The Opal Canary


The first opal canary was bred from a pair of roller canaries in Germany around the 1950’s.  The opal mutation combines well with all ground colours, which cannot be said for some other self-mutations of coloured canaries.  It appears in all four classic series, green, agate, brown and Isabel.  Brown or Isabel opals are virtually clear looking birds and are considered not to be ideal show birds.  This mutation follows the recessive pattern of inheritance.

The opal mutation inhibits phaeomelanin brown and changes the eumelanin black of the feather to a steel grey colour.  These markings are displayed down the center (quill) and on the underside of the feather.  On the topside, the center of the feather is of a lighter colour to the underside.  In the green series, a good specimen will show distinct, wide and unbroken in length eumelanin black markings which change from black to a dark steel grey colour.  Ideally, these markings should be present on the head, back, around the chest, flanks, wings and tail.  The underflue of the green series opal canary is of a dark silver charcoal colour.  Horny parts such as beak, legs and claws in the green series opal must be as dark as possible, ideally jet-black.  In the agate series, the ideal specimen should display fine, unbroken in length, well defined and spaced markings, of a silvery grey colour.  These markings are present on the head, back, around the chest, flanks, wings and tail.  The underflue of the agate series opal canary is of a pale silver charcoal colour:  Horny parts are flesh coloured.  The brown or Isabel series opal canary often appears as a clear bird.  A good specimen in the brown series will display narrow and pale eumelanin brown markings.  The underflue of a brown opal is of a beige colour.  The isable opal is a dilute version of the brown, the eumelanin brown markings are invisible and the underflue is of a pale beige colour.  Horny areas in the brown and isable series are flesh coloured.  The opal feather has a tendency to curl.  This feather fault is more prevalent when pairing opal to opal, especially in the green series.  This problem is mainly eliminated by pairing an opal to a normal carrying opal.  To improve feather quality, type and markings, opal canaries are often successfully out-crossed with green series self variety canaries (classics).  Ideally, the green series self canary (preferably of intensive feather type) which will be paired with an opal canary, should show distinct eumelanin black markings and minimum amount of phaeomelanin brown markings, i.e. have a clean green and black appearance.  The diluted lipochrome mutations, i.e. the rose and the ivory, will also improve feather quality and will, in general, correct the feather faults mentioned earlier.  Both cocks and hens can carry the opal factor.  Normals carrying opal cannot be identified visually, only by test mating.  Opals or normals carrying opal carriers can be produced from the following pairings:  1) Opal cock x Opal hen = Opal cocks and Opal hens.  2) Opal cock x Normal hen (or reverse pairing) = Normal cocks and hens carrying the opal factor.  3) Normal cock carrying opal x Opal hen (or reverse pairing) = Opal cocks, Opal hens, Normal cocks and hens carrying opal.  4) Normal cock carrying opal x Normal hen carrying opal = Opal cocks, Opal hens, Normal cocks and hens carrying opal, Normal cocks, Normal hens.  5) Normal cock carrying opal x Normal hen (or reverse pairing) = Normal cocks carrying opal, Normal hens carrying opal, Normal cocks, Normal hens.  Pairing No. 1 is not recommended because of the possibility of feather faults mentioned earlier.  Pairings No. 4 and 5 are not recommended as it is impossible to distinguish between normals and normals which are carrying the opal factor.

The Yellow Black Opal

As you can see from the above breeding chart you have to start with one pure opal and one normal which could be a yellow black. You pair these two together and in the first year you will breed all yellow blacks split yellow opal which means the yellow black will have a yellow opal gene. The second year you can then pair a yellow black split to a yellow black opal from that you should get yellow blacks and yellow black opal’s. Some people like to pair opal to opal but this is not a good idea as you may get trouble with feather curl. If you use a yellow black that is split for opal you should find this should not happen. By using a yellow black this will help the markings on the opal by turning them from brown to a silvery grey. You need the opal to have nice black beak and legs.  With the yellow opal there is no need to colour feed.

The White Black Opal

You breed the white black opal the same way you breed the yellow black opal. If you pair white black opal to white black you will get all white black split opals. With the white black opal you need to get them as white as possible so that the dark markings show up with the legs and beak being as black as possible. You can achieve this by selective breeding from the white black carrier which will also help with poor feathering which you can get if you pair opal to opal. The other thing to remember is that the opal is recessive and is not sex linked which makes it difficult to sex a young bird and it is also very hard to work out which is non intensive or intensive.

Show Standard for the Opal

Show Standard points:

Lipochrome  Colouring                                             25 points

Melanistic  Pigment                                                   25  points

Degree of frosting                                                       10  points

Type                                                                                 30 points

ie  Body outline  10 points;  Head  5 points; Neck  5 points’  Wings  5 points;  Tail  3 points; Legs and Feet  2 points; Feather quality & condition 10 points.

Faults:  Splayed tail; Swallow tail; Lacking substance & not in proportion to the body.

The markings on this yellow black are what we should be looking for in both the yellow black and white black opals – nice wide and unbroken lines.                                                                                                          3

White Brown Opal 

This year I have decided to add to my range of opal canaries by bringing in two pairs of white brown opals. I acquired my stock from my Dutch friend who lives in Holland the stock are all from national champion breeders. You can see some of the birds I brought if you look at my photos.

Opal canary 500 pix


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