Early Mutations that Give Us the History

In my personal Gouldian archives I came across a very significant and interesting article written by the late Ray Murray relating to the early Gouldian mutations, that just happened to turn up in aviaries in almost every state across Australia. The amount of different types of mutations bred was surprising as there was only a handful of Gouldian breeders compared with their popularity today, Gouldians currently being the most popular finch kept in our aviaries. These mutations were bred mostly from stock that was originally wild caught.

I was also impressed with the detailed records that Ray Murray kept of names-dates-places to give us the history for future breeders to learn from and enjoy. However, today record keeping does not appear to be on the important list when breeding mutations. The last mutation of the modern era that was bred in Australia with the records intact was bred by Don Crawford, being the Australian Yellow, more recently the Recessive Lime, with the Turquoise Blue being some what hidden in its recessive gene and has not shown itself for some seasons. You can’t lose a mutation that is recessive, except if you lose the carrier of the mutant gene.

Even a current Gouldian Book has written misinformation in the section on the present day mutations that were developed after the 1980s. It has been written on hear-say and misrepresents the true development and breeding history of the Australian Yellow and also has fabricated history of the European Blue. Surely we as dedicated breeders are a little more intelligent and bird-savvy than to put up with the “chest-beaters” written word that is dumped on us as fact. This incorrect history has been spread around the world as truth. Where is the accountability of these people in sourcing the true and accurate breeding details? Yes I would like to put things right with the correct details, as I did spend ten long years developing the Australian Yellow, and my credibility has suffered in the world of mutations as not being the one to establish them as the breeder. In my opinion, breeders deserve to know the true history, not the waffle.

Also note when reading Ray Murray article that some, if not all the mutations were bred late in the season, October-November because most of the young mutations were lost due to the bad-feeding parent. The simple answer to the bad-feeding parents is they were starting to moult! This is the most stressful time for a Gouldian, followed by a extremely stressful breeding season. When you consider the end of season problems that the breeding parent encounters, I am not surprised at the losses and feeding problems that the early Gouldians breeders did have.

Another point of interest – All the mutations in those early days were all bred from normals. This would be much more difficult to achieve today as most normals are multiple crossed with a number of different mutations.  Because of this colour crossing we most probably will never know how many new mutations were lost in the melting pot. As I wrote in a previous article on the Australian Dilutes, “We stuffed up” !@#%*

Dec 2013

“Mutations in the Gouldian Finch”
By Ray Murray

An excerpt from “Australian Aviculture” (January 1973, pp.4-5)

‘A number of mutations in the Gouldian Finch have been bred, but most of them died out before a stock had been established. There could have been many bred that were never reported.

Most mutations have been the outcome of closely related birds being paired together. As there was a good supply of wild-trapped Gouldians available at the pet stores about November every year, aviculturists would buy up stock each year to mix with their aviary birds. As this went on year after year, the mating of closely related birds was seldom necessary.

Some of these mutations have turned up in an aviary that had many pairs of Gouldians and the owner has not been aware of the importance of the mutation to bother to try and pinpoint the parents and remove them to a controlled aviary for breeding. Other owners of mutations have lacked the knowledge of how to establish them, the result is that these mutations have been lost to aviculture.

Many of these mutations did not survive for long and some not long enough to show what they appeared like in adult plumage. One of these was a mutation that appeared in the aviary of Mr. Keith Thompson, of Glenhuntly. He had a number of pairs of Gouldians in this aviary and occasionally dark fawn youngsters would turn up in a nest. They never lived long enough to moult out to adult plumage.

Mr. Thompson brought over to show me three of these dark fawn youngsters that had left the nest, but the parents would not feed them and they died. This was near the end of the breeding season, but he said if they went to nest again and had more of them, he would bring them over to me to see if I could rear them. I heard no more from him that season, so they evidently did not go to nest again. Mr. Thompson was not able to pick the parents of these birds and he eventually lost them as no more dark fawn youngsters appeared.

A fawn mutation turned up in the aviary of Mr. Lou Koenig, of Ararat. Again these fawn young would not survive for long. Mr. Koenig did manage to pick out the pair of Gouldians that were producing these fawn youngsters. He sent the pair to me to see if I could do anything with them. I found the pair were poor feeders and had to foster their eggs out. I too was unable to rear any of these fawn youngsters, even under foster parents. The parents died without producing a specimen that lived long enough to moult out to adult.

Another mutation that I call “The Variegated Gouldian” turned up in the aviary of Mr. Phil Frampton, of Broadmeadows, NSW. This bird left the nest looking just like a normal Gouldian but when it moulted out the change was remarkable.

It was a red-headed cock Gouldian. The head colour was not affected. The breast was white with a few purple feathers through it, and the back was a canary yellow with some green feathers showing. The wings were yellow with some of the flight feathers green, the rump was white with some blue feathers and the tail was white with some black feathers. The abdomen was yellow as the normal bird. The throat was white and where the blue band circles the neck between the red of the head and the green of the body it was white. The eyes and feet were normal.

This bird made no attempt to breed all the time I had it.

A mutation that has turned up in every aviaries in every State of Australia is the Blue Gouldian. In this mutation the green is replaced with a dull blue. No other colour was affected.

I first saw these in Sydney in 1946 and the owner had a few of them and was breeding under controlled conditions to try and establish the strain. No further news about them was received, so evidently they have died out.

In 1952 Mr Lou Koenig, of Ararat, reported that he had a Blue Gouldian turn up in his aviary and was mating it back to a black-headed cock bird. Again nothing further was heard, so apparently nothing came of it.

I had a late-bred Gouldian in season of 1955 that started to moult out blue, but never completed the moult before the winter and died before the winter was over. I had the parents of this blue Gouldian together for several years, but no more blue Gouldians turned up.

All these blue Gouldians that have come under my notice have been hens. On no occasion has a blue cock bird ever been reported. Could it be a case of sex-linkage inheritance? No further breeding has ever been reported on them, so nothing as yet has been proved as to its genetical make up.

An article in “Australian Aviculture,” September 1966, under the heading “The Mutant Gouldian,” by Avian, tells us of another Gouldian mutation. I think it is best to quote from the article: “I have something different. . . a bird which is so different it has to be seen to be believed, and while it is not my breeding I should like to describe it.

“A mutant Gouldian hen, it bears little resemblance to a normal Gouldian except for the body shape. Both wings and back are pale cream, the breast which is normally purple has become pure white, as is the tail, and the rest of the body is pale cream except for the head which is a light tangerine colour sparsely flecked with grey. The eyes are not pink as in the albino, but dark brown and legs are normal pink.

“The person from whom I purchased this bird (and who wishes to remain just as anonymous as I do at this stage) has had these mutants for four years as far as he can remember. They were the progeny of a pair of black-headed normals, but the flight in which they are housed is about 30ft. by 20ft. heavily planted and is shared with some dozens of red, yellow and black-headed Gouldians. The strain has been lost to a great degree through their breeding with various normals. The cocks of this mutation as far as I can see do carry some colour, as there are some birds in this huge flight obviously cocks whose wings, backs and bodies are cream but have a bright red or tangerine head, while the breast is a subdued but attractive violet. I imagine there are about eight or ten pure mutants altogether, as well as about 20 splits showing various degrees of digression from normal colour. Some are almost pure mutant except for green wings, whilst others give the impression of normals which have been dipped in bleaching agent and have lost 40 per cent of their colour all over.

“The owner has never attempted to breed these birds selectively as he says he is to old, the flight too big and it is too much trouble. His theory for the deviation in colour is that it is due to something that the birds eat off the ground in the flights.

“I have paired my hen to a magnificent red cock (Oalthough I have since thought that a black cock may have been a better plan) and at the time of writing they appear to have gone to nest.”

No further articles on this mutation has ever appeared in “Australian Aviculture,” so it looks like a case of another mutation lost to aviculture.

There has been three different lots of albino Gouldians reported in South Australia. Mr. A.Phillips purchased a red-headed albino from a fancier who bred it, but it died before producing any young. Mr. F. Knuckey had a black-headed albino, but is not known where it came from. It, too, died before producing any more. Mr.S. Terrill had three red-headed albino Gouldians at one time, but it was not known if he started with one and bred the others. He finished up losing them before he was able to get them established.

Several albinos were bred in Queensland but the owner could not keep them alive after they left the nest. Rats got into his aviary and cleaned up some of his Gouldians. He failed to breed any more albinos after that, evidently the rat got the parents.”

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