Schweizer Schauwellensittiche - Daniel Lütolf

Daniel Lütolf
Zelglistrasse 7
CH-5436 Würenlos
+41(0)56 424 24 27
+41(0)79 705 49 08

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Gary Watson

Gary has bred budgerigars all his life but it wasn’t until the early 1980’s that he decided to breed show budgerigars. Gary and Marion are very welcoming and generous hosts, both with their time and sharing their knowledge. As a number of overseas and interstate fanciers have found, to visit Gary and Marion Watson’s aviary in Leeton NSW is a pure treat not only for their extraordinary birds (they have numerous Grand Champions to their credit) but also for their amazing aviary. The aviary is the size of a small house and has some innovative features. It is in absolutely pristine condition—there is not a skerrick of dust or stray birdseed to be found. Gary very kindly agreed to the following interview.

1. Gary, how long have you been breeding budgerigars and how did you get involved in budgerigar breeding?
I have bred budgerigars all my life and in the early eighties I decided to breed show budgerigars. We met Shirley and Noel Johnson from Griffith and Noel was the first one to show me a Budgerigar World magazine. From then on I was well and truly hooked. Albert Humphries from Wagga Wagga was a very successful breeder and friend who became my main mentor. Others who helped me were the late great Neville Seage from Bathurst and, from Victoria, John Tanner, Anthony Borg and Rod Skivington. It was from these Victorian breeders that in 1999 we got our pure Mannes lines.
I will always treasure the memories and trips to Bathurst staying with Myra and Neville Seage. It was with great sadness that we travelled to Myra’s funeral this year. They were fantastic people.

2. What have been your major achievements and highlights in showing and breeding budgerigars?
Without a doubt it would be winning the Grand Champion at the BSNSW's 50th Golden Anniversary Jubilee Show in 2004. It was the young cinnamon grey cock bird’s first and only show. Having to travel so many hours and the overnight stay going to the show, and beating so many national winning birds, was a huge effort.
We have also won the Diploma and Grand Champion at Border Districts’ Annual Show for the past five years plus our own local show over 20 times. We probably have won over 70 individual Grand Champions.

3. What have been some of your major challenges?
Unfortunately my major challenge is my health after 14 operations in the past few years. As a result we haven’t bred the numbers of birds we would have liked to have bred and we have let many super birds leave the stud over the past four seasons.

4. I notice from the photographs on display that you have had a number of visitors to your aviary, including some from overseas. Are there any visits that you would particularly like to highlight?
Yes. Doug Sadler and Colin Callaway first came in October 2003 and then they came again and stayed in May this year. Doug Sadler at 85 years of age never ceases to amaze me with his dedication to his birds. He is up in his aviary which is at Emsworth UK at 5 a.m every morning even when the temperature is minus 10 degrees Celsius! He’s just unbelievable. We have also had the pleasure of Gary Gazzard and Jack Tanner staying with us, just to name a few, and many more interstate fanciers.

5. Your aviary is amazing—both the set up and its immaculate condition. For the benefit of our readers can you describe your aviary’s set up and main features?
We believe our aviary is a world first—we have glass windows instead of wire so you can look directly onto the birds. The aviary is made from cool room paneling and is tiled throughout. It has an outside suspended box on the front of the main flight and the other flight is totally enclosed for babies. Sterilized wood shavings are used on the floors of the flights and in the nest boxes. We also have a separate seed room. The aviary’s accessories include auto dimming lights, a sink with hot and cold running water, skylights, extractor fans, fridge, microwave, and a vacuum system.

Internal flight
Note the all glass windows and numerous BCV diplomas that adorn the walls.
  Doug Sadler enjoying himself at the Watson aviary
Dominant pied grey/green cock
Gary says he was unlucky not to win the 2005 BSNSW annual.
He won the Diploma, Champion Young Bird and Grand Champion, at Border Districts 2005 Annual Show.
He has never been shown since.
According to Gary, “the water buffalo look they’re all searching for!”
Cinnamon Grey Young Cock
Shown only once.
“A world class bird."
Training cages Main bird room and main flight

6. How many birds and breeding cabinets do you have, and on average how many pairs do you have breeding at any one time?
There are 56 breeding cages which are all wire which makes for easy cleaning. We used to have 20 cabinets and 20 wire cages but decided to go all wire for uniformity plus they keep down moths and mites etc. We normally keep about 150 birds but during the breeding season when chicks arrive the numbers swell to over 500.

7. Can you describe the feeding and nutrition regime you have for your birds?
We use seed from Max Douglas (a local producer) and have done so for over twenty years. He does a mix now called Watto’s! The birds just love it. Hulled oats and grey striped sunflower seed are fed all year round plus Barry Ryan’s tonic seed and millet sprays. The birds are also fed boiled eggs which I have persuaded many of our top national wining breeders to use. And also egg biscuit from Gary Hyslop in Sydney. I put Ornithon, B12 and Probac in the water all year round except when the birds get treated for worms and canker prevention.

8. How do you select your pairs for breeding and what do you look for?
As controversial as it may sound, I pair straight out of the flight. I have done it this way all my life—I have never once put birds in show cases and let them settle. When pairing I look for the bird first. Variety and colour do not concern me much but I do like to see face and lateral feathering on my birds. We have been trying to put European faces on our birds for the past 10 years—something Aussie fanciers have started chasing since the 2004 BSNSW Show when our birds were benched. Our birds have had a dramatic effect on a number of fanciers’ studs since then.

9. What advice do you have for beginners about building up their stocks or any other tips you would like to pass on?
My advice to beginners would be to be patient and talk to as many fanciers as possible. You can always learn something from someone whether they are novices or champion breeders. Visit as many aviaries and shows as you can. I have always gauged a breeder not on what they have won but on the quality of the birds they have let go out of their stud! Buy the best visual birds you can afford. A good tip is to look at the Mannes and Lutolf birds and try and buy pieces of the jigsaw puzzle as close to them as you can afford.

10. Is there anything important that you would like to add?
Yes. A big thank you to my best friend and aviary manager—my wife—who works six days a week and also finds time to clean the bird room, ring the chicks, cook for our visitors, and still smile at the end of the day!
The most moving advice was given to me at the great Jo Mannes home when I visited in 2005. Jo told me, “You breed that bird you see Gary for you have got my eye”. I will take those words to my grave!

My final tip is you only get out what you put in!

Marilyn Harrington



© Daniel Lütolf, Zelglistrasse 7, CH-5436 Würenlos, Tel ++41 (0)56 424 24 27, Mob Tel ++41 (0)79 705 49 08,