Kevin Back Interview, Budgerigar Breeder
In this Kevin Back interview, we asked Kev to tell us a little bit more about how he got into the hobby, the best advice he has had, and some folk who he admires and respects within the fancy.
Born in Dandenong Victoria, I have had an interest in birds from a very young age. My earliest memory of close encounters was feeding the sea gulls at Phillip Island in Victoria. At that age I shared a keen interest with my Dad in model trains. I remember visiting a local hobby enthusiast in Melbourne where my Dad had arranged to buy some more model trains and accessories. There was a magnificent model train set on display. As it turned out that person also had a small outdoor aviary full of types of birds. I vividly remember the fascination and intrigue I experienced at the sounds and flight of the birds as the moved around a sunlit aviary which had been beautifully decorated with various plants and feeders. That memory will always be with me.
In later years at age of 10 we moved to Wodonga Victoria. It was there that I joined the Border Bird Fanciers society, meeting at the CWA hall North Albury. The society catered for most groups of birds including budgerigars, canaries, finches, and parrots. Our annual show at the Albury wool sheds on Smollett Street was just amazing with such an array of different birds and cages. We all stopped for lunch which was carefully prepared and arranged along what seemed an endless line of trestle tables adorned with beautiful decorations and homemade assortment of curries, sandwiches, salads, sweets and desserts. The noise around the lunch tables was akin to that of the hundreds of birds on display. I will be forever grateful for the generosity and encouragement of those members who encouraged and supported me at a young age. My recollection of the BBF Annual June show as a young boy was the late great Harry Eady singularly judging 300 … 400 budgerigars before we commenced eating the beautiful banquet that was being prepared by the ladies in the dining area.
I completed high school in 1978 and went on to complete an electrical apprenticeship at Borg Warner Lavington, before going on to complete an electrical engineering degree as what was then the Swinburne Institute of Technology, Hawthorn Victoria. In 1989 I won a cadetship with BHP Steel which took myself and my newlywed wife to Wollongong NSW. I worked in this region for almost 30 years as an Electrical Engineer, before coming to South Australia to work for a large grain company, where I have setup my home away from home at Mylor where I am surrounded by a conservation park and have regular visitors of Magpies, Kookaburras, Rosellas, Galahs, Tree Creepers, Tree climbers (Koalas) and of course Kangaroos. My experience breeding and exhibiting budgerigars continues.
What sparked your interest in budgerigars and the hobby?
From a very young age I have been intrigued by budgerigars. My earliest memory as a young boy visiting my neighbor’s house where I spotted a blue budgerigar, way up high in an outdoor flight, chirping merrily. The visual image of that bird is still with me today, almost 60 years on. I had other encounters afterwards, however when I was at the age of 10, Dad bought two pair from a local breeder at Wodonga. He built a small breeding cage for each pair, and my interest grew from there.
How long have you been in the bird keeping hobby?
I had budgerigars as a young boy as mentioned previously and that continued until I was around 16 years of age, at which point I became more interested in the flightless bird variety. It wasn’t until mid 2000’s that I got back into budgerigars, joining the Shoalhaven Budgerigar Society, breeding and exhibiting for approximately 8 years after which work got in the way and I had to stop. Then in 2019 I built a new aviary at Mylor, and I have been back in the hobby since. So a total of around 18 years.
How many breeding cages do you have at present and how long is your breeding season each typical year?
This year I upgraded to 16 breeding cages, with spare capacity for 32 for future. I find that number is ample for quantity of birds I have in my breeding program which is approximately 50.
What club do you represent on the show bench and what is one thing you most enjoy about this club?
Currently it’s the BSSA Inc. I enjoy exhibiting at the shows and helping out at the shows where I can.
What varieties do you keep, and which is your favorite?
Currently, I keep normals, cinnamons, spangles, opalines, dominant pieds, black eyes. I like all the colours for these classes, particularly a good dark factor bird, or a violet. But for my favourite I find it hard to go past a good quality cinnamon green, light or dark.
What is your favorite moment in the hobby and why?
Probably the most memorable moment was going to the Hills auction back around 2009 and catching up with my good mate there. We both bid on different birds, but I was small bidder compared to my mate who paid more than $5,500 for a Chidel bird, which back in 2009 was a lot of money. Just being there with my mate and talking about the birds with him and other members was a memorable experience.
If you could choose one bird room anywhere in the world to visit and spend a day in, which would it be and why?
I had to think long and hard about this one. There are many highly accomplished breeders out there that give so much. Finally I decided on the aviaries of R & M Miller in the UK. I watched the BSSA’s interview with these guys and the wealth of experience shared, techniques used with feeding, selecting pairs, aviary’s setups, was simply amazing. On top of that they are respected globally for the beautiful birds they produce.
What bloodlines have you used to influence your stud?
Primarily my birds are based off my good mates bloodlines, Glenn Schiller in Young, NSW. I have few birds without some element of Glenn’s “Bob Smith” line. Admittedly, I very much like the style of Glenn’s birds. Naturally, I have recently acquired a couple of outcrosses, but primarily they are Glenn’s line.
Who are some people within the hobby that you admire and respect?
Bob Wilson for his wealth of experience and his contribution to the hobby through Facebook and his website 49W Exhibition Budgerigars. As a result of his success over the years, he contributes to the hobby with the many articles at his website from helping with advice for beginners, feeding, breeding, and various budgerigar ailments. Bob is also well travelled globally and shares his experience with great posts on Facebook. I am an avid follower of Bob’s contributions. Closer to home there are many, including members of my local club and further afield in NSW & VIC, many of whom I have both tremendous respect and acknowledge their contributions to the hobby, but I guess for me I can’t go past acknowledging Vic Murray for his many contributions to promoting the hobby. Vic is very visible promoting the hobby and supporting novice breeders with weblinks and aviary visits, sharing various upcoming shows and auctions, and through the United Budgerigar Society website.
What bird do you feel was your best bird and why?
For me it’s only early days back in the hobby, so if I were to pick my most valued bird it is not one I bred, rather a bird helping establish the foundations of my stud. The bird was from my good mate in Young NSW. The bird bred better than himself producing some awesome offspring. which I am hoping to continue with to establish my stud.
What other hobby/s or interests do you have?
Enjoying the outdoors, camping, fishing, and 4WDriving.
What is one staple medication/ preventative medicine you use and what do you use it for?
My go to for a sick bird is Rob Marshall’s Sulpha AVS with a little bit of Megamix. Generally I isolate any sick bird, and watch it for a day, checking feeding and droppings before I give it any medication.
What is one issue in the hobby you think can be improved and how do you feel this could be improved?
On-line auctions. I would like to see better photographed representations of the birds for more accurate representations of the size of the birds. For example a minimum of one photograph showing the whole of the cage front from the front of the cage, so that only the end of the perch is visible. This would help not over emphasize other desirable features and help with a fairer comparison. Also there should be a minimum allowable information supplied with the bird details. Finally, infertile or in particular sick birds should prohibited from auction. Birds must have a ring that matches that advertised.
What do you feel is the best piece of advice to provide to any beginner starting out in the hobby or fellow hobbyist?
Keep it simple. Listen and learn. Do what works for you. Enjoy the hobby.
What do you want to achieve with your budgerigars?
For achievement I’d like to be competitive at the highest level with my own style of budgerigar that I like and is appreciated by others, however not allowing that to overshadow my enjoyment of the hobby.