THE DELIBERATE BREEDING of hybrids between bird species is a controversial business. When it comes to certain groups, many expert Cage & Aviary Birds contributors are dead against either deliberate or indeed accidental cross-breeding.
Psittacines are an obvious example. In species such as lovebirds (Agapornis), where wild populations are threatened, the experts argue that it’s our duty to maintain pure wild-type stock.
The production of novel-looking hybrids, in such cases, should be resisted for the greater good. By contrast, for species that are common, widespread and unthreatened in the wild, that argument loses its force and, indeed, with suitable songbirds there is a long and honourable tradition of stockmanship in the production of hybrids. In the UK and Ireland, this applies especially to British and European native species – with more exotic Old World relatives occasionally adding their extra spice.
The attraction is that the offspring of hybrid pairings can be strikingly beautiful, conveying some of the charm of each parent, plus a certain something of their own. The breeding of such birds offers stiff challenges in the areas of pair selection and management, and many of our most able fanciers throw their hat into the ring, either out of pure interest, or to compete on the show bench. Exhibitions for these birds now include the increasingly popular event staged by the British Native Mule & Hybrid Club, a show which looks set to go from strength to strength thanks to the skill and enterprise of its organisers.
As we learn on page 2, the show’s initiative has recently earned the direct support of the IOA, an unprecedented move that will make all native, mule and hybrid fanciers sit up and take note. For more on hybrids and the fresh challenges they present, turn to page 10, where old and rare variety canary specialist Andy Early relates how, inspired by the stunning hybrid classes at this year’s World Show, he has given the hybrid game a whirl with four fascinating cross-pairings – all without busting the budget.
We hope to hear how Andy gets on later this summer. Meanwhile, a bit of fun: have a look at the hybrid finch above and see if you can identify the parents. One’s easy enough, the other less so. No prizes – I’ll just give the answer next week. Until then, enjoy all of your birds.