Last Updated on April 11, 2023 by Ali Shahid
Budgie’s world is full of fascinating and charming rare mutations. While these mutations are technically a defect, they sometimes capture the hearts of budgie lovers. One such mutation is the feather-duster budgie.
Feather duster budgies, sometimes known as budgie mop, are budgies with excessively long feathers that do not stop growing at normal intervals. The result is an appearance similar to that of a feather duster.
Sometimes, this phenomenon is referred to as chrysanthemum feathering. The ailment could be caused by a genetic abnormality (feather duster syndrome), a herpes virus, or both. These rare Budgies have deficient hair-growth-regulating genes.
Feather Duster Budgie
As a result, the contour, tail, and flight feathers continue to grow. These birds lack the barbs and barbules necessary for the feather’s structure to interlock. Moreover, the shaft (calamus) is bent, so the feathers appear misshapen and fluffed.
Those affected by this illness frequently appear less awake than their nestmates. In addition, they are small, and a number of them have other problems, such as microphthalmia.
They are weak, frequently unable to fly and die within a year of hatching. This results in partial immobility, a weakened immune system, and a short lifespan. There is no cure for the disease; birds are frequently euthanized in their nests.
Understanding the “feather duster syndrome”
Inbreeding and diminished genetic variation can result in a variety of health issues. According to some specialists, the so-called feather duster condition is caused by a unique genetic abnormality.
It is not scientifically confirmed that inbreeding has caused the occurrence of this condition. But it is highly probable that genetic deprivation has played a role. The term “feather duster syndrome” refers to a serious disorder of feather growth in budgerigars.
In general, once feathers reach their natural length, they cease to grow. However, they continue to grow in the feather-duster budgies. Additionally, some birds develop their claws and beak excessively.
As feathers, claws, and a beak require substantial amounts of minerals and nutrients, abnormal growth depletes the body of the bird.
Hence, the majority of feather dusters have a weak immune system and a dismal life expectancy. The majority of these birds die within their first year of life.
Origin and History
In 1999, Damien Harris of New Zealand was delighted when four budgerigar chicks hatched on a sunny September day. A few weeks later, when the chicks began to sprout feathers, Damien noticed something peculiar about one of them.
Her feathers were wavy rather than straight, and they continued to grow and grow and grow! This peculiar chick required special care, so Damien did not sell her. Instead, he donated her to bird-lover Warren Scholes, who named her Nora after a local politician.
Her long, curly feathers significantly restricted Nora’s mobility. Nora could eat typical bird food and move around. However, she was unable to climb, preen, or fly like other budgies, and she could barely talk or squawk.
With Warren’s assistance, she eventually learned to perch on the lowest cage rung. Nora’s parents were both descended from English display budgies.
This is the only known breed of bird to produce ‘feather duster’ mutants, with the first documented incidence occurring in England in 1966. Some breeders believe a mutation in a recessive gene is responsible for the issue.
Nora has three healthy siblings, so at least one of their parents must have given them a healthy copy of the gene. It is likely that the healthy copy of the gene inherited from the other parent would have overridden the defective copy inherited from the other parent.
If the healthy siblings got one copy that was healthy and one that was mutated, they would both have the disease and still be healthy. There have been numerous Feather Duster Budgies that have earned renown over time.
One of these was the Whipper. It gained notoriety for not only its appearance but also for defying the odds that would usually prove fatal to others with this genetic abnormality.
Julie Hayward owned Whipper in New Zealand. Whipper Budgie was thought to be blind. Yet Whipper appeared to be in good health.
The existence of Whipper was first reported in 2011, so it is unknown whether he has lived beyond his first year. It is also unknown whether more have been born since then.
Breeding of feather duster budgies is possible. Yet, due to their peculiar looks, the other budgies may reject them as breeding partners. Your only option is to breed two normal Budgies with a faulty gene to create feather-duster Budgies.
These ‘feather duster’ mutants also possess Budgerigar herpesvirus strains not present in regular Budgies. However, specialists are unsure if the virus contributes to this genetic issue.
Caring for a feather-duster budgie
If you want to get a cage for your feather duster budgie, it should measure at least 18 inches wide by 24 inches tall by 18 inches deep. Generally, budgies must be kept in cages with bars less than half an inch apart.
Feather dusters have a smaller bar spacing requirement due to the growth of their feathers. An older feather-duster budgie will have difficulty standing on a perch. However, you should ensure that their cage contains at least one or two perches.
You should lower the height of the perch so that these budgies will be able to perch easily. This will assist them in keeping their nails trimmed.
According to some researchers, feather dusters can live longer if they are fed the appropriate diet. Unfortunately, there is no consensus regarding the ideal diet for these birds.
Ideally, you should provide your budgie with a combination of high-quality pellets and seeds, as well as a variety of fruits and vegetables. The wild diet of these birds is heavy with berries and vegetation, so you should include them.
Feather-duster budgies should not be fed only seeds, as this diet contains too much fat. As they aren’t as mobile as normal budgies, they are more prone to obesity.
It is essential that they consume a balanced diet that contains a variety of nutrients. In particular, millet seed is ideal for these birds as it provides a wide range of nutrients.
The best choice for this bird is a pellet mix formulated specifically for budgerigars. There are many commercial mixes available, but you should do your research before choosing one.
As you explore these options, you will increase the likelihood of extending the bird’s life beyond a few months. A budgie’s diet should ideally consist primarily of pellets.
A feather-duster budgie’s grooming is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of its care. It is important to trim their feathers on a regular basis.
Do not forget that the feathers on this bird will continue to grow. You must therefore be very diligent about trimming them.
When their feathers get too long, they cover their face and eyes, which makes proper grooming even more vital. They won’t be able to see unless you take them to a groomer or vet for trimming.
Health Problems of Feather Duster Budgies
In general, they are susceptible to all typical health issues related to budgerigars. Yet, as a result of this illness, individuals are susceptible to additional conditions that ultimately prove fatal.
Several feather duster budgies have problems such as microphthalmia, which results in one eye being smaller than the other. In certain instances, both eyes are considerably smaller than average.
This is only one of the numerous health issues that these birds typically suffer as they age. Aside from that, they are inactive and unable to even stand on perches, leading to obesity.
Due to the constant growth of feathers, they are also deficient in proteins and essential vitamins and minerals.
This causes muscular wasting and immune system deterioration. Hence, all of these negative effects linked to this mutation significantly limit their longevity.
Typical Budgies live between 12 and 14 years. Nonetheless, feather duster budgies have a lifespan of six to twelve months. This is due to all the connected health issues with this mutation.
From Where You Can Get a Feather Duster Budgie
Feather-Duster Budgies are quite uncommon. Due to the related health concerns and limited lifetime, breeders do not breed them. So, it is virtually impossible to acquire feather-duster budgies.
Ali Shahid is a veterinarian by profession and an animal lover. He loves to give expert opinions about different animals. He has worked in top organization of birds like Bigbird Feed and Poultry Research institute. He loves birds, especially parrots and has great experience in different parrot farms.