Improving the Clearwing Variety

I had a very interesting conversation recently on the subject of lesser or specialist varieties.

The opinion on how best to breed them was interesting, but at times a bit heated

Why is it that breeders of these varieties are so guarded about so-called breeding rules?

Why is it that certain colours should not be used?

Yes, varieties such as clearwings or grey wings should not be paired to either opaline or cinnamon, but it doesn’t stop there – next it is colours like grey and grey-green that are regarded as bad pairings – why?

Wouldn’t the overall quality of the offspring get an increase in both size and quality?

You could always pair back into mainstream colours to re-introduce contrast. Would a judge have the courage to reward a quality clearwing if it was grey or grey-green? I would hope so, but we all know this would not happen. Imagine the flack from such a decision!

UK & Australian Versions

So how do you improve the clearwing variety?

How many dark factor birds of great quality are available? Not many, so by sticking to the rules means slow going, plenty of waste and possibly plenty of frustration.

So why not use the grey factor to your advantage? You can always breed the colour back out when the quality improves.

Let’s move on with this further. The UK versions suffer greatly from muddy wings, but do have great development in quality. Here in Australia the opposite is true – clear wings but generally poor quality! So many look small, narrow – even “mean looking” at times, they certainly look out of place on the show bench.

Ideal First, Variety Second

How do we fix this problem?

I think the standard is the fault.

Now please, you clearwing breeders don’t jump on me here, but is it wrong to be putting the bird’s markings high above it – conforming to the ideal of what an exhibition bird should look like?

Why does the grey or grey-green have to look as close to the ideal as possible then its faults will be the deciding factor in regards to winning any awards?

So on this basis why should any other variety be subject to any other system than this?

I firmly believe that any variety regardless, should conform as close as possible to the ideal first, then variety content second, and this is how all should be judged – not the reverse as is the case with many varieties.

However, it has to be said, no variety will improve until it is bred with quality first. Yes, some will always suffer from quality regression, but, without doing it this way first, they will never stand a chance to truly improve.

The Spangle Example

Let’s take the spangle.

Most of the purists advocate to breed with only those that have perfect wing markings and true bullseye spots. Under this idea we wouldn’t see too many good ones on the show bench.

Let’s face it, it will be very hard to maintain quality with perfect variety content. I do not advocate ignoring the variety markings, but it needs to be in balance – quality first, variety second.

Spangles suffered badly from indiscriminate pairing (as has been the case with opaline), so are they capable of breeding true to type anyway?

Take the black-eye yellow, many of the very best struggle to remain clear of markings. Many that win could be disputed on the question of: are they black-eyes or poorly marked suffused dilutes?

The problem here is the questionable birds are far superior in quality, another case of quality first, variety second, the way it should be.

Quality First – More Examples

I don’t profess to be an expert, but the only way forward is to use quality stock regardless of colour and then use splits from these to improve the size and quality of your variety of choice, it should never be the other way round.

I am very happy to use any colour to improve my clearwings – as I do with my dilutes. There is much to be gained from grey-greens, they are easy to buy and their feather type is so valuable.

I would like to briefly touch on Ian Hannington’s fallows.

They have breathtaking size, quality, deportment and variety content. These birds are eagerly sought-after – using top quality stock paid dividends.

Another example here is Wayne Cusack. He is well known for his success with the black-eye self (four times national champion), and his birds are again highly sought-after.

His birds maintain size and quality, then variety – his hens are as big and as good as some normals. His dedication and commitment to using quality birds paid off.

Breaking the Rules

I think you have to be a very dedicated breeder to have a go at many of the specialist varieties, as it slow going.

However, you should never limit yourself and your variety’s improvement with all sorts of restricting rules.

I break many rules with my stud – all you have to do is to keep very good records and you will never look back.

There is much to gain from looking outside of the circle, don’t weigh yourself down with rules. The primary objective is – pair your birds with quality.


All the colour photographs below were sourced from The Challenge.

Click on any image to enlarge it.


Filed Under: BreedingFeatured



About the Author: Adrian Dunning is an avid fancier living in Australia. He started in our hobby at the age of seven. Due to an inherited genetic fault, Adrian is blind in one eye. For this reason his contact with the Australian Fancy has to be via the internet. He is currently heavily involved in pressing the Australian Government and related Agencies, to re-open the door for another massive import of quality outcrosses from the UK .

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  1. Jane E Adam says:

    This is the only way to go.

    Quality first – then the Clearwing.

    We hope!

    Jane E Adam, Australia

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