South East Queensland Zebra 
Finch Society Inc.

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Posted on December 29, 2011 at 12:20 AM

THE earliest of our zebra mutations dates back to 1921. Over the years since then the rest of our recognised varieties occurred, either in aviaries or in the wild. For more than 20 years, Roy Pinch, from Katoomba in NSW, painstakingly researched their origins. I am very pleased that Roy has made available to us copies of his histories. Which are interesting in themselves but also provide an insight into attitudes of some of the early zebra breeders. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. We are most grateful to Roy for letting us have the articles on which this is based, and for a number of other articles which will appear in coming issues. One thing that comes out very strongly is the significant role that Bruce Read and Levitt Hunt played in establishing many of our mutations. Since the series is quite detailed, we have included an edited version which, we hope, does not compromise the original. Roy opens his series of articles with acknowledgments to others, reprinted below, but without Roy's efforts the whole history could have been lost to us. Thanks for allowing us use of the articles, Roy. "I would like to express my sincere thanks to various breeders both past and present who have assisted with the information gathered here. These include the late Fred Lewistka and Eric Baxter from Adelaide, Roy Riley from Griffiths, Cyril Harris from Parkes, the late Bill Pilmer, Levitt Hunt and Jack Wedderburn from Sydney and, of course, the late Bruce Read.

WHITE Bred in Sydney in 1921 in the aviaries of Mr AJ Woods. 3 White hens produced were sold to Mr H Lyons who established the mutation. The birds were dark eyed. The red eyed variety appeared in the 1950s from Fawn parents. No Albinos were believed to have been bred in Australia. With Mr Lyons's son leaves open the possibility that Pieds were produced during the establishment of the Whites. If so they were not established as a true breeding variety at that time.

FAWN 1935 Mick Lewistka was camped at Coward Springs, some 600kms north of Adelaide. The mornings were very cold and many zebras could be seen around the warm ashes of the camp fire. Out of these birds Mick observed 2 different birds being light brown or fawn in colour. Knowing that his brother Fred was interested in birds, Mick set about trapping the 2 birds he saw. I believe some 1000 grey birds were trapped and later released before he got the 2 birds he was after.2 birds, both of which were hens, were sent to his brother in Adelaide who pioneered the establishment of this mutation. During this period he produced very light fawns and some odd coloured birds, which he called 'smokies'. These birds, which were later found to be the origins of the Dilute Blue and Creams, were disposed of because he was only interested in producing the Fawn mutation. Prior to the 2nd World War several pairs of Fawns were exported to South Africa, which is why some of the overseas publications reported that the Fawn mutation first occurred in that country. To the banning of export of birds in 1950 hundreds of surplus birds were exported; many to Mr Vifquin in Brussels, Belgium, including Fawns, light fawns and smokies. Again, overseas publications credit Belgium with the origin of the Dilutes.

MARKED WHITE 1937 Mr Whitehouse of Brisbane caught 3 white hens with tear stripes and tail markings. Although he had success breeding with these hens it was many years before he produced cock birds with markings similar to the normal Grey; he named the mutation 'Mark White'. In 1948 Levitt Hunt of Pymble in Sydney bred 3 pure white hens with black tear drops and almost black tail marks. Through selective line breeding he soon produced cock birds, pure white with the markings of the normal grey. In 1950 Levitt obtained 3 hens from Mr Whitehouse, but when he received the birds he noticed they were not pure white, unlike his own. He commenced breeding and achieved, as he described, disastrous results. All the young produced had off white bodies and lighter markings than his own birds. When asked if they could be a diluted variety, the answer was YES, very much so. This leads me to believe that Levitt Hunt's birds were the original Marked Whites and Mr Whitehouse's birds were the mutation which we now call Chestnut Flanked.

SLATE (Originally called Normal Blue) the mid 1960s Mr W (Bill) Pilmer of Dee Why West in Sydney was asked to look at some unusual zebras in the aviaries of a Narrabeen breeder. The birds were a lighter grey body colour, with normal cheek patches and side flanks but all black markings replaced with dark grey. Birds were obtained and passed on to Bruce Read who developed the mutation and named it Normal Blue. A dispute within the finch world in Sydney these birds were not accepted on the show bench and subsequently seemed to disappear. However, in 1978, Geoff Roberts of Glenbrook produced 3 cock birds from the offspring of birds traced back to Bruce Read. The variety was then re-established.

DILUTE BLUE Originated with Fred Lewistka but around 1948 - 1950 Levitt Hunt and Jack Wedderburn obtained some from dealers and between them established the Dilute Blue.

SILVER 1950s Mr C Harris of Parkes NSW produced a very light silvery coloured hen from his collection of Dilutes. He soon produced a strain of Silver birds.

CREAM Another mutation produced by Fred Lewistka but disposed of as light fawns. Established by Levitt Hunt and Jack Wedderburn.

CREAM BACKS Early 1960 Bruce Read and Dennis Glacken were in Ace Colony bird dealers of Westmead when they discovered a very nice cream hen in a cabinet; however on closer inspection they found it was not Cream as it was pure white under the beak, they then thought it may be a 'Penguin'. Dennis acquired the bird which he mated to a Grey cock bird. After several nests he realised that the bird was not a Penguin but a new mutation which he called Cream Backed.

BLACK FACE Mr Bill Gordon of Ringwood Vic., writing in "Australian Aviculture" June 1977, while he was pruning some grapes at Irymple in NW Victoria in 1938, a flock of some 500 to 600 zebras landed on trellis wires. He noticed an abnormal cock bird which he now believes was a Blackface. In 1959 Mr Harry Nesbit of Griffith NSW caught a cock bird near Leeton NSW. He subsequently had no success in trying to reproduce this bird and so gave it to Bill Maggs in 1960. He first produced another Black faced cock and then subsequently produced sufficient to send some to Eric Baxter in SA. Mr Baxter spent many years experimenting with the mutation and ultimately believed there were 3 variations: -

Blackface - Normal grey as caught in the wild with large black bar and blackface.

Grey - backed blackface - as above but having dark grey back and wings.

Black bodied blackface - Similar to above but black body extending right down to the tail and extending further up the chest.

BLACK FRONTS Early 1960 Bruce Read of Camaray, Sydney, was looking for some good type wild grey cock birds to use with his own hens. He obtained 2 Grey cocks from an area near Charters Towers in Queensland. The first young was a hen with no tail coverts and slightly black face. When mated back to her wild type father they produced both cocks and hens which were Black fronts. Further breeding proved that he had a new mutation which was different from the Blackface, being a recessive factor. Goes on to explain how through theft and neglect the mutation nearly died out. Luckily some splits which had been given away produced 3 Black fronts, 2 of which went to a dealer and 1 ended up back with Bruce Read. The variety now established came from this single hen.

GRIZZLE 1959 Mr Bruce Read of Camaray, Sydney, discovered in Hilton Arthur's dealers establishment in Newcastle an oddly coloured grey hen. Through selective breeding he was soon able to reproduce it in both cocks and hens. The body colour was the same as normal Greys but all feathers carried white flecking giving a salt and pepper effect. The hen birds carrying grey cheek patches. Years of breeding he believed that there were 2 types, one with the white fleck and one with the fleck but also carrying a white cap.

PIEDS No record could be found on the origin of Pieds. It is possible that Mr Lyons seemed to produce Pieds when breeding his Whites but we don't know for sure. Pieds first appeared in Europe in 1927 but we do not know if they were bred from birds from Australia or from birds already in the country.

This article was supplied by Mr Ken Glasson, WAZFS.


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