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The mere mention of the word "hybridization" tends to elicit
a very negative reaction from many breeders and hobbyists. Consequently,
some breeders view the word "transmutation" (usually referencing the transmission
of a color mutant gene from one species to another) as a more palatable
alternative. This semantic change could be deemed analogous to the
response of people to "inbreeding" and the adoption of the term "closed
flock". Regardless of the definition, for many people hybridization
is bad; end of story. For those people there is little point in encouraging
or discussing something that "pollutes" the gene pool of a desirable (pure)
species or results in a nest full of offspring that can vary significantly
in physical appearance and genetic composition.
I thought hybridization was worth a little effort, on my part, to determine
the role hybridizing has played in various bird species. The results
of my reading were quite interesting. Hybridization seems to be a
matter of magnitude and definition, but in the end the objective is to
generate a new line, variety or breed of bird that excels in some feature
or features (traits) that makes it economically valuable or aesthetically
pleasing. That value may be based on a variety of expectations, such
as: homing instinct and speed; size and color; egg production; meat production,
and adaptability to or survivability in harsh climates.
The application of hybridization in animals (dairy; beef; poultry; sheep;
goats, etc...) and in plants is well documented in history and has generated
a tremendous volume of anecdotal information, scientific reports and myths.
The peachfaced lovebird is only one of a few "domestic / captive" bird
species (primarily psittacines ?) that have not been subject to intense
efforts to develop new breeds or strains. Ridiculous ? Look
at the canary and the efforts that went into developing new varieties (lines
/ strains / breeds), some for song, some for looks and some... because
As far as I am aware, mutant color gene transference (transmutation)
has occurred only among the eye-ring species. That process can take anywhere
from three to ten years (some suggest that statistically it might only
take 4 generations to get pure birds) to set the color, morphology, and
behaviors of the recipient bird species in the hybrid. If one is
going to pursue this avenue, a substantive quantity and quality of wild
type birds should be available to ensure that the best hybrids are mated
back to the best (standard) of the recipient species: size, color
and physical structure are very important at this juncture. At the end
of the road, and under a practiced hand, the hybrid will come to resemble
the recipient species in all but color. The hybrid, no matter how
good it looks or how closely it resembles the color recipient species,
may sometimes produce an offspring (throwback) that looks more like the
progenitor species. This is particularly true if pet owners breed
"new color variety" birds to each other. The "throwback" is simply
the penetrance and expression of the heterogeneity (sometimes hidden) of
Successful hybrid color penetrance and acceptability is based on the
hybrid bird's genome comprising a greater percentage of the recipient species
genome and only a relatively small percentage of the donor species genes.
The color impact is easily assessed, but the impact of associated genes
are neither well known nor well documented. It is not possible as
yet, as far as I am aware, to extricate or isolate the complete chromosomal
segment (associated genes and loci) transferred with the new hybrid color
gene after hybridization has occurred. It is because of these associated
genes and the apparent inability to remove them from the hybrid genome,
that people believe there is no reversal in the hybridization process,
and that the potential for pet owners to breed these birds indiscriminately
with "pure" species is high. The result of this indiscriminate breeding
is that the pure gene pool becomes rapidly "contaminated" by the "hybrid
gene" presence, and progeny are produced with indistinct or blurred coloring.
The offspring, except for a rare occasion, would probably not be shown
or exhibited at competitive events because of the demand for clarity and
intensity of color; sharp delineation between colors; size and an unspoken
expectation that the bird will be able to pass on certain "pure" and "desirable"
traits. So, what do you do with these poor representatives (hybrid)
of the species ? It is important to remember that for every successful
hybrid, there is a long trail of birds that did not make the grade.
However, this is true in almost every captive species, whether they be
chickens; pigeons; budgerigars; turkeys; canaries or finches. What
separates the Lovebird ?
The following points are meant to get people thinking about species
and hybridization concepts and the implications or trickle down from hybrids:
A hybrid may be defined as the offspring from two different
varieties, breeds, genera or species.
Hybridization, in essence, is the crossing of birds or animals that may
or may not differ markedly in general physical appearance, and may or may
not have significant differences in their genome (this may be only one
chromosome that has been subject to a physical alteration, or a substantive
change in the genome brought about through selective breeding, or natural
Reasons often cited for speciation in the wild are: isolation, physical
limitations, out-of-sync reproductive cycles, incompatible chromosomes;
inability to communicate (sound), food niche and selection, migration patterns,
colors and social behavior. I am sure there are many more
The white eye-ring lovebird species intermingle/ hybridize without difficulty
and, as I understand it, both male and female offspring are quite fertile
in captivity. The eye-rings are classed as a different species from the
peachface, and each eye-ring species has a "clear geographic range".
There are reports of hybridization among eye-ring species in the wild,
where flocks overlap, but I have not heard of any fertility data that was
collected, or that could identify varying fertility percentages and mating
choices in hybrid progeny.
Speciation in the wild can occur through the gradual or rapid development
of a variant (s) (either within a species or the result of two similar
species interbreeding) that, after a period of time, loses the ability
to exchange genes (sterile offspring or none) with the founding wild flock.
This might be due to a chromosomal aberration or alteration in the variant;
a different reproductive cycle; lethal genes or a host of other potentials.
As well, a catastrophic incident can lead to isolation of a species and
subsequent slow alterations in form or genome.
There is an "understanding" among lovebird enthusiasts that a peachfaced
crossed with an eye-ring species will result in a sterile hybrid.
Others have observed that the progeny of such a mating may act differently
in regards to social and nest building behavior. Conversely, there are
those who hold to the notion that peachfaced x eye-ring crosses are
fertile This belief or sentiment continues today, but more people
seem to be asking about it (perhaps it is just the Internet?)
As early as 1930, people were indicating that at least some peachface /
eye-ring crosses were fertile. It is also well known that a certain
percentage of hybrids or "crosses" will be fertile, although fertility
off significantly when mating hybrids together versus crossing the 1st
generation back into one or other of the parental lines.
What do we know about hybridization:
Finally, don't believe everything you read or what someone says.
Always question what you are reading and hearing and determine your position
based on the evidence and your own research. Nobody has all
of the information, but the African Lovebird Society (ALBS) is probably
the most in-tune and long term over-seer and manager of lovebird information
and knowledge that I am aware of. Write to them, ask them what they
think. Don't dismiss this site or this document based on prejudice
against hybridization or because someone has told you peachface hybridization
is not possible. Question the facts and the theory, but not the possibility.
Let me know what they say, and I will correct this page if proven incorrect.
If an experienced breeder can provide information for or against the low
probability of fertile peachfaced hybrids, I will post that as well.
Otherwise, please read the following and prepare a cogent argument against
fertile peachfaced hybrids, if you do not ascribe to what is said.
It will be posted.
The Peachface lovebird is intermediate between the three lovebirds known
as: Abyssinian, Madagascar and Red-faced, and the eye-ring species (Fischer;
Masked; Black-Cheeked, and Nyasa
The Peachface has successfully produced at least some Hybrid offspring
that were fertile from the following crosses:
There are also "rumors" that suggest that the Peachface has produced Hybrid
offspring from the following crosses:
Where is the data that states that roseicollis offspring are infertile
or mules. Surely, a bird that is an intermediate step in the lovebird
family has the affinity and potential to produce fertile offspring with
closely related birds. We know that all lovebirds are essentially
seed eaters and that the functional organs, both internal and external,
are established to deal with seeds, and not insects; that their morphology
is relatively similar, despite known behavioral distinctiveness, and that
they are related taxonomically. Why wouldn't they be fertile ?
The maturation period for full fertility may differ substantively from
the "normal expectation", but fertility potential may exist none-the-less.
Is it a wise "policy" to remain silent when errors may exist with regard
to the viability of offspring arising from interbreeding of the peachface
and other lovebird "species". Statements such as: "peachface
offspring, from an inter-specific cross" are all infertile and mules, a
"species" cannot cross with another "species" and generate fertile offspring".
It is particularly striking when dogmatic statements of this type are made
by "learned" individuals, particularly when the statement flies in the
face of well documented proof of fertile offspring between eye-ring "species".
No one comments on this over-sight though.
Someone who mates their birds indiscriminately and gives them away or sells
them as something special, is usually passing them into the hands of a
"novice" (usually). If that novice receives them in their second
or third year and the birds produce offspring, or are mated with aviary
birds, who is to tell the novice that they have polluted their "gene"
pool and stand a good chance of polluting more if they sell those birds
as pure "lovebirds"?
The effort to make people believe that peachface hybrids are infertile,
if indeed this is not so, can potentially lead to greater (and innocent)
degradation or pollution of the population and "gene pool", than recognizing
and trying to inform people about hybrid breeding impacts and the need
for having them classified and identified for what they are. That
knowledge and acceptance is only gained by educating people and providing
examples and descriptions of possible offspring phenotypes and their consequences,
not by trying to prevent the production of them, but perhaps by requiring
that hybrids be ringed in a particular color or with a definable inscription.
If, as so many seem to believe, hybrid peachface offspring are "sterile
or mules", the question automatically arises as to how a mule or sterile
bird might pollute a gene pool or threaten a species ??? The
obvious rejoinder is that a percentage of hybrids may be fertile.
If you doubt or question the information provided, GOOD, I have done my
job. Please do some of your own research on lovebirds and then question
the reliability and validity of information placed here, in order that
you might derive a better understanding of lovebird behavior and potentials.
Lest people think definitions surrounding inter specific breeding and
"species" are fixed, immutable or infallible, please look at the following
sites, that provide a little insight into the level of academic discourse
and peer review that still revolves around "classification" / "taxonomy"
and "speciation" / "hybridization" (pro and con):
A table containing lovebird F1 hybrid fertility based
on Sibley and Monroe Dna/Dna Analysis ( I cannot, now, find
the organization responsible for this table. If an intrepid web searcher
can find the sight and relate it to me, I will attach the document (excel
spreadsheet)... my sincere apologies to the authors, and others. I hope
that the document can be located and attributed quickly)
People seem relatively comfortable with terms like: line, strain, variety
and breed. I must admit that they still have a tendency to confuse
me, as everything is relative. A fixed strain or breed may be the
result of 10 to 20 generations of intensive culling, selection and family
breeding. The process identifies and attempts to remove many of the
more "undesirable traits" so that a relatively homozygous line of birds
is created. Their genome would eventually be quite (perhaps significantly
?) different to the heterozygous pet shop or wild type bird. Crossing
"line" birds with a wild type (diallel cross or outcross) may result in
the benefits of heterosis and decent looking birds in the F1,
but a fertile mating between the F2 could generate hybrid offspring
with significant phenotypic and genotypic variation
How different might a "line's" genome (14 generations) be from the wild
type bird, and how might it compare to the average
numerical distinction (% difference) between the genome of similar
A prepotent cock (or hen) in a line or strain of birds carrying homozygous
factors for a number of desirable (selected) characteristics can pass on
his genome with great penetrance and expression in the progeny, even if
the hen is only average for a few traits. The progeny or first filial
generation F1 would be very similar in appearance to the cock
bird, but the problem occurs when the F2 or second filial generation
is crossed among itself. In this instance a number of hybrid or undesirable
offspring may be generated
Given the points above, it becomes clear that:
Two highly inbred lines of birds may be developed from several pairs of
progenitor parents. Aggressive inbreeding would lead to birds with
a highly select genome, and one that might not occur naturally, or not
for a very long time. The progeny resulting from a crossing of two
such inbred lines (where the intent was to generate a third line) would
be referred to as a recombinant inbred line and again, the F1
cross would appear very good phenotypically, despite being heterozygous
for different traits. The F1 is a hybrid cross: the F2
is also a hybrid cross (mono and di-hybrid crosses) but would have greater
variety in phenotypes and genotypes
Wild flocks can overlap and "species" can and do interbreed to produce
offspring (thus a natural event or occurrence)
In nature, the development of a new species might occur through gradual
pressure and selection or isolation or conversely very rapidly ( physical
In selective breeding activities the genome can be filtered relatively
quickly with an aggressive methodology and a close breeding plan
A selected strain, line or variety of lovebird, at some point, can
become quite genotypically different from the "parent population"
The point at which the genome needs to differ enough to generate
a "hybrid" when crossed back into the "wild population" is unclear (depends
on number of generations, number of out-crosses if any, selection pressure
and how different the selected traits are from the norm ?)
In the dog, chicken, canary, cat and other species, a number of breeds
have been generated (isolated) through selection. New breeds are
generated by crossing (hybridizing) these existing breeds and selecting
desired traits from the F1 or more infrequently the F2.
Through further selection a new breed is then developed.
Breeds / strains can and do disappear without continued work and
maintenance by people.
Hybridization in the lovebird community has been used for color trait
Selection within a species can help to generate and identify color
mutants, lethal genes, autosomal recessives, structural inheritance and
their correlation with other traits.
Hybrids can result within a species, without the necessity for breeding
with another species.
Hybrid production may result in the start of a new strain, just as
identification of a desirable sport and selective breeding to enhance one
of its attributes can
If color mutants were not maintained by breeders or desired by the
public, they too would soon disappear as they are recessive to the wild
The 1st generation will exhibit some variation among themselves and consequently,
birds are selected for their appearance and bred together in an effort
to establish a new line. The 1st generation in this case would need
to be similar in form and color for the trait being sought by the breeder.
After that it is a matter of selective breeding to build up the line.
Sometimes a line or strain of birds may experience a reduction in size,
loss of vitality or a failing in one of the desired traits. In this
case, the breeder will often go outside the line to breed in a bird of
a known pedigree, that is high in the trait desired. The breeder
may also look for a bird that has no pedigree but is also strong in the
trait desired. However, this may inadvertently lead to a re-introduction
of genes that had previously been extracted from the line or strain.
The conscientious breeder will pair the "out-cross" with a bird of their
own line and hope for a strong showing of young with the desired trait.
Heterosis should provide the desired increase in fertility and vigor.
Having identified the 1st generation stock with the desired shape and size,
the breeder would pair the second generation birds back to other
birds of their line, in a quarantined area, to ensure that undesirable
autosomal recessives or other hidden problems are identified / caught,
before introducing the new birds, now strong in desired trait and form,
to others of his flock.
Conversely, an individual may want to base their success or championship
lines on birds that have won on a regular basis. From this approach
the expected outcome is that hen and cock champions will breed a line of
winning progeny. This may or may not be the case, as the winners
may be sports (one-offs) without the homozygous potential to reliably pass
on their gene composition. The hen too may be a rather good bird,
but lack the prepotency to pass on her characteristics. The offspring
in this case may be heterozygous for a number of traits and none may display
the desired characteristics.
As long as there is a market for birds with a different appearance
and form, people will continue to hybridize their birds in the hope of
having something special to market. People look for the rare or different
in many of the things that they seek. Different colored birds are
some of those rare and wonderful things. If you have ever been to
a bird show and seen the wonderful species, variation and color of the
birds present, it would not take long to start thinking how a bird might
look really eye-catching if it had blue wings, a red head or was bigger
or smaller. Recent shows on the continent have revealed the presence
of a relatively new "variant" of peachfaced lovebird in the Standard type
roseicollis (Longfeather in the U.S.). As well, a recent color mutant
gene in the Lutino variety, named "opaline" (Rose-headed) has led to a
bird with vivid color and solid head color.
One thing we know is that change is the common denominator and
that it will continue, whether it is through a mutation or "transmutation".
The number of birds being bred and the efforts of a few dedicated enthusiasts
ensure this. The feather impact in the chicken, canary and budgerigar
world is well known, and it is probably only a matter of time until we
start to see feather specialties (crests) occur in lovebirds. What
do you think ?