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Dear Parrots magazine,

Let’s agree to differ

If I may be permitted a brief reply to Jim Hayward’s letter? I had no wish to infer any criticism of Pauline James’s article on the new Green-cheeked conure mutations, I merely wished to offer a different viewpoint on the birds.

Similarly I would never seek to denigrate the skills of any aviculturist. I just do not understand why breeders wish to produce mutations of any species. I realise, however, that breeding mutations is popular with many aviculturists, so it is probably best if we all agree to differ!

Andrew Stevens, East Yorkshire


Breeding colour mutations is a bit like the explanation as to why people climb mountains, and the answer is, because they are there! I always found breeding colour mutation lovebirds fun and exciting, but only did it responsibly - always breeding back to good-sized ‘normals’ to ensure that their progeny were healthy, good-sized, good quality birds. This is especially important when working with lutino and white-faced mutations.

Striving for perfection was always my aim and I loved the challenge of complicated mutations – albeit a safer option than the mountain! Having said all of that when you look at the colouring of a naturally coloured wild Peach-faced lovebird, nature is indeed very hard to beat...

What we mustn’t do though is lose true ‘normals,’ and the size, quality and vigour of the wild-type bird - not split for any other mutation. These ‘normal’ birds are important as a back-up, as with any species of parrot, if the populations in the wild should fail. What is also important is not to confuse breeding mutations with breeding hybrids, which is breeding together two separate species of lovebirds, or any other parrot, so you end up with a bird that is half one species and half another.

Some other lovebird species such as Fischer’s and Black-cheeked have controversially gained new mutations by cross-breeding them with another species of the required mutation. Then, over many generations the physical appearance of the second species is slowly bred out - although these birds will never be pure species and will always throw out physical likenesses of the second species at times. But, this practice does not apply to Peach-faced.

My feeling is, if mutations help to give the hobby a boost and they are bred sensibly, then I think there is room for all tastes. Don’t forget that some mutations occur in the wild too, and it is only due to the randomness with which breeding occurs that more of these colours aren’t seen.

Quality, cleanliness, good husbandry practices, a good diet and excellent enrichment opportunities are the most import thing, along with keeping wild-type birds of all parrot species as back-up populations for those that are in danger in the wild.

Pauline James



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