Fallow Budgerigars

Information compiled by Ken Gray mostly from the writings of the late Cyril H Rogers; Prof T G Taylor and co-author Cyril Warner (both also deceased); and the up-to-date knowledge and breeding experiences of them by Dr Margaret Young and other Rare Variety and Colour Budgerigar Society members.

Many fanciers wonder why certain groups of red-eyed Budgerigars are called Fallows and how they came to be so-named. The name "Fallow" was derived from the German word "Falben", which was first used to distinguish birds of a mutation which had appeared in Germany. "Falben" and the English word "Fallow" means "uncultivated" and when applied to Budgerigars was meant to imply that the pigment was uncultivated, or not in its usual finished condition. A number of fanciers in Britain did not like the name Fallow, but, as a better one was not forthcoming, it is still used. The distinguishing features of the Fallow Budgerigars are: red eyes, brown throat spots and wing markings (very similar to Cinnamons) and a paler body colour than the equivalent non-Fallow.

Actually, the first report to reach the UK of the appearance of a red-eyed mutation was from California, USA when a Mrs. A R Hood gave details of two red-eyed birds that appeared in her aviary during the 1931 breeding season. Other chicks followed from various breeding pairs. We now know that the mutation was of a recessive pattern of inheritance and so a number of her birds must have inherited it in split (single factor) form. Those red-eyed birds were sold to other breeders and possibly bred with other varieties as nothing more was heard for many years of those American Fallows.

It was in 1932 that the mutation appeared again, this time in Germany, bred by Herr Schumann of Magdeburg, and it is from these birds that the vast majority of the variety we know as German Fallows, evolved. It is believed that the earlier North American mutation, and later reported Australian, South African and South American ones are compatible with the German. Whether the latter three, or any one of them, came from German stock is not known.

Fallow Description

As has already been mentioned, such birds have red eyes. They also have the light iris ring seen in Normals and in Inos. The Fallow Light Green has a yellow mask ornamented by six evenly-spaced large round brown throat spots, as is usual, the outer two being partially covered by the cheek patches which are a light but dull violet. The general body colour of back, rump, breast, flanks and underparts is a yellowish light green. The markings on the cheeks, back of head, neck and wings are a medium brown on a yellow ground. The long tail feathers are a bluish-grey and the feet and legs are pink. Dark factor birds have body colour darker in proportion and Grey-Greens have the usual grey cheek patches of birds, which include the Grey mutation in their makeup.

The Blue-series birds follow the same pattern as the Greens. The Fallow Sky-blue version has a white mask, brown throat spots, a bluish-white general body colour with brown markings on a white ground.

There can be a German Fallow version of all other existing Budgerigar varieties, in the early days of the German Swallows some very interesting colour forms were produced. By combining the German Fallow with Dilutes and Cinnamons, the synthetic Albinos and Lutinos were bred, such birds being very much like the real thing.

It was in 1937 that a further Fallow mutation appeared: this time in England, in the aviary of a Mr F Dervan of Luton in Bedfordshire. The red-eyed birds came from what appeared to be Normal Green and Blue-series birds. Mr Dervan consulted a Mr Arthur Collier, a well-known breeder, who fortuitously worked for the same company. Mr Collier recognized the birds as having much brighter red eyes than the German Fallows and he suggested that Cyril Rogers, who was at that time General Secretary of The Budgerigar Society, should see them. That visit took place. It was noticed that birds of this mutation had a solid red eye -not including the light iris ring of the German variety.

Suggested Matings

At Cyril Rogers’ suggestion, two of the birds of the new mutation were mated together, producing four further red-eyes. One of the English Fallows was mated to a German Fallow which, in three rounds, produced eight black-eyed young, this showing that the new mutation was not compatible with the existing German one, although body colours and markings seem to be very similar if not identical.

It is now known that both mutations are of a recessive form of inheritance, so the black-eyed young would have been split for both forms of Fallow.

Experiments carried out by Prof T G Taylor in later years, by breeding together English Fallows from two different sources resulted in all black-eyed young being produced. One of the strains of "English" Fallows used had first appeared in Scotland and had been associated with the name of J H Moffat of Ardrossan, Ayrshire. Similar test-matings were made by Mrs Amber Lloyd of Walton-on-Thames with the same results, confirming that, including the German variety, there have been at least three Fallow mutations. To avoid confusion the Moffat strain of "English" Fallows has been renamed as Scottish Fallows. These Scottish Fallows have never been numerous, but happily a very small number have survived until the present day. The owner, in Scotland, has also carried out the same "English-Scottish" experiment, with the same results. In visual appearance the Scottish are identical to the original English Fallows, having the solid red eyes.

In 1979 Cyril Rogers wrote in the first Newsletter of the newly-formed Rare Variety and Colour Budgerigar Society that he knew of only two breeders of the English Fallow in the UK: one being Dr Margaret Young who had about 25 full Fallows and 30 to 40 splits.

She chose the English Fallow

In the book All About Specialist Variety Budgerigars by Roy Stringer and Fred Wright, Dr Young contributed the chapter "All about Fallows". She mentions that, in the summer of 1970, she purchased a Budgerigar, which turned out to be a German Fallow Dilute Sky-blue. That started off her interest in the Fallow varieties, but she considered it advisable to concentrate on only one of the Fallow varieties. She chose the English Fallow for basically two reasons: the first being that their eyes are a brighter red than the German mutation and secondly that she felt the English variety needed more help. The source of her English Fallows was the Mrs Amher Lloyd previously mentioned.

Dr Margaret Young has made many experimental pairings, producing some birds of, in her words, "stunning colour schemes". She makes the observation that although the English and Scottish Fallow mutations are commonly believed to have a solid eye with no iris ring, in fact they do have an iris ring but it is deep pink in colour. It is this, allied to the red pupil, which gives their eyes a solid look. A number of English Fallows do have an iris ring, which is actually paler in colour (occasionally even white) and this makes them indistinguishable from German Fallows.

All that information on the three Fallow varieties would seem to emphasise that it is important not to mix them.

In the UK all Fallows are still well below the size, substance and other exhibition points of Normals and similar mainstream dominant varieties. Top priority should be given to improving head qualities, but while improvement is going on, sight must not be lost of the fact that a Fallow can be well or poorly coloured. There can be a great variation in the richness of the yellow of Green-series birds. The depth of brown markings seems to vary from bird to bird; the darker tones being thought to be more desirable.

From speaking to British judges who have been to Australia, it would seem that Fallows with the white iris ring to the eyes, so possibly of the German or a separate Australian mutation, are not so rare in that country, and are birds of quite reasonable substance. There is no knowledge of birds similar to the English or Scottish varieties existing there.

Some English Fallows bred by Dr Margaret Young were however sent to South Africa in the early 1990s and the variety is known to be progressing satisfactorily in that country.