A couple of weeks ago I had the rare and exciting experience of seeing a remarkable mutation of Zebra Finch. The Reeses have called the mutation George after the gentleman in whose aviaries they first noticed a strange Zebra. At first they thought they were dealing with some form of Grizzle; subsequent breeding enhanced the multiple effects of the new mutation but have not yet fixed all the features to the degree that one description could be considered appropriate. Many of the features are common to most birds, but certainly not to a consistent extent. Some features are not universal.
You will see from the above that the mutation results in multiple changes to markings, feather pattern, feather type and size. Ultimately David and Marion will produce their approved description but at this stage I have their permission to release the photographs accompanying this note and felt that some form of description should be presented to assist the viewer.
As to the naming, after seeing the photos you will probably understand why it would be almost impossible to coin a descriptive name that recognized all the variations caused by this mutation.
DESCRIPTION of a Grey cock bird.
The cheek patches are the first thing that catches your eye; they are larger than normal and flare out from the head because of directional feathers. Their basic color is unaffected but there are white spots which increase in size as they get further from the face. At first glance one could think that several birds had been fighting as the patches can appear somewhat ragged. This is not the case; there are small plumes which seem to extend from the back of the cheek patch on a random basis, some orange and some white. The throat barring is much heavier than a normal Grey and is black on white not black on Grey. There are frequently traces of orange through the throat. The actual breast bar is not present but there is more black on the breast where the bar would be. There are several examples where the bird's face shows white whiskers around the sides and under the beak. Other heavily marked individuals have no whiskers. Where there are whiskers under the beak there seems to be a horizontal parting under the beak where feathers go in opposite directions, up and down. The flanks vary greatly. Some examples have flanks where the white spots are replaced with white bars or stripes; others seem to have plumes of white emanating from the usual red-brown flank colored base. Some carry black areas to the rear of the flanking, containing white spots.
The tail seems to be unaffected but the rump has black and white spots or marks.
One of the more unusual features on this very unusual mutation is the markings that all birds carry to varying degrees on their neck, back and wings. On the mantle and down onto the tertiaries there are bold spots showing black, orange and white. The spots are broadly heart or kidney bean shaped and are more distinctive on the Grey birds rather than Fawn, although still present. Some birds show zebra throat barring extending around to the back of the head and some other stray marks.
The final attribute is that they are almost invariably larger and broader than David's other Zebras.
Hens can only be distinguished by their flared cheeks and the occasional plume around the face. They do show some bold shadow barring on the chest. They are also rather large birds.
The first 4 photos are of the same bird. This bird has the most back markings but it has no whiskers.
The next 4 photos are of a bird showing the best whisker display.
The collection in the cage give an impression of the extent of the directional feathers in the cheeks.
This is truly and amazing new Zebra Finch. It is a fine example of the ability of a species like the Zebra to produce new and outstanding mutations. It also tells us that the future of Zebra Finch mutations is far from complete! By the way, don't get any wild ideas, this mutation is only known in Australia.
Garrie P. Landry