Some things you may not know about feather duster budgies:
- It's not a species, but a super rare mutation among budgerigars. It should not be confused with the crested budgie, where the curled feathers are on the crest or the top of the head.
- Whipper is definitely not the only one out there - he is known to be the fourth feather duster budgie where the mutation happened by accident.
- The first case of this mutation was reported in 1966, the budgie in question was a baby of two English show budgies. Apparently they are the only kind of budgies that are able to produce a feather duster bird.
- The funny appearance of the birds is said to be the result of a mutation in a recessive gene. That means, if both parents carry the "mutation gene" but don't pass it on, they will produce normal-looking babies. It's only when both parents pass it on, that the "mutation gene" will actually be visible in the baby bird.
- The mutation is sometimes referred to as the " Budgie Down Syndrome", because of the impairment in physical growth and short life span. Most budgies succumb to complementary illnesses before they are even 12 months old.
- It appears that breeders don't wish to breed for a feather duster - they would rather avoid it since the budgies don't live long enough. If a feather duster occurs, most do not not breed that particular pair again. They actually separate the mother and the father from each other to avoid this from happening!
Whipper is not alone! Meet Munchkin, another Feather Duster budgie:
- Feather dusters start out as a normal-looking baby, but this changes as the feathers start to grow. The feathers will continue to grow in curls, without stopping as a normal budgie's feathers stop to grow.
- Feather duster budgies don't live as long as normal budgies (they only live 2 - 12 months): the reason for the short life seems to be that the bird cannot get enough nourishment to support the constant feather growth as well as to keep the rest of his body alive. Most feather dusters have trouble perching, climbing, preening and flying and can suffer severe muscle wasting (hence the reference to the Down Syndrome). It is said their eyes have a different shape and that they produce a different sound as a normal budgie.
- Providing a more nourishing diet may extend the life of the budgies*, but unfortunately, they will still be unable to fly or even perch normally. Most feather dusters just sit in their food plate all day long. They have to eat constantly to keep up with their rapid-changing body.
- The feathers also cover the budgies' face and eyes, which make it impossible for them to see normally and also interferes with eating. That is why some people decide to clip the feathers, especially around the head, so that their budgie can see and eat. This can be a very dangerous job; one of the breeders reports that one of his feather duster budgies died shortly afterwards he had clipped the feathers in the facial area. They also clip the feathers around the vent, so the budgies don't constantly dirty themselves when eliminating (remember, they poop every 15 minutes).
- Even after they molt, the new feathers grow back the same way as they did before: very long and curly.
- If it was not for the fact that these birds live extremely short lives, they would probably be quite popular as pets because of their unusual appearance.
* If you want, you can also read the article on Feather Duster budgies by author and budgerigar breeder Stephen Fowler. You can find it here.