Please refer to the article on sorting your Seraphim, the article on the 2017 Standard of Perfection, and the article on how the new Standard was developed to understand what is expected of the modern-day Seraph. To show your birds and maintain the breed, you must apply everything you learn here to the sorting process as you evaluate the quality of your own 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 that are far off the Show Standard should not be used in any Seraphim breeding program. The following article uses the Standard in the order of judging to help you learn to properly evaluate your birds. This sequential approach should become second nature for the serious breeder. In 2017 and on, the new Standard of Perfection developed by Anya Ellis will be the goal for all breeders. The 2017 Standard of Perfection has small changes, but the changes significantly affect the overall appearance of the bird. To make it easier to understand the judging process and how to use it to critique your own Seraphim, I’ve included representative photographs alongside the written requirements from the Standard to show good and bad traits; each photograph is critiqued in a strict manner.
Let’s start! This is fun and interesting!
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 and a sweep of ankle feathers giving the appearance that Seraphim have white stars for feet. Hens will appear somewhat more delicate and refined than cocks.”
#1. Let’s pretend the Seraph at left is your young bird just lounging around in your loft. You went out to feed them and noticed him standing there looking at you. Hmmm. You automatically start assessing him. He is demonstrating the statuesque overall look expected of a Seraph. He clearly shows: “the head 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 and a sweep of ankle feathers giving the appearance that Seraphim have white stars for feet.” This bird clearly meets the basic initial overall expectations of a Seraph at first glance. Critique: Though the frill is prominent, it is too small for what we expect of today’s Seraph. There are some other minor issues with this young bird that would keep him from first place at a show, but his general appearance is solid for a Seraph. In show stance his attributes will become more defined. Here, at rest, he demonstrates power, elegance, and confidence. This bird is still a baby – see the red secondary flight feather on the wing? He is not yet done with his first molt.
“The head is the most heavily weighted feature in judging 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 medium 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.”
2. Look again at the bird above and make a summary evaluation of the head. If the head is bad it takes just an instant to decide the bird must be removed from your breeding program and should not be sold to a serious breeder or taken to a show hall. It is very difficult to develop a line of Seraphim with great head characteristics, so find the very best you can to start with in your loft. The bird above has a very large skull (highly desired) and a smooth “curve from the tip of the beak to the tip of the needle point peak…” It is very hard to refine the peak to such a fine tip, but the Seraph above has it, so take note. “The head is rounded and the beak is downset (pointed downward) and large enough to feed their young. The eye is bull (almost black) and the cere (the skin around the eye) is unobtrusive (not built up, just barely noticeable).” There is a medium gullet (a gullet is a central skin fold that extends from the base of the beak down the midline of the neck below the chin, disappearing into the chest feathers – it creates a little shadowy groove on each side along the throat.) The Seraph above has all of these things – he passes the initial “once over” by the Judge! Now though the Judge will make a second pass, refining his evaluation and critiquing every aspect of the Seraph in front of him/her; some of this evaluation will be done from a few feet away and some will be done with the bird in the Judge’s hands. You must do the same!
Let’s continue on through the Standard and instructions for YOU – the Judge:
ORDER OF JUDGING:
TRAITS TO BE JUDGED DURING HANDLING:
“Foot, Eye, and Condition are all to be judged during handling; all other qualities are to be observed in the show cage. Some eye faults can only be seen during handling; the foot should be closely evaluated for feather nubs indicating the toes are not bare; the body must be felt for physical condition and feathers must be inspected for lice, holes, and dirt. Stress can alter the stance, feather tightness, and overall appearance of the bird, so they must be observed in a calm state in the show cage before handling in order to form an accurate impression of the bird’s actual quality. The back may arch in a stressed bird; the head may become boxy in a stressed bird; the peak may lower and become twisted or tufted in a stressed bird; a mane break may appear in a stressed bird. If a bird is stressed the Judge should come back to it once it has settled.”
“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. DISQUALIFYING FAULTS: Colors other than recessive red and recessive yellow that molt to white.”
B1 – it is this Seraph cock from Anya Ellis’ loft – and his brother W1 – to which all modern Seraphim trace their lineage. Note the pure bright white color and great head on this fellow. He is way stockier than the 2017 Seraph and has other traits that would eliminate him from competition today, but that’s okay. He’s the first Seraph in the world and a lot has changed since he started it all in 1986.
This young hen is nearly done with the transformation to pure white. See the recessive red in the tail and a few of the secondary wing feathers? That will soon be gone and replaced with white. It is not a show fault for a young bird to have some remaining recessive red or yellow feathers their first year.
“STATION: (15 points): Head held high, tail touching or nearly 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. Shoulders are concave and the wing butts are held out separate from the chest and clearly delineated. FAULTS: Refusal to station. The presence of “sails.” SERIOUS FAULTS: A duck-like stance with an elevated tail and arched back. Flights consistently carried below the tail. A short, stocky body with rounded shoulders.”
A particularly beautiful young Seraph cock in show stance. There is no stockiness to this bird – he is long and svelte. His station – or show stance – is perfect according to the criteria above under “Station.” Seraphim should be judged when stationing. This one has a perfect station that shows off all of his attributes. His frill is amazing – full and gigantic.
“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 desired “Apple” head results from adequate head height and a somewhat rounded skull. The light pink beak protrudes slightly beyond the frontal, but the setting of the beak is ‘down-faced’; the beak is small but strong and adequate to feed young. A medium gullet adds mass to the head; a visible gullet MUST be present. FAULTS: Flat head (lack of a swoop), peak too high or too low, 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 the back of the head. SERIOUS FAULTS: Skull too small so head is too small in proportion to body, egg shaped skull rather than round causing lack of skull height above the eye, skull too narrow, lack of skull height above the eye, pinched frontal, frontal too prominent, frontal too broad between the eyes (eyes should be visible when looking straight at the face.) DYSQUALIFYING FAULTS: Lack of a gullet. Beak too small.”
“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), peak set too high or too low, lack of swoop (dip) between the peak and the head, peak set too close to the head. DISQUALIFYING FAULTS: Lack of a gullet. Beak too small.
EYE: (5 points): Bull (very dark). The cere is almost white. FAULTS: A faint light eye ring or faint light spots are minor faults. SERIOUS FAULTS: Pearl eye(s) and orange eye(s), eye cere any other color than almost white.”
#3. Look at the head on the bird above bred by Anya Ellis. Do you see that wonderful round arc from the tip of the beak up and over the eye, the exposed back skull, and finally the deep feather swoop curving upward to the peak point? THAT is the skull arc you want. This is what is called an “Apple Head” and is ideal. 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, comparing it to the artist’s drawing in the Standard: The beak is satisfactory, but could be slightly thicker and shorter and slightly more down-turned to more closely follow the arc of the skull; the eye is a perfect “bull” or black; a gullet is present but hard to see because the frill is so big (this is good!); the peak could be slightly higher and slightly farther back with less twist but definitely comes to a fine point; the frontal (forehead) could be slightly fuller; the swoop could be a little more dramatic. Am I being nit-picky about this bird? YES. It’s a beautiful specimen that many would consider near perfect. The bird in the photo is stressed and it shows in the slight twist in the tuft of the peak. Let it relax a little and then come back and look again to get a more accurate sense of it’s feather ornamentation.
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 medium 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 too large, overly pronounced gullet in a relaxed bird. DISQUALIFYING FAULT: 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 and fluffy 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 with a nice slight curve! Beautiful! The swoop is correct but the peak is a little too low. The down-turn of the beak and the arc of the skull are perfect. This bird has an ideal “Apple Head shape.” The Apple Head is the ideal for the Seraph if it is large and well balanced to the body – in this case it is properly formed but a bit too small. The eye cere (skin around the eye) looks a little irritated – too red. In spite of my criticisms this is a beautiful specimen! If paired with the bird below they might well create the perfect Seraph.
#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 (not quite enough top-skull) but has a smooth arc. The size of the head is fantastic (this is called a “bully” head – big and more egg-shaped than the “Apple” head.) The gullet is pronounced. The swoop would be deeper if more back-skull was 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 frill was even more full and 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. Paired with the Apple-Headed bird above some offspring might have the needed increased skull height above the eye to create a big Apple Head and a more perfect Seraph.
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-nails 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 glove feathers and the sweep feathers combine to give the foot 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). SERIOUS FAULTS: A true muff is a serious fault.
The best time to photograph young birds and give vaccinations is during the annual sorting. This is a stunning specimen much like the one below. (See discussion to the right.)
#6. Look at this bird to the left. The tail should be only slightly flared and just 2.5 inches wide, as in this case, and it should be long. The feet should be delicately feathered to the toenails like this. The sweep on the visible leg is being confined by the band on the leg. 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 big 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 shown above and below.
A Seraph cock out of the loft of Anya Ellis. This fine bird demonstrates the qualities of Seraphim created in a carefully planned breeding program. Outstanding features of this bird include the large skull, downturned beak, needle-point peak, very deep unbroken mane, wonderfully full chest frill, prominent wingbutts held out from the chest, long beautiful line, finely feathered legs and toes, and overall angelic aura. This is a very fine Seraph!
#7. Compare this bird to the left – 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 though is carrying the tail feathers a little too flared and may have small “sails” on the upper side of the wings interfering with the smooth line of the back. A judge would have a hard time deciding which of these two birds is best, but the bird above would be judged slightly superior due to a rounder skull shape, absence of sails, and an ideal tail width.
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