Hybrid, Not Mutation

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Q: Caiques are difficult to come by, are very expensive, and females are in short supply. I recently purchased nine babies that, when blood sexed, proved to be seven females and two males. My problem is that the father of the babies was a white-bellied, and the mother was a black-headed caique. This should not have happened, but with such an outcross, we know that the babies are not inbred and that this might prove beneficial in the long run. My concern is to revert back to their pure color. Both male babies are pure black heads. The females vary in color, but all show some degree of the coloration of both parents.

From here on in, I am dealing with guesswork, and this is my assumption. All of these females are half black head and display varying degrees of black head coloration. By mating them to pure black head stock, I should get the coloration of pure black heads, since black is dominant. Since one female shows very little black head coloration, my intention is to mate her to a white belly. With this pairing, I hope to get white belly babies, since she is half white belly. I am not an inexperienced breeder and have dealt with dominant and recessive genes and splits in some species and have bred caiques before. This, however, is a unique situation for me, and I would like some input.

A: I am sorry to inform you that your reasoning is flawed by some very major misconceptions. You are mistakenly treating the results of hybridization as if they were the results of genetic mutation. None of the genetic rules concerning recessive or dominant color mutations apply. The babies that you purchased are not “split” for anything. They are half breeds regardless of their appearance. The two baby males that you mention cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered “pure black heads,” even though their coloration might fool an expert. Even if you were to breed them to pure black head females, their offspring would have 25 percent white belly genes.

This is not something you can erase by selective breeding as if it were a recessive mutation. These misconceptions, when put into practice, are what pervert gene pools and ruin bloodlines. For many generations down the line there is the possibility of offspring “popping up” with the traits of a long-forgotten ancestor of another race. It would take nine generations of continual breeding back to pure black head stock to have 99.9 percent pure offspring; 100-percent purity could never be obtained. Visual coloration differences between the impure and purebred stock would disappear long before the ninth generation. On the genetic level, however, they would never resemble pure stock. Their genetic profile at the species level would be contaminated until the end of time from the hybridization. This would be for all genes, not just the ones that create visual differences between species or subspecies.

I am not personally opposed to hybridization when it concerns the controlled production of birds than can never be mistaken for purebred stock. The type of breeding project that you suggest, however, should never be pursued. Any hybridization that yields offspring that could be construed to be purebred is detrimental to all facets of aviculture, including the “prohybridization movement.” The babies that you have should be sold to the pet trade. They should be banded with open stainless-steel bands that state “hybrid.” These bands will prevent some unknowing aviculturist from purchasing them to enhance their gene pool if the birds should ever resurface from the pet sector. The money that you get from the sale of these nine babies as pets can be used to purchase some genetically pure pairs of different bloodlines. You will then have a project that is worth investing your time and money.