The Snowflake Bobwhite Quail
Gamebirds have always fascinated me for as long as I can remember and I have had some type of gamebird my whole life. My parents always tolerated my birds but on numerous occasions they suggested that I consider finding a new hobby. I never did and today my love for gamebirds is as strong as ever. The following article is intended to give readers a brief history of myself and a general overview of how the snowflake quail mutation came into existence.
I have always been limited on space, so my bird of choice has always been the bobwhite quail. The bobwhite quail has many different color phases,(Northern, Mexican Speckled, Silver, White, Blond, Orange, Smoke, Tenn. Red, ETC). The Snowflake is a subspecies of the Mexican Speckled bobwhite quail and they were not crossed with any other mutation to obtain there white speckled color. This mutation happened naturally from a flock of regular mexican speckled bobwhites.
The story began back in 2004 when one day I opened my incubator and found two strange colored mexican speckled bobwhites in my hatch. The two birds were very different from the other chicks but I wasn't prepared for them, so I left them in with all the other birds. I placed the two off white colored chicks in the same brooder with the rest of the hatch and just hoped for the best. As fate would have it only one of those chicks actually survived to maturity. It was a beautiful off white colored male with dark black flakes, so I named him Snowflake.
Snowflake soon became the hot topic on several of the gamebird sites and I received mixed reviews from many breeders within the gamebird industry. Most of the critics accused me of crossing breeds to come up with this new color phase. They also warned me that when crossing breeds a mutation will not hold true. I had no idea if this statement was true or false but I did know that I never crossed any birds to get the Snowflake color phase.
I had a pretty good idea that Snowflake was special and I also knew that he was most likely the only of his kind but I also knew one bird was not going to do me any good. Several guys told me that I should cross him back with a regular phase mexican hen but others said that would be a mistake. I didn't have a clue what to do and I could only find a very limited amount of information on the subject of mutations. I had a hard time finding anyone within the gamebird industry that would even give me the time of day. Everyone seem to think that I was on a mission to weaken gamebird bloodlines. One of the few people that I spoke with was a student from Arizona State. He told me in order for Snowflake to throw the mutated gene to his offspring, I would have to breed him back to a hen from the same mutation. I have never crossed any of my birds, so I decided to just wait and see if my next 2005 hatch would yield me any Snowflake hens.
The next season I found myself needing a much larger supply of gamebirds, so I filled my sportsman incubator up with a 1000 eggs and waited the 23 days for my eggs to hatch. When I moved the eggs to my hatcher on day 21, I couldn't help but wonder if this hatch would reward me with at least one mutated snowflake hen. After two days I removed the chicks and found mixed in with hundreds of regular mexican speckled chicks were nine white snowflake chicks. Finally now I had enough of the white mexican speckled mutation, to try some breeding on my own. When they were old enough, I placed the nine 2005 (F1) mutations in with the one (F1) 2004 male, bringing my total colony to ten birds (5 hens and 5 rosters). The only problem now was I had to wait another long year before I could find out if I really had a true mutation.
When the summer of 2006 finally did arrive, I put a new plan into action. I was still on a quest to obtain as much information on mutations as possible, but finding someone who was willing to share that data was proving to be an impossible task. I decided the only way I was ever going to find out if what I had was a true mutation, was to just set the eggs and see what showed up in the hatch. I collected roughly 45 eggs and set them in the incubator and prepared for my 23 day wait. The anxiety of the wait was sometimes exciting but there were other times where it was nerve racking to say the least. There was one time where a storm knocked out the power for a day and I feared that I might had lost the whole lot of eggs. Then there was another time where I candled the eggs and forgot to restart the automatic egg turner. I thought that if any of these eggs were to hatch it would be a miracle. Day 21 did finally come and I moved the eggs over to the hatcher despite my obvious doubts. Not to mention that there were no guarantees that these chicks would even carry the mutated color gene. On day 23, I crossed my fingers and opened the hatcher. Despite all my my concerns, several chicks scampered to the opposite end of the tray. Amazingly the eggs hatched despite all my mishaps and even better yet all the chicks were of the mutated color phase. Did this now prove that I had a true mutation? I wasn't convinced, so I set another batch of eggs to see if this hatch would yield me the same results. Just like before the second setting of eggs yielded the same mutated color as before. I was fairly certain now that I had a new color phase but to be absolutely sure I wanted to breed my new F2 snowflakes to see if they would throw the same color. My new F2 colony consisted of 45 breeders, bring my total to 55 birds.
The 2007 breeding season marked the 4th anniversary from when I began my white mexican speckled breeding project. This year my main objective was to determine if the mutated color phase was strong enough to carry on to the third generation. I collected the eggs from the F2 snowflakes and then I set them. I wasn't surprised this time when the results came back the same as before (Snowflakes again).
I feel confident enough now in the Snowflakes color phase to state that this is a new color mutation for the bobwhite quail. However; I'm not a professional geneticist! This is only my honest opinion based on facts that I secured through my 5 years of research. I did not cross any birds at any time during my 5 years of breeding the snowflake quail. I only used F1, F2, F3, and F4 Snowflakes to come to my conclusion and all these generations sprung from my original ten F1 breeders. I have done everything within my power and to the best of my ability to ensure that this mutation gets every chance to exist. You can decide for yourself whether or not you believe this is a new mutation of the bobwhite quail.
I would like to state one more time that I did not set out to develop a new color phase! I just woke up one day and (for whatever reason) Snowflake was sitting in my incubator. Why someone with more experience didn't receive this gift I will never understand. I'm just glad I knew enough about quail to notice that something wasn't quite right and that I had enough determination to gather enough facts to draw my own conclusion. Please feel free to draw your own opinion as well.