Rainbows and Goldenface Rainbows

by Ken Gray

"Rainbow-coloured" conjures up in most people's minds something very colourful - something that displays all the colours of the spectrum; from red, through orange, yellow, green and blue, to indigo and violet. Can there be a budgerigar variety that displays all those colours?

Well, not quite all of them. No red or pink mutation has yet occurred in budgerigars as far as we know, nor is it thought likely to, so the red sector of spectrum regrettably cannot be included. Nevertheless there is a group of composite varieties that can display most of the spectrum colours. They have been given the name Rainbows, and certain variants of them given the name Goldenface Rainbows, as they are all very colourful birds.

The specific combination of colours and markings all in one bird was given the name "Rainbow" by the Keston Foreign Bird Farm in Kent, England. The proprietor was not the first person to breed birds answering to the same basic description, but was the first to breed the most colourful versions, and to sell them commercially.

The Budgerigar Society recognises such birds as Yellowface (or Goldenface) Opaline Whitewing Blues. The blue can be Skyblue, Violet Skyblue, Cobalt, Violet Cobalt, visual Violet, Mauve or Violet Mauve. Now, at last, after nearly half a century, the BS has given full recognition to all the Yellowface and Goldenface varieties (not just the one mutation previously recognised) by detailing official standards for them all in their 1994 Colour Standards Book They have also now published Standards for both Rainbows and Goldenface Rainbows.

To be a true Rainbow of the Keston type the Yellowface mutation used should be what is known as Mutant 2; and to be a true Goldenface Rainbow, a similar mutation but with a deeper chrome or golden yellow is necessary. To produce these composite varieties, the bird farm proprietor is reputed to have used birds of the Clearwing (Whitewing) mutation obtained direct from Australia, also birds of the Australian Opaline mutation (not the Scottish or European mutations), plus the yellowface Blue Mutant 2 which is known to be of English origin. For the Goldenface  Rainbow he used the Goldenface Blue from Australia in place of Yellowface Mutant 2. Nowadays, many birds which are exhibited as Rainbows are of the Yellowface Blue Mutant 1 type, as that was for many years the only Yellowface mutation the Budgerigar Society in Great Britain seemed to recognise.

Yellowface Mutant 1 birds have the yellow much more restricted in area than the other Yellowface and Goldenface mutations, so for exhibiting Yellowface Blue and Grey Normals and Opalines the first mutation is preferred. For Rainbow production, Mutant 1 Yellowface helps to produce birds of more substance and other desirable exhibition points, but such birds are not quite so colourful as the true Rainbows and Goldenface Rainbows. Nevertheless, as they are recognised by the BS, they are allowed to compete in the same classes - and it must be said, as most judges are conditioned to give size and certain other exhibition points priority over brilliance of colour, they often take the awards.

As mentioned earlier, the blue body colour can be of the wide range of colour from Skyblue through to Violet Mauve. Grey birds are also part of the Blue series, but are usually excluded as the word "rainbow" presupposes something very colourful. The Slate mutation would also fall into the same category as the Grey.

So in a true Rainbow or Goldenface Rainbow we have a bird with a yellow or golden-yellow head and mask; a body colour ranging from Skyblue through to Violet and Mauve, with an area of green of graduating depth of colour where the yellow of the mask blends into the blue of the body feathering; the "V" of the Opaline giving a blue mantle; wings which have an off-white ground, with opalescent blue, green and yellow markings; and off-white or pale grey flight feathers. The long tail feathers are mainly a deep blue, but with lighter areas flushed with yellow. The shorter tail feathers show less of the blue and more of the yellow colour. As would be expected, where the Dark and/or Violet factors are included, most of the colours and markings are correspondingly darker.

Yellowface Blue Mutant 2 and Goldenface Blue can give a greater intensity to all the colours. The Goldenface mutation can even turn some of the markings on the wings into an attractive bronze colour, the nearest to red that we can get. This is not to be confused with the Cinnamon mutation, which is definitely to be avoided in breeding Rainbows and Goldenface Rainbows.

Buff-feathered birds do not show the true brilliance of colour of the true Rainbow, so the yellow-type texture of feathering is preferred by most Rainbow breeders. It is generally accepted that the Goldenface Visual Violet Rainbow is the most colourful of the whole range.

There is also a certain genetic novelty appeal about the Rainbow, and breeding them serves a very useful purpose in being a good introduction to that subject, because in one bird are included two recessive mutations (Clearwing and one of the Yellowface-Goldenface Blue group) and a sex-linked mutation (Opaline, preferably the Australian one). Combined they give the skyblue version of the Rainbow or Goldenface Rainbow. Add to that one semi-dominant (the Dark factor) to achieve the Cobalt, (and in its double dose the Mauve), and one full dominant (the Violet factor) to achieve the Visual Violet. Combining them all can be quite an interesting exercise with something very attractive as the end-product.

There are a number of ways of combining the mutations to arrive at a pair of birds suitable for breeding Rainbows or Goldenface rainbows. One such way for breeding the Mutant 1 version would be to start with an Opaline Blue cock paired to a Whitewing Blue hen, and a Whitewing Blue cock paired to a Yellowface Blue Mutant 1 hen. Certain of their young, when paired together the following year could produce Rainbows.

I give below some of the pairings which will produce Rainbows of the Mutant 1 variety:

  1. Yellowface Whitewing Blue/Opaline cock  Whitewing Blue hen
  2. Opaline Whitewingnbsp:Blue cock Yellowface Whitewing Blue hen
  3. Yellowface Blue/Opaline cock Whitewing Blue hen
  4. Whitewing Blue/Opaline cock Yellowface Blue/Whitewing hen.

For those interested, the whole story is already in print in my colour-illustrated 72-page book Rainbow Budgerigars and Constituent Varieties.

Any fancier interested in breeding these colourful birds can obtain the book from:
The Budgerigar Society
49/53 Hazelwood Road
price 5.75 plus postage.