Please refer to the article on sorting your Seraphim in conjunction with this article, as you must apply everything you learn here to the sorting process as you evaluate the quality of your young birds each year. The best birds should be kept for your own breeding program or sold specifically to serious breeders of Seraphim to steadily improve the quality of Seraphim all over the world. Birds far off the Show Standard should not be used in any Seraphim breeding program. The following description is a step-wise method for evaluating your birds, using the judging protocol used in the show ring. The method uses Anya Ellis’s Standard of Perfection, and the approach should become second nature for the serious breeder. In 2015 and on, the new Standard of Perfection developed by Anya over the previous three years will be the goal for all breeders. (Please refer to the Show Standard in the sidebar…) The new Standard of Perfection includes small changes, but the changes affect the overall appearance of the bird. The mane is deeper, the swoop more pronounced, the head has a more definitive round arc and is expected to have “power” – increased size and strength and more top-skull (distance between the top of the eye and the top of the skull); and the overall bird has increased length. The overall impression should be one of grace and royalty, powerful yet delicate, beautiful yet serious. The face has a knowing look, like the Mona Lisa, with thoughtful dark eyes and a slight but noticeable smile. The bird should give the impression of knowing intelligence, confidence, and superiority. The best specimens resemble angelic beings, exuding light and power in the show ring, and putting all other birds in the world to shame.
APPLYING THE STANDARD OF PERFECTION TO THE EVALUATION OF YOUR OWN SERAPHIM: YOU BE THE JUDGE!
OVERALL IMPRESSION: Adult Seraphim have the appearance of a white angel. They are statuesque and elegant. When stationing the head is held high, the tail low with the chest projected upward and forward. The frill is prominent and the wing butts are clearly delineated from the body. The flights rest on the tail and the back is smooth lacking ‘sails’ in the covert feathers. The feet are covered with small feathers giving the appearance that Seraphim are wearing white gloves.
#1. The Seraph at left is demonstrating the statuesque look expected of a Seraph. This young bird demonstrates “the head held high, the chest projected up and out, wing butts held out and clearly delineated from the body, a smooth back without sails, and small feathers on the feet giving the appearance of gloves.” The frill is a bit small, the gullet is not as large as one would prefer, and the wings are not quite resting on the tail, but the bird is outdoors in a relaxed state. He looks like royalty. He demonstrates power, elegance, and confidence. This bird is still a baby and not yet in full regalia; he will catch the eye of the judge in the show ring just because he looks regal.
#2. Other than color, the head is the most important feature in Seraphim. The curve from the tip of the beak to the tip of the needle point peak is unbroken. The head is rounded and the beak is down set and large enough for Seraphim to feed their young. The eye is bull and the cere is unobtrusive and very light pink or almost white in color. There is a gullet that adds weight to the head. A convex and unbroken mane flows from the tip of the peak to the shoulder. Seraphim have a prominent chest frill.
ORDER OF JUDGING:
Station-Back arches in a stressed bird
Head-head may become boxy in a stressed bird
Peak-peak lowers and may become twisted or tufted in a stressed bird
Neck-gullet may be tensed and enlarged in a stressed bird
Mane-a mane break can appear in a stressed bird
Tail-tail may become elevated in a stressed bird
Frill-may be judged at any time
Foot-observe for general impression as the bird moves about, and for specifics during handling
TRAITS TO BE JUDGED DURING HANDLING:
Eye-some eye faults can only be seen during handling
Foot-should be reevaluated in the hand to see if there are feather nubs, which indicate that a bird is not truly bare toed
Condition- can only be evaluated in the hand-body and feather must be felt and feathers must be inspected for lice and holes
Foot, Eye, and Condition are all to be judged during handling; all other qualities are to be observed in the show cage. Stress can alter the stance, feather tightness, and overall appearance of the bird. They must be observed in a calm state before handling in order to form an accurate impression of the bird’s actual quality.
COLOR: (10 points): Recessive red or recessive yellow that molts to white. Young birds will often retain some colored feathers until the second molt. This is not considered a fault in young bird competition since it proves birds are indeed young Seraphim. FAULTS: Failure to molt to white in two seasons. Colors other than recessive red and recessive yellow that molt to white are unacceptable.
STATION: (15 points): Head held high, tail touching the ground. Elegant, with a clean, uninterrupted line from the shoulder to the tip of the tail. Graceful with flights resting on the tail. (Hens are more refined than cocks.) FAULTS: Refusal to station, which places the head high, the tail to the ground, and shows wing butt separation and a small concave area between the shoulders. Duck-like stance with elevated tail and arched back is a serious fault. (Note that birds may arch their back temporarily when upset.) The presence of ‘sails’ in the covert feathers is a 5 point fault. Flights carried below the tail is a 5 point fault. Short, stocky or cobby appearance is a fault.
HEAD: (25 points): Graceful, rounded over the top of the skull , having a concave dip (swoop) between the top of the head and the tip of the peak. The back of the skull is visible and the tip of the peak is below the top of the skull. The light pink beak protrudes slightly beyond the frontal, but the setting of the beak is ‘down-faced;. Seraphim can feed their own young. A small to medium gullet adds mass to the head. FAULTS: Flat head (lack of a swoop), peak too high or too low, frontal too prominent, frontal too broad between the eyes, beak too small, weak or thin beak, angular head. Head too short from front to back because peak and mane are underdeveloped so they do not stand far enough out from back of head. Skull too small so head is too small in proportion to body. Lack of a gullet.
PEAK: ( 10 points): Needle point peak that stands well out from the back of the head, and is separated from the head by a dip called the ‘swoop’. The tip of the peak is below the top of the head. FAULTS: Tufted peak, twisted peak, flat peak (partial shell crest), shell crest, peak set too high or too low, lack of swoop (dip) between the peak and the head, peak set too close to the head.
EYE: (5 points): Bull (very dark). The cere is almost white. FAULTS: A faint light ring or faint light spots are minor faults. Pearl eye and orange eye are major faults. Eye cere any other color than almost white.
#3. Look at the skull on the bird above bred by Anya Ellis! Do you see that wonderful round arc from the cere of the beak up and over the eye, the exposed back skull, and finally the swoop curving upward to the peak point? THAT is the skull arc you want. The best have a measured width of topskull between the eyes of 25-28 mm, with equal distance between the center of the eye and the tip of the beak. Let’s judge critically other characteristics of the bird shown: The beak is satisfactory, but could be slightly thicker and more down-turned to more closely follow the arc of the skull; the eye is a perfect “bull” or black; a gullet is present; the peak could be slightly higher and slightly farther back with less twist; the frontal could be slightly fuller; the swoop a little more dramatic. Am I being nit-picky about this bird? YES. It’s a beautiful specimen that many would consider “perfect”. Yet one must acknowledge what they actually see vs. what they WANT to see in any given bird, and make note of it. The job of the judge will be to compare this bird to the others and determine which most closely adheres to the Standard of Perfection. This might be the one, but it might not.
FRILL: (10 points):Thick (dense), heavily ruffled, wide, long, prominent, with feathers turned in many directions. (A zipper frill is not the ideal). FAULTS: Too little frill, wispy frill, frill too short or crooked, frill that turns only to one side. A zipper frill is not the ideal, but it is preferable to a thin, wispy frill, or a frill that turns to one side only.
NECK: (5 points): The neck is medium sized, not thick. It broadens as it flows from the head to the shoulders. A small to moderate gullet is necessary as it adds volume to the head and dignity to the bird. (Owl breeds all have a gullet.) FAULTS: An overly long neck. A large, pronounced gullet in a relaxed bird. (Tense birds strain and make their gullet more visible.) Absence of a gullet.
MANE: (5 points): A well developed mane should stand well out from the back of the head and flow smoothly from the tip of the peak to the shoulder in a convex, unbroken curve. The two sides of the mane should meet in a line down the back of the neck. The mane should appear symmetrical when viewed from the back. FAULTS: A break in the mane. Undeveloped mane that makes the head appear short from front to back. Mane not a continuous convex curve when viewed from the side. Disorganized feathers that do not meet in a straight line at the back of the mane. No visible meeting line where the two sides of the mane meet. Mane not symmetrical when viewed from the back.
#4. Look at the bird at left. The frill is not quite as full as possible, and a little short. It should extend from just above the wing butts to about a half inch below the beak. The neck on this bird is just right when standing tall, with a perfect concave curve at the back of the shoulder, but the gullet is a little weak. The mane is deep and stands out perfectly! Beautiful! The swoop is too shallow and the peak a little too low. The down-turn of the beak and the arc of the skull are perfect, but the head is a little small. The eye cere (skin around the eye) looks a little irritated—too red. Yet this is a beautiful specimen!
#5. Now look at this bird. What is different? The frill is a little longer and fuller, better than the frill of the above bird. The neck is perfect; the mane is astoundingly deep. The beak is down-turned; the arc of the skull is a little less round than it should be, but the size of the head is fantastic (this is called a “bully” head.)The gullet is pronounced. The swoop could be deeper and not enough back-skull is showing. The peak is a perfect point and just below the top of the skull. Note how widely the wing butts are held from the chest – perfect! To my eye, this bird is significantly superior to the one above from the shoulders up even though I love them both. If the arc of the skull were rounder in the lower bird so that there was more distance between the top of the eye and the top of the skull, I would be unable to find a single criticism of this bird. One needs birds like this bottom one with the bully head in their breeding program to maintain optimal skull size as well as all the other superior traits this bird possesses.
TAIL: (5 points): 12 feathers, slightly flared. Width 2.25 to 2.5 inches. Feathers aligned and touching each other, carried angled toward the ground. Tail should be long and touch or almost touch the ground. FAULTS: Tail too narrow (too well closed). Tail too open (fan shaped). Tail V-shaped or with twisted feathers. Tail held in an elevated position. Tail too short.
FOOT: (5 points): Each toe individually covered with tiny smooth feathers, giving the appearance of a glove with toe-mails protruding beyond the end. There should be a ‘sweep’ of ankle feathering that curves across the top of the foot at the ankle. These feathers should not be sparse but they should not have the appearance of a muff. The foot has the appearance of a white star. FAULTS: Too much ankle feathering so that ‘sweep’ feathers appear to be a muff. Too little ankle feathering (sparse sweep feathers or no sweep feathers). Loose toe feathering, too much or too little toe feathering (exposed toes). A true muff is a serious fault.
#6. Look at this bird overall. The tail should be only slightly flared, as in this case, and it should be long. The feet should be delicately feathered to the toenails like this. Though you can’t see the side profile of the neck and head, the body of this bird is perfect; tremendous length, wonderful line, concavity at the shoulders, wing butts held out, wings resting on the tail, fantastic frill, great skull size. It is obviously in great condition and a great show bird. What you don’t see – but what I know – is that this bird also has a deep swoop and peak, and a rounder, slightly more arced skull than the bird below.
#7. Compare this bird – one you’ve already seen from the shoulders up – to the one just above. Both are nervous so slightly crouched, but look at how similar they are! The bird at left is carrying the tail a little too flared and may have small “sails” on the upper side of the wings interfering with the smooth line of the back. Nevertheless, a judge would have a hard time deciding which of these two birds is best.
CONDITION: (5 points): Clean, white, smooth appearance, firm feel, solid chest muscles. FAULTS: Dirty, thin, poor feather quality, loose feathering, holes in the feathers.
Now, are you ready to get started? Some day I’ll find the perfect Seraph and end this article with its picture. Until then, happy judging! 🙂
David Coster, Editor