What is an Anthracite Budgie? – Carl Slavin – Canada. Photos Didier Mervilde, Belgium

The word Anthracite conjures up a vision of a coal black bird.  The real Anthracite colour is more akin to very dark grey.  It is unique and clearly noticeable when in its visual phase.  Anthracite can also change the appearance of many different varieties.  To date Anthracite has been bred into many varieties including, just recently, Goldenface.

The first appearance of an Anthracite was in 1998 at the aviary of the late Hans Lenk in Germany.  Hans was the DSV delegate to the WBO  (World Budgerigar Organization) and was recognized as a champion breeder and long time exhibitor of Budgerigars.  The first recorded breeding came from the pairing of a dark green split opaline cock and a grey hen.  There were 12 chicks from the pairing and three of them, two cocks and one hen, were visually different.    These first Anthracites as they were eventually called, caused some attention in Germany.  Gerd Bleicher, the Chair of the DSV and the WBO, who was also a friend of Hans, then obtained a few birds to breed and experiment with.

Gerd and Hans bred enough of this strain and sold a few of them.  The WBO has a very specific requirement for recognition of a new variety and to date the Anthracite has not met this standard.  The standard calls for exhibition of minimum three birds of each sex in three different countries with different exhibitors.  The birds have been exhibited in Germany and perhaps other European locations but not with the numbers required.

There are a few breeders in the United States and Canada who currently are working with the variety.  The variety has been exhibited in both countries without the numbers required for International recognition.  I have Anthracites in sufficient quantity to obtain recognition for Canada and Steven Fowler in Arizona could exhibit in quantity but we both prefer to await WBO recognition elsewhere at this time.

The same manner as Violet

Anthracite should be looked on as breeding in the same manner as Violet.  Simply stated it is basically a color enhancer.  The intrusion of Anthracite into a budgerigar of any color will see a darker shade appear.  Violet has the same properties.  There is a wonderful article on breeding Violet in the Feb. 2008 ABS bulletin.  This article was written by ABS judge Leon Saad and is of value to any breeder of either Anthracite or Violet.  Leon refers breeders to the theory presented by Peter Bergman of Australia in which he states that violet is only visual in the double factor mode.

To help you understand the concept ; if a visual double factor violet is bred to a sky blue all the chicks from that pairing will be considered as being single factor violet chicks.  In this case they will all look like cobalt’s in color.  When two single factor violet chicks are bred together they will produce a number of double factor chicks which will be visually violet in color.  Anthracite (An.) works in the same manner.

When a double factor (visual) An. is bred with a sky blue all the chicks will look like dull shaded cobalt’s or at minimum a very darker shade of sky.  The clear indicator with An. is always the cheek patch.  In all budgies of the blue series, according to the WBO color standard the cheek patch is described as violet.  With the An. the cheek patch has a very distinct and obvious duller shade of violet origin.

The difference is subtle to the eye especially when viewed in artificial light.  For the serious breeder it is necessary to take what might be a single factor Anthracite into daylight and compare the cheek patch with a sky blue or cobalt to be certain.  This may be necessary when checking the offspring from a single factor An. as in theory  50% of them will also be single factor An.  The breeding of single factor An. is very helpful to the serious breeder as An. to An. breeding while producing An. does not produce many top quality specimens.  The variety has a disturbing habit of wanting to return to the original budgerigar ( melopsittaccus undulatus).

I was able to secure three Anthracite cock birds and three single factor An. hens from Gerd in 2006 and have been working with them in the hopes of improving the exhibition quality of the variety.  It is a slow process as the single factor birds have very good exhibition qualities while the visual double factor Anthracites often do not.  It is clearly a labor of love.  There is hope for the future of the variety as I have shared some An. with a number of dedicated fanciers and they are making progress.  Jim Jeffery has recently produced the best An. hen I have seen and as more breeders contribute we may see the quality desired.

Breeders were very puzzled

When the first Anthracites appeared many thought them to be a combination of Recessive Grey and Violet.  Breeders were very puzzled to find that no matter what combinations they bred the supposed recessive factor did not produce as predicted and the violet color was of a deeper shade.  It has recently been proposed and accepted by many that Anthracite is indeed a new Mutation and its breeding is predictable.  My good friend Eric Peake being one of the nay sayers.

I have also produced a few single factor An. in the green series and as you would imagine they appear as grey green.  The cheek patch is also slightly different but not so as to be definitive.  Some breeder in the future will do a study on this breeding.  I hope !  You may compare the breeding of Grey and Grey green in the same light as Violet and Anthracite.  We are all aware that grey comes in two shades best known as single and double factor Grey.  If you ponder this widely held knowledge you will then easily identify with the breeding of Anthracite and Violet.

In the future we expect to see Anthracite listed as a variety and exhibited in all color combinations.  This year I plan on producing Spangle Anthracites.  When Anthracite is combined with Violet the Violet takes on a deeper hue and is very striking to see.  When Anthracite is bred with double factor grey the Visual Anthracite is very dark indeed.  When Anthracite is combined with double factor Grey and double factor Violet…………..well……….. we’ll  just have to see, won’t we !

I was recently advised that combining Anthracite with Yellowface and/or Goldenface is very difficult due to some lethal issue.  We have all heard of lethal genes, but, realistically the offspring most likely have either died due to natural causes or breeder neglect.  Jim Jeffery has bred a few single factor already.  The door to a new horizon has opened, the world of budgerigars has taken another step forward.

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Terry Tuxford About the Author:

Terry Tuxford first began breeding budgerigars in 1979 and joined the BS in 1980. He was elevated to Champion in 1985 when he went into partnership with Brian Poole. This partnership is probably one of the longest existing partnerships in the UK hobby today having lasted some 27 years so far and is still going strong. Terry and Brian are also partnered by Yvonne Tuxford who joined the BS in 1990.


Terry demonstrated his penmanship early in his budgerigar career and wrote in the second edition of Budgerigar World. Little did he realise then that in just over 8 year’s time he would become editor following a 20 month apprenticeship with founding editor, Gerald Binks. Terry went on to edit a total of 245 editions up to May 2011.


In 1993 Terry took his Budgerigar Society Judges final examination and was awarded Subsidiary Judge of the Year and has gone on to judge the Budgerigar Society World Show on three occasions as well as many top shows at home and abroad. He is also an accomplished speaker and has been a guest at societies throughout the UK as well as Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada and many other European countries.

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  1. Hi,

    Nice article Carl. I just visit a breeder who is breeding with the small budgerigars. What I saw there was special. He got already Antracite in Spangle,Cinnamon,Greywing, Yellowface,Opaline and Pieds.
    Keep up the good work Carl

    Regards,

    Didier

  2. Don Burke says:

    Hi,

    Great article Terry. I have just recently found some Anthracites in Australia. I suspect that they have been around a long time but were dismissed as mauves or greys. My thoughts are that new mutations only APPEAR to turn up around the world at the same time. Perhaps people merely notice the “new mutation” when they read about it in overseas magazines, books, or these days, on the internet.

    Warm regards,

    Don

  3. Excellent job Didier and congratulations Carl Slavin.

    Mutations Combination with Anthracite by Didier

    http://didiermervilde.bestofbreeds.net/MUTATIONS%20ANTHRACITE.pdf

    Thank you.
    Habib Ur Rehman,Pakistan

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