PAULINE JAMES looks at problems you might face when pairing the white-faced mutation of peach-faced lovebirds
IN MY opinion, white-faced mutation, peach-faced lovebirds at their best produce some of the most spectacularly coloured lovebirds available. But, unfortunately, it is also the mutation that can vary the most.
Although there are some very good, even stunning examples being bred, there are some under-sized, poor examples out there too, along with other dubious, mixed-up individuals that are quite wrongly being passed off as white-faced.
I didn’t realise the confusion that this mutation was causing until several lovebird enthusiasts explained to me that they had difficulty telling the difference between their white-faced and the pastel blue series of birds. When I described to them what a white-faced should look like, the birds that they were describing were obviously not white-faced at all, and as they had suspected, they had been sold a red herring.
These inferior birds are often the result of a white-faced adult being paired carelessly or randomly to an unsuitable partner, and especially if they have been unwittingly bred back to green series birds. Once this has been done the mutation loses the advantage of having all the pink-colouring being bred out of their faces, and in fact the reverse happens – more colour is bred back into the mutation, which serves to spoil it for many generations. No youngsters from such a pairing, all of which would carry the hidden gene for white-faced, should be sold on or described as split white-faced, as their progeny would not be good quality white-faced.
It is absolutely vital that visual white-faced lovebirds or non-visuals carrying the hidden white-faced gene should be bred within the blue series of mutation birds.
This produces colours such as a white-faced version of an ivory, a white-faced version of a blue series Australian cinnamon, a white-faced version of a blue series American cinnamon (which is an exquisitely beautiful pale greeny-blue-grey bird), or a white-faced ino, by combining a cremino, a blue series lutino, with the white-faced mutation.
This potentially should produce a bird that is pure white, but although as chicks they are virtually pure white, in reality they usually moult out with an overall, slight creamy-yellow wash.
The white-faced series of birds – if they are kept pure – are quite stunning. I especially love the pieds, which are dressed in a myriad of pastel shades and bright iridescent colours that include white and creams through to yellow, many different shades of blues and greens, not seen in other mutations, and all set-off beautifully against their almost pure white faces.
The white-faced mutation is recessive, the same as the pastel blue, meaning that both parents either have to be white-faced, or split for it (carrying a hidden gene for this colour, which they have inherited from a parent), to produce a percentage of visual white-faced progeny in the next generation.
If a white-faced is put to another white-faced they will generally produce 100 per cent white-faced young. But, if a white-faced is bred with a pastel blue, although the majority of the offspring would be pastel blues split for white-faced, there is a one in four chance, on average, of producing a “half-way” bird known as an apple green or pink-faced blue.
This apple green bird, which would also be split for white-faced and is still a blue series bird, retains the face and forehead of the pastel blue, but its body-colouring is much greener. The back, front and wings are all of a uniform colour, and the rump is a bright metallic blue/green.
The main purpose of a white-faced x pastel blue pairing would be to build up the size of the young being bred, as individuals of this mutation do tend to be diminutive, due to heavy inbreeding when the mutation was first being established. A white-faced x apple green pairing would produce: white-faced; apple greens split for white-faced; and pastel blues split for white-faced, which is normally written as apple green/white-faced and pastel blue/white-faced.
Although the expectation of a pair of white-faced birds could reasonably be expected to be 100 per cent white-faced, they can sometimes throw out an apple green youngster, if one or other of the parents has apple green in its ancestry. But, apple greens produced from two white-faced parents are different from those that are produced from a white-faced x pastel blue partnership. Their body-colouring remains the same, but the faces and foreheads of progeny produced from two white-faced parents share their facial colouring, and good examples are very close to being pure white.
Aiming for pure white
The whole point of a white-faced bird is to get as pure a white face and forehead as possible. It is also desirable to produce birds with as white a ground colour as possible too, replacing both the pink/red colouring in the face and the yellow ground colour in mutations such as creminos, ivories and pieds – the ultimate being a pure white ino bird. Once this has been achieved we will be able to produce the very first true blue peach-faced, with no green pigment present – as there is in the pastel blue – and it would have blue-colouring very similar to that of the blue masked lovebird.
In my experience, as more and more generations of white-faced are being bred, so the colouration seems to be getting better and better, but the key is to acquire good-coloured, good quality birds in the first place, and reject any that have too much colouring on their faces, and do not have the individual body-colouring of the white-faced series of birds.
White-faced colouration guide
HERE is a description of Pauline’s own white-faced birds and a guide to what colouration you should expect in the various mutations:
■ White-faced blues – For the first three months, white-faced blues have the same darkening on the bases of their beaks as pastel blues, although their beaks are a pale bone-colour, quite different from the pastel blue. Their faces are pure white and their feathers a true blue, with no hint of any greeny-colouring in their feathering, making pastel blue chicks standing next to them, look quite grubby in comparison, with their greyish faces and greeny-blue feathers. Adult white-faced blues should ideally retain their white forehead, but in reality they often have a slight wash of apricot-colouring visible.
■ White-faced pieds – These spectacular birds have pale yellow-colouring on their foreheads. Their backs and wings are a myriad of bright greens (similar to that of the apple green), differing shades of blue, cream and bright yellow. The ground colour on their fronts is pure white, with crisp clear blue and yellow markings. Their faces are pure white, and their beaks bone-coloured, as compared to the pale orange beak of a pastel blue pied.
■ White-faced Australian cinnamons – These birds are pure white as chicks, but acquire a slight wash of pale yellow over their backs and wings as they mature. Their blue rumps are retained, their flights are beige and their beaks orange.
■ White-faced American cinnamons – These delicately coloured birds are also quite different from blue series American cinnamons. They have true blue fronts, a very pale wash of greeny-blue-grey-colouring over their backs and wings, the blue rump and beige flights are retained, and they have an almost pure white face and forehead.
Pauline James has been writing for Cage & Aviary Birds since 1994. She enjoys watching and photographing wild parrots.