill viruses, Chloromycetin to treat eye infections, Ivermectin to fight scaly mite and Mega-S to fight megabacteria. Amoxycillin and Cephalexin are used to irradiate bacteria.

FM: We do not treat sick birds with antibiotics or other medicine. We believe that the elimination rather than the cure of sick birds is a must if you plan to breed with your birds. Selection of healthy birds is the superlative medicine chest. It is clear from experiments with mice that a successful response to a pathogen (virus, fungus, bacterium, yeast) in a stud is directly related to the diversity of certain molecules found on key cells of the immune system. These molecules are required to initiate an appropriate immune response and appear to prevent inbreeding by directing the mate choice as proven in mice and also in humans (see reference 6) to  prevent matings between genetically similar individuals. Reproductive mechanisms are varied and range from selective fertilization to selective abortion. In inbred studs the diversity of these molecules is decreased. It is therefore not uncommon that a high percentage of the birds in an inbred stud can not fight e.g. a particular strain of bacteria and will eventually die if not treated with high doses of antibiotics. Wide (and wild) application of antibiotics is directly responsible for the development of resistances in bacteria and fungi. The problems of Megabacteria (a yeast) are maybe due to a superinfection in the gut by bacteria (they open the gate) followed by the multiplication of normally inoffensive Megabacteria. Similar yeast infections are observed in immunocompromised human patients or not yet immunocompetent children. It is therefore not surprising that newly hatched chicks are very vulnerable and it is heartbreaking to hear that plenty of budgie breeders observe high juvenile mortality these days without apparent cause. The only scientifically (not psychologically) sound advice is to start from scratch with budgerigars that are selected for health. Maybe one should not buy budgerigars from breeders with a big medicine chest and a known history of Megabacteriosis. Megabacteria can be eliminated from the gut of your birds for a short period of time but they can never be irradicated from the environment of your budgerigars if you do not keep birds under quasi sterile conditions. Humans, especially children need fresh air and sunshine to be healthy  and happy. It is not heresy to claim similar conditions for birds, especially breeding birds.
French molt is a widely distributed and devastating viral disease in budgerigars. Interestingly it is often found that not all chicks in an infected nest show symptoms. This may indicate that these unaffected chicks have the appropriate molecules on their cells of the immune system to keep in check or eliminate the virus. Budgerigars that have been suffering from French molt should never be used for breeding. These birds can recover completely and produce healthy chicks but they will transmit half of their suboptimal set of molecules to their offspring and may ruin your stud within few years if another outbreak of French molt occurs. Viral diseases can never be cured by antibiotics and you can anticipate the effect of antibiotics during viral infections if bacteria, important and protective bacteria are removed.
Outbreaks of French molt and Megabacteria can have disastrous effects in studs that have not been rigorously selected for health. By the inappropriate use of antibiotics and other medications you are constructing a rod for your own back and the back of the whole fancy.
In general we only obtain birds from people we know very well and we are very reluctant to allow visitors that we do not know to enter our birdroom as it appears that Megabacteria and resistant strains of bacteria as well as French molt are now widely distributed in the fancy. Of course these bad bugs can be transported very easily as they are invisible and do not need a passport (not even a work permit).
New birds are housed for at least 6 weeks at a distance from our birds and observed for any sign of sickness.
A report published in the biggest budgerigar journal of the world [see reference 2] recommended 6 (six) different products for a six week quarantine, 9 (nine) different products for routine medication and 3 (three) additional supplements. Would you give all this bulldust to your children?


SM: I keep between 300 and 400 budgerigars and of these 2 to 5 are German Fallows. Most of the rest are Spangles, Cinnamons and Opalines in Greygreen, Green, Grey, blue and Green. I also keep a number of Yellowfaces, Lutinos and Dominant Pieds. This is probably too many, but I do believe that it is necessary to breed several hundred chicks each year to give yourself a chance to breed some outstanding chicks. I keep more hens than cocks due to the problems that are often related to hens. I do not consider myself as a Fallow specialist as I keep maximally half a dozen at any given time but do you know somebody that keeps more Fallows?

FM: We keep between 100 and 200 birds and of these 20 to 50 are Fallows or split Fallows. We aim to breed from 16 pairs every year three full rounds per pair. Our policy is to keep all birds from a pairing or not a single one. The brothers and sisters as well as the parents of a particular bird we would like to breed with are held back for at least one year. Some families are kept for years. We intend to observe each family as a whole to check for vitality, character, intelligence and longevity. It may occur that we keep more than 15 brothers and sisters from a distinctive bird that will never see a breeding cage from the inside. It may also happen that after a regular evaluation of a defined family, 4 sisters from one pair are used for breeding. We endeavor to have as many chicks from a pair as possible and we do not pair a cock to several hens in one season. Selection can only be applied seriously if you have a picture of the real potential of a given mating. This potential is reflected by the quality distribution of the youngsters.
Most of  our Fallows are Opalines in all shades of blue including Violet. Some of
the Fallows are Goldenfaces and we plan to breed Fallows with most of the established mutations.

Selection Methods

SM: I select based on visual qualities and pedigree. The visual quality accounts for 80% and the pedigree for 20%. The birds I keep have to be big birds with a lot of feather. Big heads with directional feathering and a lot of backskull is a must as well as big shoulders to carry the massive heads. I like to see a deep mask with evenly distributed spots and a tucked in beak. I also breed with the lesser brothers and sisters of the top birds from other breeders that I can buy. Selection in the aviary of a seller is as important as selection in my own aviary.

FM: Selection of the breeding birds is absolutely vital and mandatory for your stud. Our selection method is very simple. We breed with the best birds from the best families. The characteristics we are looking for are balance, balance and balance. The birds have to be good flyers with a lot of temperament and they have to come from fertile families on both sides of the pedigree. Our definition of fertility is simple. We require a pair of birds to rear at least a total of 9 chicks in three subsequent rounds before the offspring is considered for a breeding program. The mean clutch size has to be greater than six eggs. These are the prerequisites before we start to think about the standard of excellence. Of course we do not breed with featherless birds that have three legs or more than two heads. However in some odd cases we breed with peculiar birds simply because we like them without considering the above mentioned rules. The budgerigars we buy are normally in this category. We also realized that we have the tendency to breed with offspring from birds that have been bought. Our excuse is very lucid. We believe that these birds are very special and belong to the category of ravishing birds that are simply exquisite and therefore valuable. This is a perfect mirror of human nature and we are not willing to fight it even though we should anticipate breeding problems in the future.

Breeding Techniques

SM: My aim is to breed quality in quantity therefore I am a great disciple of related pairings if the original birds are of real quality. Aunt to nephew, uncle to niece or cousin to cousin are preferred matings. I do not pair birds with similar faults such as flecked birds, birds with hinged tails or small masks. The starting point for developing a winning line or family in my hands is always a good cock that is fertile and prepotent. This cock will be mated to 4 or 5 related hens in the first season to produce halfsiblings for the next year. Mating of these halfsiblings together provides me with the nucleus of a winning line. Occasionally these birds can be mated back to the original cock to fix established characteristics.

FM: We are great believers in assortative matings or mating of phenotypically similar birds. It is more likely that these birds carry the same or similar alleles for the desired morphology. However the more you try to cover the deficiencies in one bird with good qualities in another, the less the birds will have in common. If results are not satisfactory you should not blame assortative mating as that is no longer what you are doing. Peer reviewed data on inbreeding in budgerigars are very rare and results are controversial as the observed heterogeneity in response to inbreeding, resulting in increased or decreased reproductive success, may be attributed to environmental differences or to the history of individual strains [see reference 3]. So far we have not had the opportunity to start a defined inbreeding program as the backgrounds of the individual birds in question are not fully known or not satisfactory. Inbreeding with birds of unknown origin is a high risk and a short term project only, as it is known from experiments in mice that at least 95% of all lines started will disappear within 8 to 10 generations.
It is very difficult to forecast the outcome of a short term inbreeding program and it is impossible to predict the outcome of a long term inbreeding program.
The only sensible starting point for a winning line of exhibition budgerigars should therefore be several pairs of birds that are from a very well established line with a known history. The best method to breed consistently outstanding birds is to start with outstanding birds from outstanding breeders. These birds are very scarce and are not commonly for sale. To circumvent this problem you may apply another well established method: the fat wallet method. The fat wallet method does not work with Fallows as prepotent Fallows from established lines are not available.
Often breeding theories are reflecting the fantasy of the breeders not the facts that pass reasonable scrutiny. It is very human that we often confuse fantasy with experience, wishful thinking with success and myths with knowledge. Based on our experience we concluded that three very important rules are fundamental to all success. Unfortunately they are not known. In the meanwhile we apply  the best breeding technique that is successful on long term. This method is known as the KISS method: Keep It Simple Stupid.

All about Fallows

What features have to be refined in your Fallows?

SM: The size, the head and the feather texture.

FM: The features they don’t have: Size, head and eventually balance.

What is your method for breeding marvelous Fallows?

SM: I have a large number of good budgerigars in all the mainstream colors. The Fallow gene is recessive to normal, therefore I use the standard method for improving recessives. I pair the best visual Fallows with the best outcross available. The best split young Fallow can then be paired either with split Fallows or with Fallows from the top of the stud. It is a long way to go. To improve budgerigars in general I use Darkgreens for the color, Greygreens for the size, Opalines for the spots and Spangles for the fertility. Flecked birds carry the feather I want and to dilute the flecking I use Cinnamon that weakens the color and is beneficial in removing flecking. Unfortunately the Fallow gene is very weak and it is difficult to keep it balanced.

FM: The best way is to obtain Fallows from an exhibition stud, Fallows that have been bred by accident without previous knowledge of the genetic makeup of the parents.
We acquired our first pair of Fallows from a pet shop. I regularly visit the pet shops in town and one day I saw for the first time five German Fallows. The overall quality of the birds was miserable. The birds were small and flighty. In addition they were housed together with Agapornis and Cockatiels and most of the budgerigars had missing toes and were crippled. As Christmas day was close I nevertheless bought two German Fallows out of curiosity: A cock in Opaline Violet and a hen in Cobalt. Today we believe that it was a very good present as one year later we already enjoyed 30 budgerigars split for Fallow in our aviary. The Fallow cock paired to an Opaline Cobalt hen split Dilute raised 8 chicks and the Fallow hen paired to a blue cock that was split for Opaline raised 22 chicks in 3 rounds. A feature of the hen we particularly liked was the merit that she only stopped laying eggs when the first chick had hatched. Therefore clutch sizes have varied between 9 (first round) and 13 (second round). The maximal number of chicks raised was 9 (second round). We decided to stop breeding after three rounds even though the birds were still in excellent condition. We kept all the split Fallows for at least one year to select the best for future breeding and the 22 chicks have been used to evaluate the inheritance of physical features. The length of all birds, including the parents, was measured and plotted onto a graph. We anticipated that the length of the birds would be normally distributed. The size of the cock was 24cm compared to the 21cm of the hen. At this stage we only took into account the size of the birds ignoring their exhibition qualities. The cock was a good exhibition bird compared to the pet type hen.
The mean size of the offspring was 20.3cm with a standard deviation of 1.4cm (see below). The type of the chicks was not improved as they looked like their mother (small, thin, narrow face, small spots).

Figure: Size Distribution of First Generation Splits

We concluded from these observations that most of the traits that define the size (and probably also other exhibition features) are not dominant at all.
The strategy described below we used to improve our Fallows is a logical consequence of these observations and may be applied to all recessive traits.
We want to keep the characteristics, such as fertility, that are often related to small birds and we aim to introduce the required exhibition features as well.

The AIDA strategy:
1.) Amplification of the rare recessive trait. Pair your Fallows with the best normals from your exhibition stud.
2.) Introduction of desired genes (from exhibition birds) to birds with the rare trait (in split form). From these pairings no visual Fallows will be bred and you will not know whether your birds are carriers of the Fallow gene or not. These pairings are the key to your success later one.
3.) Determination of the carrier status of your birds. All birds from the above mentioned pairings have to be paired with Fallows. The resulting visual Fallows will be used for control pairings. Only the split Fallows that have now been confirmed are used in your future breeding program.
4.) Analyze your progress. Compare the visual quality of your split birds with the quality of your best birds. If you are happy with the small improvements repeat steps 2.) to 4.).

With this method the progress will be slow within the first years but sensational afterwards. You will need a lot of visual Fallows for control pairings but do not be tempted to pair the split Fallows together before you are happy with the visual quality of your splits. Do not expect progress by pairing Fallows to split Fallows. The most valuable birds for your breeding program are the birds that are split for Fallow.
The key to success will be the fertility of your birds as you expect to perform only one round for your control pairings and you need large numbers of offspring to select the birds with the desired characteristics.

Are cocks or hens more important in your Fallow breeding program?

SM: The quality of the cocks is the most important part in a pairing. Good cocks can transmit their features to cocks and hens as well. Good cocks can be mated for several years with several hens each year resulting in many half-sisters and half-brothers that will be the basis for building a winning line or even a winning stud. I prefer to buy good cocks as outcrosses and I aim to breed typey hens myself. My preference for good cocks, if possible buff cocks with broad shoulders, holds true for all budgerigar varieties including Fallows.

FM: If we are biased then we are not only slightly biased in favor of the hens. Good hens or even better a handful of good sisters of real quality are the motor for a successful breeding program. We started to breed Fallows with two single birds only. The offspring of the cock were used to breed more Fallows for experimental and control pairings. In these cases we bred with cocks and hens. The offspring of the hen were used differently. To upgrade the Fallows with the above mentioned AIDA strategy we only used hens from this mating. There are plenty of reasons for this. The foundation hen did not stop laying eggs before the first chick was hatched. We wanted to keep and propagate this exceptional peculiarity in our stud. The only way to assess the inheritance of this feature is by using female offspring. Unfortunately this trait was never ever found in the offspring. The minimal number of chicks fledged per clutch was 6. We knew that the cock that was mated to the Fallow hen was very fertile, because he was testmated before, but we also hoped that this hen could store semen for a prolonged time as is claimed in the literature (?). Furthermore, it is known that specific genetic information is only carried by the hen. A part of this information is only found on the Y chromosome of the female bird. In addition very important information that is necessary for the generation of metabolic energy in the mitochondria of every cell, is passed to the offspring via the hen only. Mitochondria are very small organelles that represent the power plants of cells and we speculate that they are partially accountable for the temperament of the birds too. The information for the functioning of these power plants is also carried in the motile germ cells of the males but is lost during the fertilization of the egg. Last but not least we intended to breed preferentially Opaline Fallows. Only a part of the hens carried the Opaline factor. In fact we started the upgrading of our Fallows with 5 Opaline hens that were split Fallow. All these hens were daughters of our foundation hen.

How do you improve feathers in your Fallows?

SM: Feathering, especially directional feathering, is difficult to improve. I divide my budgerigars into three standard categories: yellow, intermediate and buff and I aim to have in all pairings a buff partner with coarse feathers. My preferred picks are normally buff cocks as buff hens tend to be poor breeders. Following these principles my Fallows are paired to buff partners in most cases and consequently feathers have been improved over the years.

FM: In our opinion the yellow-intermediate-buff theory is a very attractive concept that was adopted too quickly in the fancy. The broad phenotypical classification of feathers into these three categories is an oversimplification and in the final consequence meaningless. To add to the confusion many fanciers realized this and added even more categories such as medium buff and super buff. Feathers are very complex structures and length, shape, width, thickness, down, structure of barbs and shafts all contribute to the final appearance of the bird. The inheritance of feather structures is in our eyes the least understood aspect of breeding show budgerigars. Beside this the bone structure, the skeletal dimensions and the muscularity are so important for the first and the lasting impression. Of course the length of feathers is a prerequisite to have a deep mask, and width is important in order to have good spots, but we are not part of those feather specialists who can talk about feathers and the heredity of feathers for hours. Feather analysis is not important in our breeding program. Our Fallows have feathers and that’s it.
Fallows do have very silky feathers compared to feathers of Normal budgerigars. We have shown that Fallows can be recognized by handling alone. Our experiment was very simple: We presented to a friend several times a pair of Fallow and Normal nestfeathers. His task was to determine the Fallow. In all 50 (fifty) trials he succeeded. Our friend is blind. He failed to find the Cinnamons in a similar experiment.

What is your opinion about feather dusters?

SM: I have had enough feather dusters to know that there is a potential for quality in my lines. Breeding of feather dusters is a sign that you are achieving the maximum level of quality for your budgerigars. If that level is still not what you want then you have to introduce outcrosses to your stock that should bring you to the next level. So far my Fallows are not good enough to produce feather dusters.

FM: The production of feather duster monsters is detrimental to all breeding efforts. We believe that the occurrence of these nonviable mooncalfs is a sign that your lines have been bred into a dead end. When you go on to breed with the parents or the siblings of these feather dusters then you have achieved the maximal level of incompetence and you have probably lost all common sense.

How do you go about judging Fallow budgerigars?

SM: There are basic principles independent of which variety is being exhibited and judged. A good budgerigar has to be as close as possible to the standard of perfection. A good head with no flecking, broad shoulders, deep masks together with color and markings are very important. Today the biggest Fallows are winning independent of other considerations. This will remain acceptable until such time as the gap between first class budgerigars and the Fallows is filled. Color considerations are not important at this stage. I am not a judge myself but I have no problems entering my birds under a judge who does not keep Fallows. One day you will win and one day you will lose.

FM: We are happy to breed good Fallows and we breed and exhibit for fun, not to please judges. We enter the birds under all judges. Exhibition is all about promotion. We promote the varieties that interest us and we promote ourselves. We never overlook the fact that exhibition is all about blowing trumpets but this is very human and an allegory of human life itself. However, the most important aspects in breeding exhibition budgerigars are the social aspects. There are some terrific blocks out there and it is a pleasure to share such a wonderful hobby with them. We have had a lot of success with our Fallows so far. Our birds won Best in Show and Best Opposite Sex in Show at the by far biggest One Bird Show of the world (2 entries). The Best in Show was an Australian Pied double factor Goldenface Fallow Cobalt hen and Best Opposite Sex in Show was a double factor Spangle Darkgreen Opaline Fallow. Our birds also won several times the Worst in Show award as they were so far behind in type and size. Fortunately all the birds in front were disqualified as our society also included a doping control that consisted of a very simple test. All the birds in the final lineup at the show had to prove that they were capable of flying a distance of 10 feet. It was a disaster if not to say a tragedy that we did not expect. All the birds (chicken) failed with one exception: Our CC winning Fallow budgerigar. Trumpeting is over now. We suggest that similar doping tests should likewise be performed at all the major shows, especially the shows under the patronage of the BS, otherwise the abbreviation CCC  could be misinterpreted as Chicken Challenge Certificate.

Unfortunately our virtual expert Scaly Mike (SM) decided at the peak of his fame to call Fallow breeding a day. Many thanks to Mike as he never stopped repeating the old wives’ tales about budgerigar breeding. Additional questions will be answered by Frank Molt alone.

Proof of the pudding?
The journey to best in show is more entertaining when one has an inkling of how to do it. Please convince me that the AIDA strategy is working as the proof of the breeding is the exhibiting not the trumpeting.

FM: I perfectly agree. As mentioned above we started breeding Fallows with two pet shop budgerigars. This is the perfect situation to assess our AIDA concept as it is difficult to imagine more lamentable birds to start with. Today we believe that we are in the lucky position, for the first time, of being able to directly compare the AIDA strategy with the standard method suggested by Mike Scaly.
As mentioned before the first generation splits with “50% exhibition blood” were of calamitous quality. The second generation splits “75% exhibition blood” that have been bred from these birds (mating with exhibition stock and mandatory testmating) are clearly ahead of the Fallows that have been bred, by mating of the first generation splits with Fallows (=> resulting in birds with “25% exhibition blood”), as far as exhibition points are concerned (head, spots, type). These “75%” splits are however still miles away from good exhibition stock. Interestingly we found that within these second generation birds the carriers of the Fallow gene were the most ugly birds of all. Our best six “75% exhibition blood” hens and the three best males did not carry the Fallow gene. We do not know whether this is coincidence or not. This observation may indicate that the Fallow gene is (of course!) still linked to undesirable traits that are not assisting the improvement we are looking for. These linked traits will be separated in future generations by crossing over. A very strict selection at this point is not yet appropriate. We bred our third generation splits (“88% exhibition blood”) with these second-rate birds. This is a typical situation of a “pedigree only” based selection that does not consider the phenotype of the birds: A dilemma that we face again during the breeding of the fourth generation. Therefore we use for the first time split Fallow cocks in the process of upgrading. This will increase the number of birds that can compete for the breeding pen and give some hints about the role of the X chromosome to influence showtype.

To demonstrate the usefulness of the AIDA strategy to improve size we determined the size of adult  second generation birds (n=9, hens only), adult third generation birds (10 hens, 7 cocks), adult fourth generation birds (3 hens, 4 cocks), adult Fallows bred from first generation splits (n=8) and our blue exhibition family (n=17).

Figure: Mean Size of Different Split Fallow Generations


The increase of the mean size in the first generation splits is not significant (0.3cm). However, the increase of the mean size between the Fallows and the second generation splits (hens only) is 1.1cm already. Adult hens from the third generation birds measure on an average 22.4cm, the corresponding cocks 22.8cm. The fourth generation birds measure on average 23.1 cm. The hens 22.3cm and the cocks 23.8cm. A very interesting difference between the sexes we didn't expect.

The observed increase is indicating that we have been moving in the right direction despite the low number of birds we obtained in the fourth generation.

On the graph below we correlated the percentage of "showtype" genes and  the size of the birds. It is obvious that improvement in size can be obtained by the addition of "showtype" genes. It is probably not feasible to achieve a similar effect by selection alone.

The analysis of the size distribution in the third and fourth generation splits revealed interesting points.

Figure: Size distribution of third and fourth generation birds


The variability is high: The difference between the mouse (21.5cm) and the giraffe (24.5cm) is 3cm. Hens are smaller than cocks. Few individuals have the required size of 24 cm. All the other features have to be improved. Another five years plan to think about.

Psychologically it is very difficult to breed split Fallows with Normals for several years in a row because a Fallow breeder would like to breed Fallows. To motivate myself I looked several times a week at the dot found in the right corner of the graph above. The BIG DOT in the right corner was split Fallow and a double factor Australian Pied Lightgreen.

Testmating can be a big thrill.

Is this pudding sweet enough?

How do you test your Fallow maybe splits?

By breeding with Fallows indeed. Our testmating procedure is very simple. In a testmating with a Fallow at least three chicks have to be reared and if no Fallows appear then we consider the birds not to be split Fallow. The probability that we miss a carrier of the Fallow gene is reduced to 12% (1 out of 8) with a minimal number of three chicks. If four chicks are bred the probability is down to 6%. The results of a given testmating are already visible immediately after hatching (red eyes!) and the confirmed split Fallow birds can be prepared for the mating with exhibition stock very smoothly without the necessity to rear full clutches of substandard Fallows.

Are split Fallows that have been 'washed' through normals more capable of producing quality?

FM: Yes, if the normals have been of exhibition quality. Why? Because in general the Fallows lack most of the exhibition qualities and therefore lack also the genes that carry the information for these qualities. All the missing genetic information required “to construct” an exhibition bird have to be introduced from outside into our Fallows.

A simplified model:
Imagine that only 10 independent recessive genes are required to define a show bird. A perfect show bird has 10 pairs of these recessive genes that are missing in the Fallows. In the first generation all the offspring will be split Fallow. All these birds carry exactly 10 single copies of the recessive genes in split form. The birds will not be improved at all because not a single one of these recessive genes is in double form (to be effective). If you pair these split Fallows together some of the offspring will show small improvements compared to the Fallows and the split Fallows. This is not a surprise as the recessive genes found in the mother and in the father will randomly combine, resulting in Fallows that may carry two copies of one or more of these 10 recessive genes. But one gene in double form is not enough: In this simple model you need ten! These small improvements mentioned above will be minimal if you relate it with your ambitions. Don’t be fooled by the small visible progresses. Genetically the “improved” bird from these matings is not capable of producing good offspring. Most of the “showtype” genes are still missing.
However, if you pair split Fallows (with 10 recessive genes each) from the first generation again to exhibition birds (with a double dose of the recessive genes) then it is obvious that the probability that two corresponding recessive genes will combine in a chick is increased. The required genes (all of them!) are found on both sides of this mating. In contrast, by breeding these splits to Fallows you diminish the small amount of “good genes” you introduced in the parental mating. Mission impossible.

In the case of split Fallows from the first generation, the average number of the required recessive genes that will be distributed to individual germ cells (eggs or spermatozoides) during meiosis is 5 (out of 10) as the total amount of genes is divided by two. The exact distribution of these independent genes is not predictable. In some germ cells you may have 3, 4, 5, 6 or even 7 out of these 10 genes. If you select (by chance) the offspring that received 7 genes from the split Fallow parent (the probability is 12%) you will be surprised by the quality of the offspring. However, the probability is also 12% that only 3 out of 10 recessive genes are found in an individual germ cell. As you have no tools to determine the carrier status of the maybe splits, you are advised to test all your maybe splits not only for the presence of the Fallow gene, but also for the presence of required “show type” genes. This selection can be done visually. In contrast, the carrier status of your split Fallow for “show type” genes cannot be assessed if the birds are crossed back to Fallows or split Fallows.
At this stage you have to face minor disadvantages. You will not breed one hundred Fallows in the first season and you will not know whether the chicks produced are split Fallow or not. But most importantly, you will see for the first time the hidden genetic quality of your split Fallows in the quality distribution of their chicks (BIG-DOT effect). This is theoretically and practically the only way forward with most of the recessive varieties. Please try to estimate the probabilities mentioned above. By using your common sense you will never look back.
Start to pair your split Fallows together when you are happy (happppy with four p's) with the quality (compared to your best exhibition birds). Erstwhile, the Fallows you produce will be Fallows bred from testmatings “only”. The quality of these Fallows will improve slowly with the quality of your splits too. However, this is not quick enough. Go for the splits and mate the splits with your best exhibition birds. This strategy only works when you have enough fertile and fit Fallows for testmating. The time you invest for testmating is not lost. The time to invest for testmating will be six weeks maximally for males and three months for hens. Results can be analyzed immediately after hatching. The speed of your progress will be dramatically increased later on.
This “10 genes only” model is an oversimplification, and it may be anticipated that several hundred of recessive and also dominant genes, that are in several cases also linked, may be responsible for the differences in the type of budgerigars. (In dogs it is estimated that roughly 500 genes are responsible for the characteristic differences between dog breeds.) This model is, however, good enough to illustrate the advantages of the AIDA strategy and this model can also explain why it is so important to breed large amounts of chicks from individual pairs to optimize selection.

Are Fallows weaklings and slow developers?

FM: Exhibition budgerigars tend to mature slowly compared to pet type birds. This is not surprising. Today our Fallows do not show delayed maturity. They develop in parallel to their normal siblings. Fallow hens (and also their normal sisters) have nut-brown ceres at six months already. At this age most of them are in breeding condition. Our Fallows seem to develop perfectly normally from the first day on.
However, if we speculate that one of the three confirmed Fallow genes is homologous to the pink-eyed dilution locus p of the mouse [see reference 4], then it is not surprising that certain strains of Fallows show dramatically increased chick mortality as described in the literature. For comparison: In mice more then thirty different mutations of the pink-eyed locus are known. Most of them have problems associated with reproduction (sterility in males, juvenile lethality mild to severe). Similar dramatic observations have been made in mice with mutations of the tyrosinase gene Tyr, another candidate for a Fallow locus within others [reference 5]. Scienific work on red eyes in budgerigars revealed important differences. It was scientifically shown, that the presence of red eyes is not indicating that budgerigars have problems associated with light. They still produce by far enough melanin for protection [reference 7] and they, and this is a very important second point,  behave normally.

On the graph below we plotted the fitness parameters clutch size and number of fletched chicks from 107 pairs that completed 213 rounds. We compared the reproductive success of three different populations. Namely, pairs with one visual Fallow (37 pairs, 59 rounds), pairs with one split Fallow (9 pairs, 22 rounds) and pairs with Normals only (61 pairs, 132 rounds),

The variation in all three groups is very high and the significance of the differences can be discussed. The average clutch size in Normals was 5.4 ± 2.7 eggs and the number of chicks fletched was 1.6 ± 2.1. The corresponding data from pairings withs Fallows are 4.8 ± 2.9 and 1.6 ± 2.4. Split Fallows produced an average of 2.7 ± 3.1 chicks from 6.4 ± 3.1 eggs. It is clear that Fallows and split Fallows perform not worse compared to Normals. Such data are psychologically very important and indicate indeed that these Fallows are in good shape and healthy. The presence of the Fallow gene is not detrimental to the reproductive success.
The question about the number of different Fallow genes and their mechanism of action is still not answered yet. Maybe one day the sequencing of the budgerigar genes that are understood to be involved in color production (e.g. Tyrosinase, pink-eyed locus transporter protein e.o.) will give us the answer. These data from the sequencing could provide the Fallow breeders with a tool to assess the carrier status of maybe splits by DNA fingerprinting without testmating. Science Fiction in the Fallow breeding room?

What is happening when a prepotent Fallow cock is mated to a prepotent Fallow hen?

FM: We expect to notice a sensational explosion and we probably have to rebuild our aviary. So far we could avoid such a catastrophe because we don't know how these "prepotent" birds (myths) look like.

Can Fallows help to improve other varieties?

FM: Fallow budgerigars are beautiful birds. The exhibition quality is nevertheless still poor. Exhibition budgerigars cannot be improved by using Fallows.
However, Fallows might be useful to solve an enigma that is related to the Yellowface varieties and the Blue allele(s). So far nobody has proven (sorry Mr. Ken Gray) without any doubt that all Yellowfaces (Goldenface, Yellowface mutant 1, Yellowface mutant 2) are multiple alleles of the same Blue locus.
Why should a double factor Yellowface mutant 1 become blue? We prefer the alternative Yellowface model that was first published in the Internet by Peter Bergman of Sydney speculating that the Yellowface mutant 1 birds (Creamfaces) are a composite variety of two different Blue alleles. The Yellowface topic is highly controversial as fanciers of world fame still believe that the Yellowface factor can be carried by birds of the Green series (e.g. the legendary Goldenface Lutinos). Only a few people grasp the “Bergman model” and only a handful think about it. We are currently mating Yellowface mutant 1 budgerigars with Goldenfaces to check whether it is possible to distinguish between the Goldenfaces that are split for the common Blue allele and the Goldenfaces that are split for the “Bergman Blue” allele. These experiments are funny as some of the Goldenfaces are split Danish Pied and some of the Creamfaces are split Clearwing. We are looking forward to find some Yellowface Danish Pied Clearwings popping out, a horror combination for the budgerigar purists. If it is not possible to see differences between these two Goldenface forms on a Normal background it may be possible to see these differences on a Fallow background or on an Albino background. In this case Fallows maybe helpful to introduce a new budgerigar mutation, namely the “Bergman Blue", and to define a new composite variety, namely the Creamface, formerly called Yellowface mutant 1. Can we observe differences in the color distribution (e.g. yellow spillage) or in the color intensity (e.g. head, wing feathers, tail feathers) in the resulting single factor Goldenfaces? Can we observe differences before and after the molt? Can these differences be attributed to the carrier status of the birds?
And so what?
Neither the traditional nor the "Bergman" approach can be excluded by the observation of these differences alone.
And so what?
Based on our observations we suggest that "Goldenface breeders should preferentially breed with the “Bergman Blue" budgerigars, that are identical to the so called "double factor Yellowface mutant 1" budgerigars, to breed nice "yellowfaced single factor Goldenfaces" that do not show yellow spillage".

Do you breed Cinnamon Fallows?

FM: Yes, by accident.
German, English, Australian and Japanese Cinnamon Fallows don't look like Cinnamons (body color, markings) and they don't look like Fallows (color gradient, wing color) either. The appearance of Cinnamon Fallows is very similar to "exclusively" colored Inos. Wing markings are very very faint but clearly light brown (cinnamon like). Throat spots are light brown too. Cinnamon Fallows are unique and cannot be confused with Normal Fallows. However, it is not surprising that Cinnamon Fallows have been confused with Lacewings (Cinnamon-Inos). The phenotypes of these color combinations are very similar.

Cinnamon Fallows are very uncommon these days.

Do you breed Spangle Fallows?


FM: Yes, and we have been surprised by the phenotype of the single factor Spangle Fallows. The markings of these birds are very faint and visible only on the wings. Throat spots are light brown and barely visible due to the presence of the Spangle gene. Tailfeathers are completely white or yellow. The Spangle gene is decreasing the body color of the Fallows even more and resulting birds are amazing. Spangle Fallows in combination with two Violet factors will be very smart birds.

Double factor Spangle Fallows are phenotypically similar to Inos.

The Spangle gene is the most probable candidate gene to be linked to one of the Fallow genes. It is regulating a step in the pigmentation process eventually resulting in a decreased melanin deposition in the growing feathers. Functionally related genes are often found very close on the same chromosome. We are prepared to wait ten years to see Spangle English Fallows popping up! I speculate that the breeders of Fallows with white iris rings have a similar "problem" with the Grey factor.

Do you breed Grey Fallows?

FM: We never bred Grey Fallows. I am confident that a relevant part of this question will be answered in Japan in the next future.

Can you extrapolate from your Fallow breeding to the breeding of other recessive varieties?

FM: We do not have any expertise with Inos or with Slates but we are breeding Clearwings and Danish Pieds. Clearwings and Danish Pieds are theoretically more difficult to breed to exhibition standard as the color distribution and the color contrast play a decisive role alongside the showtype features. The Fallow is a problem variety because nobody is breeding Fallows. Greys and Greygreens are bred preferentially because people believe that the Grey factor is associated with the label “show quality”. Eventually all the best birds will be Grey factor birds because people breed preferentially with these birds. Fallows will become popular again when more exhibition type Fallows will be available for breeding. Once the Fallow is associated with the label “Best in Show quality”.
We advise bringing a showtype “frame” into recessive varieties by using the AIDA philosophy. But we have no idea how to stabilize the color distribution and how to improve color contrast. To our knowledge the color distribution of pieds in most species (cats?) cannot be predicted and never be fixed by selective breeding. We cannot wisecrack on Clearwings as we have never bred an exhibition Clearwing with clear wings so far. By the way we haven’t seen one either.


1. Wachter-Vormann U. (1983). Untersuchungen zum Energie- und Proteinbedarf des Wellensittichs (Melopsittacus Undulatus). Dissertation Universität Hohenheim.
2. Budgerigar World. (1999). Issue 207 January: 6.
3. Daniell A. and Murray N.D. (1986). Effects of inbreeding in the budgerigar Melopsittacus undulatus (Aves: Psittacidae). Zoo Biology. 5: 233-238.
4. Orlow S.J. and Brilliant M.H. (1999). The pink-eyed dilution locus controls the biogenesis of melanosomes and levels of melanosomal proteins in the eye. Exp Eye Res. Feb: 68(2): 147-54.
5. Barsh GS. (1996). The genetics of pigmentation: from fancy genes to complex traits. Trends Genet. Aug: 12(8): 299-305.
6. Apanius V D. et al. (1997). The nature of selection on the major histocompatibility complex. Critical Reviews in Immunology 17:179-224.

7. Wilken H. (1998): Mikroskopisch-anatomische Untersuchungen an den Augen "albinotischer" und normalpigmentierter Farbschläge des Wellensittichs (Melopsittacus undulatus f. dom.) Hannover, School of Veterinary Medicine, thesis. Awarded with the Erich Aehnelt Memorial Prize.


Our virtual expert Frank Molt had to give up (out of the blue) budgie breeding too. Many thanks to Frank as he never stopped to explain us the difference between alleles and genes. He introduced to us the new concepts of yellowface genetics (Pssssst, we still don't understand it), and he was a ferroce enemy of pseudoscientific gubbeldibubble distributed by a bench of fender fixers in the fancy. He and his humour will be missed.   

Further information on Fallow budgerigars

can be found by visiting the links listed in the [Library] or may be obtained from the expert at