Directional Feathering

When we examine our birds we tend to look at features in different ways.

The classic example is easily seen by judges who do exactly that, which can cause problems especially if they are not accustomed to breeding a new advancement of this or that feature.

During the past 8 years, such a feature has become highly desirable. This is a change in the way the feathers grow from their follicles in a different direction in the head region.

It is understandably called “Directional Feathering” and is now perhaps the most wanted feature by most breeders around the world.

The high-headed narrow-faced budgerigar is a matter for the past and there is little doubt that those great breeders, who have regrettably passed on, would be amazed at the strides that have been made with feather length and direction in such a short space of time.

How to Breed with Directional Feathering

If you want to breed a stud that is prepotent (i.e. every bird possesses the genetic background to consistently breed a specific feature to whatever it is paired), then each bird you use to begin with has to exhibit that visible feature.

You may have to buy it in to start with and then work hard to spread it across the stud.

It should be emphasised that the result of directional feathering is when the bird is examined from head on. The line that is created with the feathers either side of the beak, begins low down and sweeps up and around the cere before dropping down on the opposite side.

Gerald Binks called this line “The Buffalo Effect” in 2004 when accidentally pencilling the feathering line, just described, on a photograph and it jumped out at him that the line duplicated the horns of the water buffalo.

The phrase is now part of budgerigar terminology.

It is important to remember, that to start with, it is the direction of the feathers of the pairs selected that is vital. Their length is not so vital to begin with. That will follow. Once you have the direction fixed you are on your way.

Conclusion

There are dangers to be mentioned.

In the process of developing our “buffalo faces”, we have to be aware that the body feathers are also lengthened.

These may result in a very untidy and loose feather appearance to the rest of the body and indeed the face.

So here is the next challenge! How do we achieve the quality “Buffalo Effect” at the “top end”, but at the same time retain type and stance with the feathers clear of the perch, in conjunction with the overall length of the exhibit?

It is entirely possible that the directional feathering can be overdone to the detriment of bird(s) in question, so that to be perfectly factual you end up with what can only be described as an ugly specimen and hardly worth the name of a “budgerigar”.

We as fanciers have to tread a very fine line as we improve, so watch the type as you strive for width and “Buffalos”.

Success is the opposite of failure. The former can only be realised when we breed many Best in Show Winners.

Examples of Directional Feathering

To view examples, please click on the images below.

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About the Author: Florian bought his first budgerigar in 1993 - at the age of 14. The hobby soon took hold and he began breeding show budgerigars. In 1998 he started working as a permanent author and translator for the German Budgerigar magazine (called Wellensittichmagazin). This job provided him with the opportunity to communicate with many of Europe's top breeders - which further improved his knowledge. Florian is now a Champion Breeder in the hobby and has built himself an international reputation for directional feathering. Florian lives in Augsburg in southern Germany.

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  1. A very nice article.

    I have another question – can you then use the finer feathered bird also to breed into your other birds to obtain this feature in your stud?

    Regards,
    Patrick Duyck, Belgium

  2. Gerry Lebadesus says:

    Sir, I have a question.

    Does the weather of one country affect the type of budgerigar feather – especially the directional head feather – because I live in a tropical country?

    Thanks,
    Gerry Lebadesus, Philippines

  3. Dear Gerry,

    In a word – No!

    From travelling around the world looking at aviaries in examples such as Australia, South Africa and the United States, the weather has no bearing on the feather length and width, nor the direction of such feathers.

    It is the way fanciers have, in the past 8 years, concentrated their expertise and observation on selecting birds which appeared to have the beginnings of such features, not necessarily all in the one bird, but in studs in particular around the countries all over Europe and the UK.

    Very few aviaries at that time had the odd bird which had a bit of width or feather length, (long flighted birds are not the same), so it was (and still is) a case of hunting around for such birds which I called “Buffalos”, for the line of that feather shape around the cere and beak.

    Warm weather countries have a great advantage in breeding birds more easily than the colder countries, as admitted by Reinhard Molkentin who bred birds in Germany for years, until he moved to South Africa. He also has “Buffalos” but they have emerged from European stock since he acquired many birds, periodically, from Germany and Switzerland.

    Weather – No! Selective breeding – Yes!

    Thank you for your excellent question.
    GSB

  4. Sheikh Imran says:

    Sir,

    What is the main difference between the Dutch (Netherlands) and English birds in directional feathering?

    Also, what can we use to improve the shine of the feather?

    Rergards,
    Sheikh Imran, Pakistan

  5. Mohamed says:

    Hello Sir,

    I am a fan of this great bird English budgerigar and I would like you to tell me about good sources to purchase these great birds (with good price).

    I am from Egypt and I would like to start breeding generations of this great bird here – especially as there are no pure English budgerigars here.

    I am searching for such a bird (1.5 years to 2 years old) with good price to start.

    I need your advice!

    Best regards,
    Mohamed, Egypt

  6. Paul Cunningham says:

    That is a very interesting article.

    Florian has achieved great things in a relatively short period of time.

    He is to be congratulated.

    Paul Cunningham, UK

  7. T.Croft says:

    It is difficult to understand the obsession with developing more and more feather on budgerigars.

    A few years ago, on a visit to the UK, I was enthralled by the poise and outline of the birds at Doug Sadler’s, and other leading breeders visited.

    Now we have so much directional feather coming down in front of the eyes that the birds look blinkered.

    Looking at recent photographs in magazines and on the internet I wonder where it will all end.

    The birds appear untidy, a neat outline is a thing of the past and they look more like Silky Bantams than Budgerigars.

    Maybe a new mutation is emerging, the “UGLY Australian”.

    T Croft, Australia

  8. Beautiful article by Florian Bock – and I read all of the above comments and found your few “golden words” – “Weather – No! Selective breeding – Yes!”

    I shall advise Mr.Sheikh Imran to read your “Breeding Room Thoughts” article.

    Habib Ur Rehman, Pakistan

  9. Jun Olavidez says:

    I will still maintain that our goal in breeding these birds is to showcase their beauty and not what we perceive as what should be.

    Let us breed beauty and not the beast.

    To some extent we need the directional feather to enhance the elegance of the frontal blow of the bird in it’s calm and majestic display – but not the way that it seems there is a broom on the forehead of the bird.

    If there are those who seem to choose to breed reducing some length to the feathering in the head region, it is because they think more of the birds sake – and it is unfair to charge them of the none ability to breed feather length to their birds.

    It is not an issue of ability, you can simply buy them and breed them.

    To each his own.

    Balance is still the key.

    “Beauty but not the beast”

    Jun Olavidez, Philippines

  10. nelliemoser says:

    I cannot see why birds with what (IMHO) are frankly abnormal feathers should be bred.

    They don’t even look attractive.

    Just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it’s right.

    Look at the criticism of the Kennel Club a few years ago – where changes (in what was thought of as desirable in features in particular breed standard) were exposed as causing causing animals physical disability and suffering.

    I am though a mere pet budgie owner.

    Nelliemoser, Scotland

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