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The Problem of Opalescence

by Walter Hotkowski

   The common wisdom surrounding opalescence is that it is a problem evident in Normal color budgerigars that has apparently crept in from the breeding of Normals to the Opaline color variety. Moreover, that this color anomaly resulted from some crossover or "bleeding" of standard Opaline genetic material to the Normal colored bird. While I agree that this anomaly does seem to have been spread through a great number of Normal Exhibition birds through breeding with Opalines, it is an inherited characteristic that is separate from the standard Opaline variety and should be clarified as a fault in Opalines just as in Normals.

   Opalescence is the substitution of the desired melanin, or dark, pigment found in the budgie's shell, or bar, patterning on the top side of the bird as when seen in flight, by an infusion of the breast color. For example, in a blue bird these shells will not be monochromatically dark brown, black, or slate as expected but will be substituted by or blended with blue. The areas most often affected are the back of the head and, to a lesser extent, the shell pattern on wings.

Budgie showing opalescence This Sky cock, owned by Marcia Halbert, clearly shows the fault in Normals that Walter has written about. The blue opalescence, also referred to as bloom, is visible on the back of the head, his back and the wings. If you look closely at the small area of blue color just next to the highest outer spot under the cheek patch and in between the black zebra stripes, you will see a hint of violet. This is the one area that is a flag that a bird is also carrying violet, even if you canít see it in the body color or tail or other areas.
   In Opalines, the wings are expected to have the breast color substitute the clear yellow or white background to the shell pattern on the wings. What has become acceptable is for this breast color and melanistic barring to continue on the head. Let me clarify that this coloring of the head is against the ABS Opaline standard which states that the head should ideally be pure white or yellow consistent with the birds color series.

   I have found old published photographs that clearly show white or yellow heads on pet quality opalines, albeit with ghost barring. Moreover, the ghost barring is neutral melanin without breast color suffusion.

   My conjecture from this evidence is that the opalescence we often think of as an unavoidable relic of opalescent breeding, is really a "sport" introduction that some may have preferred in the Opaline look, or at least found minimally objectionable. When this separately inherited characteristic made its way into the Normals however, the result was more universally unappreciated.

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