Basic Terminology

When a beginner first attends a Club Meeting or an Exhibition, he/she, sees or hears references to all manner of features, colours and descriptions applicable to the budgerigar which appear totally confusing. What are buffs? What are runners and for that matter what are splits?

This glossary of terms is here to answer such questions.

If you have heard a term used that does not appear here, please contact us and we’ll add it to the list below.

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One of a pair of alternative hereditary characters
A chromosome other than a sex chromosome
Avian Flu
Specific Virus (H5N1) that occurred in poultry in the Far East which can cause death in humans

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Barred Heads
A descriptive term applied to young budgerigars under 3 months of age where barrings appear in the frontal zone above the cere. At the first major moult, these barred feathers are replaced with clear feathers resulting in a clean frontal area.
Long standing breeders of quality livestock, develop specific strains. These are referred to as bloodlines.
The ultimate appearance of a bird’s feathering following regular spraying in preparation for show. It is a sheen.
Body Cell
A unit of living matter, containing a nucleus, of which animals, birds, fish and plants are composed.
A term used by fanciers to describe a budgerigar bred in the current year.
Budgerigar Club
Generally a term to identify small localised and monthly Budgerigar Clubs in towns throughout the world
Budgerigar Exhibition
Standard terminology to describe all Specialised Budgerigar Exhibitions where exhibitors compete to be “Best In Show” – the top award among others.
Budgerigar Shows
Can apply to Budgerigar Exhibitions (above) but usually applies to lesser attended budgerigar competitive events.
A term which refers to a bird having longer and broader feathers than normal. They result in a rough rather than a sleek appearance and such birds are more difficult to prepare for showing.
Buffalo Effect
The author’s term evolved in 2005 to describe the imaginery line above the cere of a budgeigar with great width of face which has the added feature of the feathering dropping down either side of the beak when viewed from head on. The shape thus achieved resembles the imaginery horns of a water buffalo.

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Means wax or waxy. Applies to the fleshy area around the nostrils in budgerigars. Sometimes called the wattle.
Thread-like structures present within the nuclei of cells. They carry the inherited, genetic information that controls and directs the activities of cells. They thus affect the growth and function of the whole body.
Chromosomes, X & Y
Some chromosomes, usually the remaining two chromosomes, are called sex chromosomes. In males they form a pair and are called X chromosomes. They look alike, and therefore feature as double X, or XX. In females, the two sex chromosomes are different. One is an X chromosome and the other is shorter and is called the Y chromosome. Hence they are featured as XY.
A budgerigar totally clear of melanistic pigment is referred to as clear. More usually it refers to the areas of the flights which are described as clearflights even though they do contain melanin in specific cases.
Closed Ring
The National and Area Societies supply closed personal coded aluminium rings, each possessing an individual serial number and year. They are usually coloured by anodising the aluminium according to the Society requirements, the colour being changed annually. These are slipped on to each chick between the ages of 7-10 days.
A bird that is short in body length and rotund
Colony System
A method of breeding birds using an uncontrolled non pedigree, system.
Varieties of budgerigars:

  • Cinnamon – A specific brownish tinge to a specific colour on some budgerigars
  • Lutino – A specific yellow budgerigar with red eyes as in albinism – it has no other markings at all
  • Opaline – This is one of a variety of what are called the sex linked budgerigars which include cinnamons, lutinos, albinos and others
  • Pied – Another variety of budgerigar carrying different colour patches over the body
  • Spangle – Another variety of budgerigar with specific markings
  • Texas Clearbody – Another variety but not especially popular among exhibitors
Birds possessing complex mixtures of colour are known as composites.
Birds that are selected by visual assessment and sold for not reaching your required standard.

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Dark Gene
A gene that has the power to influence colour in two forms: A single dose; i.e. Dark Greens and Cobalts. Double dose; Olives and Mauves.
Dominant Character
When, on outcrossing two true breeding budgerigars showing contrasting characters, all the young exhibit the character of one parent. This character is referred to as the dominant character.
Dominant Colour
When, on crossing two differing basic coloured budgerigars, e.g. light green and skyblue, all the young exhibit the colour of one parent only. i.e. light green. This is termed dominant to skyblue.
The new growth of feathering on developing chicks.

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Egg Binding
The inability of a hen to pass an egg which may cause her death.

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The symbol for filial [of, or due, from son or daughter] generation.
The first filial generation. The young from the first pairing.
The second filial generation produced from two F1 individuals.
Factor, Single
The inheritance of a factor from one parent
Factor, Double
The inheritance of the same factor from both parents.
Anyone who keeps and breeds any birds for competition
Feather Duster
A recessive mutant gene appeared in the 1970’s creating a budgerigar which was double normal size and where the feathers continued to grow.
A bird or animal that is able to produce functional germ cells (i.e. the reproductive cells produced by the merging of the male sperm with a female ovum)
The union of a male gamete (germ cell) with a female gamete to form a zygote (The single cell so formed from this union)
A term used by canary fanciers to describe a bird over one year old.
Enclosed areas allowing birds ample freedom to fly. Also describes the primary and tail feathers.
French Moult
Thought to be a viral disease that creates the fracture of both flights and body feathers at skin level, before or after a young bird leaves the nest.

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A unit of heredity in a chromosome controlling a particular inherited characteristic of an individual.
The genetic constitution of an individual bird or animal.
All birds possess a gizzard. It is a muscular organ involved in the digestive process within the gut system.
Birds do not have “teeth”. They therefore swallow soluble and insoluble grit into the gizzard which grinds up their food intake for easy absorption.

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Tendency of like to beget like. The evolutionary factor causing the continuance of character in successive generations.
Zygote resulting from the fusion of unlike gametes. A Mendelian hybrid containing both dominant and recessive characters and therefore not breeding true.
See Runners.
A pure bred. In birds, a bird which breeds true for its specific characteristics as it carries, in duplicate, only one member of an alternative pair. Such birds are described as ‘prepotent’ for their own quality.
A process by which the wild-type, or another species entirely, is bred into a pure-bred stud creating, “outbreeding enhancement” (heterosis) with the likelihood of heterosis being combined with outbreeding suppression.

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Ideal, The
A descriptive word which depictes a quality of bird which is beyond the quality of birds currently being bred or exhibited. It can be words only, or in a model or printed form.

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Late Bred
Birds that are born in the second (or third) round of laying in any year.

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Applicable to the sex-linked opaline variety in budgerigars where the area formed by a triangle from the wing butts to the rump, on the back, is clear of marked feathering.
The pigments in feathering formed from the protein produced by the birds during growth. They are inherited.
The sum of all the chemical and physical processes by which living substance is produced and maintained. The process by which energy is made available for the uses of the organism.
When a baby chick, in budgerigars, firstly gets its feathers, it has barrs on the forehead. It then moults at 3 months of age and the forehead is then clear. Then it is a moulted budgerigar.
A complete genetic change which when transmitted to the offspring gives rise to hereditable variation. e.g. a colour mutation in budgerigars will have occurred if true red or black body feathers appear.

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Means ‘dead’.
Nest Feather
A budgerigar in pre-adult plumage (i.e. a barred head).
Normal Colour Groups
This refers to the markings on the original wild Australian budgerigars which are light green in colour. The term has been extended to the groups of colours which carry these original markings, to differentiate them from all other forms of feather colour and markings present in other colour combinations that have developed.

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The introduction of a new bird, usually of high quality, that is unrelated to the home stud.
The female reproductive organ/gland producing ova/eggs.

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Refers to an organism capable of producing disease.
The total of the observable hereditary characters in an individual bird or animal, etc.
The colouration of a feather.
The young bred from a breeding pair.
A bird of the order Psittaformes which consists of the family Psittacidae. e.g. parrots etc.

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The main shaft of a feather.

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A hidden factor masked by a dominant characteristic inherited from one parent. In budgerigar colour genetics, known recessive colours are written behind an oblique line referred to as the split line. Thus a light green/blue has a visual light green colour with the blue factor being recessive to the dominant green.
Young budgerigars that shed their primary, secondary and sometimes body feathers as a result of the French Moult virus, are termed ‘runners’. In Australia they are called ‘hikers’.

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Sex Linkage
Involves the association of a hereditary character with sex, as its gene is sited on a sex chromosome. It applies to seven varieties of budgerigars to date.
See Recessive.
The inability to reproduce.
A word which accurately describes an aviary containing entirely related stock.

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The Ideal
See Ideal

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A young bird that has not reached the 3 month age when it has its first moult, after which it is described as moulted.

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The anus, or correctly, the cloaca in birds.

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A fancier’s term to describe fine quality feathering which is also short in length.
Yellow Belly
A disease within the fertile egg which causes the young embryo to die. It has a distinct yellow belly when death occurs. It can be eliminated by treating the stud as a whole with an antibiotic in the water 2 months before breeding begins.

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Zebra Marks
Wavy markings often associated with recessive pieds which possess these features particularly around the head.

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Filed Under: Beginners



About the Author: Gerald Binks began breeding budgerigars when he was 12 years old and is now arguably the most knowledgeable budgerigar fancier in the world. He has bred his fair share of Best in Show birds, judged in no less than 20 countries, founded the World Budgerigar Association, and has published two of the three classic books on the hobby. His stud in the UK attracts fanciers from near and far and is always high on the list for those wishing to purchase BA23 quality budgerigars.

RSSComments (2)

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  1. Terry Hammerton says:

    Thanks Gerald.

    Great article and very helpful to us beginners.

    Terry Hammerton, New South Wales, Australia

  2. Thank you very much Gerald.

    I agree with Terry Hammerton.

    I have been sharing this basic terminology link for a long time, and many juniors/beginners are getting education through Gerald articles and this website.

    Habib Ur Rehman, Pakistan

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