Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sexing Bengalese

Well the time has come, I have held off for long enough!

I thought that I would discuss one of the more fundamental topics in breeding and keeping Bengalese and that is the Sexing of them. Bengalese Finches as with all of the Lonchura family of Nuns and Munias are  Monomorphic which means that there are no obvious distinguishing physical features between the male and female.

As mentioned, there are little differences between male and female Bengalese and some breeders use different methods to sex their finches. I will post some of the methods over the time but for now I will discuss the best and most trustworthy methods that I believe there are for sexing Bengos.

First and foremost, a Cockbird Sings (or Crows).
It is believed that when the Bengalese are newly fledged, then both Cockbird and Henbird (Male and Female) can make a song of sorts but as adult birds it is almost unheard-of  to have anything other than a Cock Sing (Singing Male to the right).

Here is a video of a Male Euro Black/Brown Self Bengalese singing or what I call "Doing the Duckie Dance", I say that affectionately because they extend there neck and puff up their bodies like a duck! :-)  ( you can also hear Zebra Finches in the background)

Unfortunately there is no easy way to sex them this way and generally involves a degree of patience and observation.
If doing things casually then any time you are viewing your Bengalese, keep an eye out for one of your birds Singing. If a Bengo is never seen to sing then it may be a Hen but be aware that Cockbirds can be intimidated by dominant males in the Aviary and not freely sing because of that. If you find one that sings then it is best to mark the bird with a split leg ring so that you can distinguish it. In a group of birds one of my friends uses a water pistol to "Mark" a bird so that it can be caught up and rung. Some breeders use just an "any coloured ring" for a Male and the Female has no ring. The only problem with not ringing a Female is that when there is a mixed group of Bengaese in a Aviary, the Hens will not be distinguishable from the young finches that are there and get mixed up. Considering that you can not be 100% sure about a Hen until it actually lays some eggs or vibrates its tail, then it is some times best to wait for them to do this before ringing. If you ring both Males and Females then you can decide on your own colour standard, something like Blue for Males and Pink for Females.
In the case of smaller groups of birds such as a few pairs, then quite often since there are subtle differences in our Bengalese we may be familiar enough with our particular birds to recognize the bird again after seeing it sing but another way to help to do this is by ringing every finch a different colour. Then in a note book, recording your findings as you see one crow (Male) and/or you have a clutch of eggs and young (Female).

To try and purposely get the males to sing then a few things can be done;

- Stand well back when observing
- Place the birds in cages singularly (one to a cage) and keep swapping the cages around
- Cocks housed together causes others to sing
- Put a/some Hens in a cage and introduce a the bird that is unknown sex, this should stimulate a Cock to display.

Hens do display a courtship dance by quickly flickering their tail up and down in a vibrating way. This is a reliable way of sexing a Hen but from what I have experienced She does not perform this display indiscriminately (and not often) to any Cock that is interested (like the singing Cockbird towards Hens) but will only do this with a Cock that she sees as an actual Mate (paired with) and this display is an actual invitation for the paired Cockbird to mate with her. To put a rough number to it I think that every time I saw a Hen of mine flicker her tail it was only to the same Cockbird and this Male would "always" try and mate with her. Hens will vibrate their tails after 4 months.

Here is a video below of an example of a female vibrating her tail before mating (the birds singing in this video are not Bengalese song).

I will post some more sexing methods in the future but I thought it important to start here. Unfortunately with Bengalese they are a bit more tricky to sex than Finches like the Zebra Finch but I believe they are well worth the effort!!


Grey Self Bengalese 3

I still come across some nice photos of the Grey Mutation.
Grey is not a colour in itself but a colour modifier like the Dilute factor in Bengalese is a modifier, meaning that the Grey factor modifies existing colours such as Chocolate, Chestnut and Ginger by removing all of the Red/Brown pigment from the plumage, leaving only the Black/Grey elements.

Also in overseas Bengos like the Black/Brown Euro when affected by the Grey Factor becomes Black/Grey (right).

Just like the Dilute factor is available to us here in Australia, I also believe that the Grey Factor is available here in Australia, it simply has not been consciously developed.

I have Chocolates in my collection that display varying degrees of Red/Brown in there plumage and one in particular appears to me to look a bit washed out.

I would hope that through some selective breeding to remove the Red/Brown in a Bengalese we can achive this Grey Mutation here in Australia.