Basic Genetics - Just What You've Been Looking For!

If you just don’t get genetics, then you will be pleased you have found Basic Genetics. Start with the articles on budgie genetics, then you will be able to follow the pages about the budgie varieties inheritance!

Lets start at the very beginning, its a very good place to start....

What is Genetics?

Genetics is the study of how traits (such as the colour and variety of your budgie) are passed from parents to their offspring. If we can understand how they are passed on we can breed for the particular body colours and varieties we like.

It starts in the cells

Traits are controlled by genes, which live in our cells so lets start there. We are all made up of cells, billions of them. Cells contain everything needed to keep us alive and well, but at the moment we are only interested is the part of the cell called the nucleus. This contains the genetic material that determines how we are made up.

On the right is an image of a cell with only the bits that we are interested in showing. So, lets discuss those bits. The rectangular light grey shape is the cell. Inside it is a thin circular black line, this is the nucleus. Inside the nucleus are the chromosomes, these are the black squiggles and blobs.

Cells are constantly being made and dying. Part of the process of making a new cell is to copy the chromosomes from one cell to put in the new cell. As the chromosomes carry genes we will look at them next.


All we need to know about chromosomes at the moment is that they carry the genes like beads strung along a string. On the left is an image of two pairs of chromosomes. Each pair is made up of two identical copies of each chromosome(two identical strings of beads and therefore two copies of each bead).

Most of the cells in your budgies body have the two copies of each chromosome. However in the sex cells, the egg and sperm cells, there is only one copy of each gene. This is so when the sperm and the egg join to form the new being it has one copy of each gene from the egg and one from the sperm, giving it the required two copies of each gene.

Genes and Alleles

On the right we have a pair of identical chromosomes. Lets imagine that the bars represent various genes, you can see how there are two of each gene, one on each chromosome. As we said earlier, genes control how we, and our birds, are made. So lets imagine we are looking at the gene that makes a budgie green, lets make it the thickest stripe below the middle pinched bit.

This is where this gene belongs; on this chromosome in this position. The place where a gene belongs is called its locus. Once upon a time this gene only produced a green bird. However one day a mistake was made when the gene was being copied for a new cell. So the gene produced a blue bird instead. Now the thing to understand is that it is the same gene, in the same locus, but it has been altered slightly. When you have different versions of the same gene they are called alleles.

So we have a gene with two alleles, the original one that makes a green bird, and the altered one that makes a blue bird. Your budgie gets one copy of this gene from its mother and one from its father, to make up the necessary two copies. If it receives two alleles that are the same it is said to be homozygous for that gene, if it gets two different alleles it is said to be heterozygous for that gene. Now this is really basic genetics, but it is enough to get us started with budgie genetics.

So, what happens if it gets one gene for making a green budgie and one for making a blue budgie??! This is where we can use the basic genetic information to understand why our budige looks the way it is. So lets go from Basic Genetics to Budgie Genetics and learn about the inheritance of the different colours and varieties.

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