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GENERAL CANARY INFORMATION
- KEEPING YOUR CANARY HAPPY
- GENERAL INFORMATION
- CANARY CARE
- HISTORY OF THE CANARY excerpt from 'Canaries, Hybrids and British Birds' (1926)
KEEPING YOUR CANARY HAPPY
by Jay Bunker
Keeping your canary healthy is a relatively easy and enjoyable task. Simply put, one just needs to provide the necessities of life; 1. A warm shelter and housing, 2, a healthy environment and 3. a proper feeding regiment. Then you too can enjoy this little jewel of the skies.
Provide your canary with a cage of adequate size for the bird to move around freely and exercise its wings. A size of 14” H x 12” W x 24” L would be adequate although a larger size is acceptable. I would suggest that you keep the cage in a location where it is not drafty and not in direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time. It is not necessary to keep them overly warm, they seem to thrive better when located in a cooler space. Do not locate them over a heat vent of over an electrical device that generates heat, for example a television. Having them in an overly warm area can cause them to go into a prolonged light moult. I don’t bother with toys and no mirrors.
Clean drinking water must be available at all times. A canary often will not survive if left without water for periods of over eight hours. I prefer the outside mount drinking tube font as it is easier to remove for cleaning and refill. Clean water should be offered daily, as food dropping into the water can spoil and contaminate it which could make the bird ill. When travelling, I provide a piece of apple or orange in the travel cage to supplement the water in-between travel stops.
The food preferred by canaries is a mix with a variety of seeds. With the most basic mix consisting of 80% Canary seed and 20 % Canola seed. For a more varied mix one can use a recipe like this: canary seed 75%, Canola seed 15%, White millet 5%, Flax 3%, Nyger 2%. Be aware that there are mixes that may include oats, wheat, hemp, red millet, but these seed varieties are supplemental to the basic canary / canola mix. The main thing to keep in mind is to use a canary mix, not a mix made for finches, budgerigars or parrot type birds. I do not recommend the use of honey sticks which is a concoction of seeds mixed with honey and formed around a stick. They are approximately 6” long which is about the size of your canary. This is the equivalent of giving a child a candy bar the same height as themselves or about three feet long, not good. Millet sprays are a good supplement and give your bird a little something to play with as well as food for themselves.
The feeding of other natural foods such as fruits and vegetables is beneficial to the health of your canary. The rule to remember is not to feed them more than a piece no larger than your small finger nail. I feed the fruits and vegetables a couple of times per week. The fruits I prefer to use are apple, orange, pear or grapes. Canaries seem to prefer a pulpy type fruit but don’t seem to care for banana. The vegetables I feed are items from the cabbage family but also broccoli, peas, cauliflower, cabbage, cucumber, zucchini, carrot, and spinach, etc. I do not recommend lettuce as it does not have much food value, its basic composition being water and cellulose. Although the canary seems to eat most anything, they should not be fed avocado, which can be deadly to them. They will eat numerous varieties of weeds including dandelion, thistle, shepherds’ purse, and plantain, etc. I have not found a weed that they will not eat. The one thing to keep in mind is that the weeds have to be free of pesticides and insecticides as they can be deadly to bird and beast.
With the above dietary regiment, a person does not need to rely upon the many supplements that are on the market as part of the canary’s everyday diet. I provide a cuttlebone in the cage year-round for the bird to chew/peck on for additional calcium. The use of grit I feel is optional although I prefer a variation that also contains oyster shell. Some variations contain ground granite which has no nutritional value. With a natural food and seed diet I find no need to use vitamin supplements, the only exception being when the canaries are breeding or moulting. During the molt and breeding season I use a commercial eggfood to provide additional protein. This is necessary for the proper growth of new feathers during the molt or when raising their young. Some people will simply add some mashed hard-boiled egg to some bread crumbs and feed it to their birds every couple of days to help them through this more stressful time, a tablespoon full per serving is adequate. The molt, which is when the canary grows a completely new set of feathers, can take approximately eight weeks.
Keeping the cage clean is essential to good health in the canary. There are various cage floor liners available, however, simple newspaper or paper towel works well as it is absorbent and readily available. Perches are available in wood or plastic and come in different configurations. I do not recommend the use of sandpaper liners on the perches for any reason as it can damage the bird’s feet. I often use smaller pliable tree branches as they provide varying size and bounce, which helps in the exercising of the foot muscles. The perches should be cleaned about twice a week or so with a quick rinse in the sink.
The birds should be provided with a bird bath. This helps in maintaining their bright appearance and promotes the preening and the cleaning of their feathers. Bird baths come in various sizes and configurations at the pet store or from vendors. Be aware of how your cage door opens, swinging or sliding up or down, and get the appropriate sort of bath. Some people may prefer to put a bowl of water on the floor of the cage but watch that the water is no more than one inch deep as a rule. The bath should be provided at least once a week to assist the bird in maintaining its feathers and during the molt. Some people choose to leave the bath on at all times and just change the water daily, it is a matter of personal choice.
Your bird can live for many years with the above-mentioned regiment. I am often asked about the longevity of canaries and I will state that they are like people and there is no exact length of time that a bird will live. As a guideline I would say they live from 12-15 years. I have bought birds that have only lived for six months after purchase. On the other-hand I have had individuals who have come to purchase a new bird for their grandmother, whose bird had just passed away after 24 years; there is no exact time line. One lady came to me and stated that her bird passed away after 5 years and it said in her iPad that it should have lived for 15 years. I could only ask if she had shown her bird the iPad before it passed away to which she replied, “no, it can’t read”.
In closing, it should be noted that canaries have been kept singly in cages for over three hundred years, entertaining anyone who will listen. There is no need to buy a female to keep your male singing canary happy. If you put them together in a cage they will mate. When the request is made as such of me, I take the liberty of mentioning the scenario of when a man is out looking to find a girl friend or a wife. There is all kind of song and dance that comes out of him. But once she catches him, the singing and dancing is not as loud or frantic and goes down accordingly.
Origin: The Canary Islands
Type Canaries: These canaries are bred for their shape, stance, or some other physical characteristic. Some well-known type canary breeds are the Fife, Border, and Gloster canaries. Rarer are breeds like the Yorkshire, Norwich, Lizard, Scotch Fancy, Japanese Hoso, and various Frilled canaries(which is also seen in many varieties). While they can be fairly free singing, little to no attention is paid to the style or quality of the song by most breeders.
Color Canaries: These canaries are bred for the colour of their feathers, and range from the yellow-and-green colours of the other breeds, to more esoteric shades of reds, bronze, vermillion, silver, rose ivory and includes almost every hue except true blues and solid black.
Song Canaries: Perhaps the most famous canaries of all, these are bred strictly for their song. Most are yellow, green, or variegated. Best known are the Rollers, Waterslagers, American Singers, and Timbrados.
Unlike many species of birds commonly kept as pets, canaries are territorial rather than social. The song of the males, and, to some extent the hens as well, is used to announce their presence and their claim to their territory. They are not very social with others of their kind and will rarely if ever enjoy sharing a pet-style cage with another bird.
Canaries are flyers rather than climbers, and therefore require larger cages relative to their size than many of the hookbills. Round cages should never be used with any kind of flying bird the shape makes it difficult to place perches parallel to each other, and so restricts the birds, making it difficult for them to move naturally. Bar spacing can be as much as 5/8 of an inch for the larger canaries, but should be no more than 1/2 an inch for the smaller breeds. Clean cage bottom papers everyday.
Like most other cage-birds, the canary requires far more than just seed alone. A basic seed mix could consist of 75% canary grass, 15% canola rapeseed, and 10% mixed specialty seeds such as flax, hemp, niger, and millet. Much of the diet can consist of fresh foods, especially greens in the cole families. Some good choices are broccoli, savoy cabbage, kale, grated carrots or beets (they learn to eat these faster if you mix them with chopped greens, at first at least.) More good choices are dandelions (no pesticides, please!), leaf endives, rapini, collard greens, gai lan, or any other nutritious leaf greens. Avoid giving lettuce, except maybe romaine, as it is too watery. You can give fruit such as apple, pear, or orange. Feed 'treats' such as millet sprays and ‘song’ food mixes sparingly and infrequently - they are very fatty and can stress their livers and kidneys if given too frequently. Clean, fresh water must always be available. Due to their small bodies and high metabolic rate, a canary will die within 12-24 hours without it.
Canaries are extremely sensitive to trace gases and other such toxins, so be careful to not use air fresheners, rug deodorizers, perfumes, and other such volatiles in their presence. For this reason, the kitchen is not a good place to keep them; fumes or smoke from cooking foods could make them ill. Every bird owning household should beware of Teflon cookware as this emits gases that are highly toxic to birds if overheated. Moulting should occur once a year, just after midsummer. A moult at any other time of the year is usually caused by the presence of a (warm or cold) draft from which the bird has no shelter. It can also be associated with shock or illness. A pet canary will usually live an average of 10 years or so, given good care.
Some of the type canaries can sing loud, rather shrill songs, but they are the exception to the rule. In general, the canary is one of the sweetest-voiced birds on the planet. Song canaries are trained to sing in harmony with others of their kind, and their owners compete vigorously for the prestigious prizes awarded their proteges. You can find quiet-singing canaries (Rollers), moderate-singing canaries (Waterslagers and American Singers), and loud singers (Timbrados, Type, and Colour Canaries). Rarely will canary owners receive complaints about the noise of their canaries, which makes them particularly ideal for apartment dwellers.
Canaries are photosensitive, and therefore should be kept on a cycle similar to that followed by the sun outdoors, unless you live in the tropics or at a pole. Many people cover their bird at sunset, and then remove the covers just before they go to bed, after the lights are out. That way the birds will see a natural sunrise. Don't allow their nights to be shorter than about 10 hours, or longer than 14 hours.
Bathing is very important to a canary, especially in the summer. Every day is preferred, but at least once or twice a week is a must. Use half-inch deep of cold water in a dish or store-bought bird bath. Give baths early in the day. Never let your bird get wet in the evening, as having damp feathers at night could make him seriously ill
CANARY CAREby Anthony B. Olszewski (199, Vol. 22, #1)
The goal of every canary breeder is to improve his stock.
Unfortunately, so much time and energy is invested in simply keeping the
birds alive that improvement is impossible. Miserable breeding results,
too often accepted as the norm, also stop the fancier from upgrading his
Numbers are important in aviculture. The frequently recommended small
but high quality stud is impractical. Even the long established breeder
produces only a small percentage of top quality birds. Thus to get a
quantity of high quality young, it is necessary to breed a much greater
number of mediocre birds. Darwin, in his monumental work, noted that
evolution proceeds most rapidly in large populations. Also the small
stud quickly becomes too highly inbred, forcing the fancier to
constantly seek outcrosses or to suffer a decline in vigor.
In this article I will give the method by which I maintain and breed
my birds. Though mainly intended for the canary fancier, these rules may
easily be modified to include all seed eating birds. Aviculture requires
a great deal of time and effort and a little information which is
absolutely necessary. This information I can provide but each fancier
must provide his own labor.
Nutrition is the most important aspect of aviculture. Every canary
must be provided with a fortified blend of canary seed, rape seed,
golden German millet, oat groats, thistle, steel cut oats, flax, sesame,
and hemp. This mix may be more costly than the usual "black and white",
but, in the long run, pays dividends. Birds fed a vitamin, mineral, and
protein enriched blend produce more fertile eggs, better feed the
chicks, are less likely to pluck the feathers of the young, and are more
resistant to disease. The extra young produced more than pay back the
few cents a day it costs to feed a top quality mix.
The seed mixes of all birds should be vitamin fortified.
Aviculturists should take vitamins seriously. Vitamins are essential for
the metabolic functions of all living things. When seed is not vitamin
fortified birds are not able to reap the full benefit from the nutrition
present in the feed. Vitamin enriched feed is a must for optimum growth,
maintenance, reproduction, and health.
Some counter that vitamin enriched seed is not "natural." The natural
diet of seed eating birds is very rarely dry seed. For the better part
of the year, all seed eating birds consume the milky seed directly from
the plant. This seed is at its nutritional best. The vitamin content of
even the best processed seed is nether consistent or adequate enough to
assure optimal nutrition. Natural factors, such as drought, insects,
excessive moisture, disease, and molds, make the vitamin levels of seed
uncertain. Man made variables, the storage, transportation, and
processing of feed, conspire to rob the seed of the vitamins needed by
birds. Research has proven that the vitamin supplementation of seed is a
must to achieve peak production.
Pelleted feeds, seemingly an answer, fall short of the mark. Pellets
have a place as supplements and in commercial production. If by a
"complete diet", the manufacturers mean that birds are able to survive
and raise young on their products, then they are correct. If by complete
is meant being able to rear vigorous show winners, without the addition
of vitamins, fruits, vegetables, or eggs to the ration, then pellets
fail miserably. No one knows all the elements that are required in any
cage bird diet. Only the cockatiel has been the subject of recent
university research. Human diet, intensively studied for millennia, is
constantly being revised and updated. Canaries fed on pellets alone,
particularly red factors, show rough plumage. The droppings of canaries
on pellets are often loose.
The seed should be given to the birds in a deep dish. Fountain style
feeders encourage the birds to pick out their favorite seeds. This is
wasteful and leads to an unbalanced diet. The mix should only be changed
when all the seed is consumed. The hulls should be blown off the top
The birds should also get a small amount of fruits, vegetables, and
greens. I use apples, oranges, bananas, green peppers, canned corn,
fresh corn on the cob, cooked broccoli, raw spinach, raw dandelions, raw
collard greens, raw Swiss chard, pears, peaches, strawberries, and
cherries. The various berries are very good, especially for red factor
birds, but these fruits are very expensive. Lettuce is useless and
should not be fed.
Ideally, all produce should be home grown. Organically grown fruits
and vegetables are free of dangerous pesticides, Any insects add an
extra touch of protein; the birds relish them. Rinse store bought fruits
and vegetables in an effort, albeit most often in vain, to remove all
Soaked seeds are an absolute necessity for the feeding hen and for
the newly weaned young. They are a treat for all birds. Cracked corn,
wheat, buckwheat, and safflower, normally too large and hard, are made
acceptable to canaries by soaking. Soaking breaks down complex
carbohydrates rendering the seed more palatable and more highly
digestible. This is done by taking a special soak seed mix and adding
two parts, or more, of water and refrigerating. Soak for at least
twenty-four hours. Rinse well and strain before feeding.
Sprouts are not the same thing as soaked seed. Not all seeds can be
sprouted. Most bird seeds are treated with preservatives and vitamins
and will not germinate. Seeds for sprouting should be kept separate for
various species of plants have different germinating times and
requirements. In addition to the regular bird seeds, many seeds for
sprouting are available in health food stores. My favorite is the
Chinese mung bean which is very easy to sprout and possesses a high
degree of palatability for the birds. I have also used soy beans for
sprouting. My birds do not like alfalfa sprouts.
Sprouting seed is the simplest way to provide your birds with fresh
greens. For a few birds only a quarter cup of seeds should be sprouted
at a time. Seeds increase in volume tremendously when sprouted. Place
the seeds in a clean glass jar. Fill with tap water and let stand at
room temperature for twenty-four hours. Rinse and drain completely.
Repeat the rinsing and draining completely daily until the seed has
sprouted. If a foul odor or mold develops, discard. Preparations are
available to prevent spoilage. Rinsing and draining well is very
important. Any surplus sprouts may be refrigerated up to two weeks.
A proper nestling food is very important. The best bet for the
beginner is to purchase a good quality dry nestling food with which many
local fanciers are experiencing good results. I have found it
economically unfeasible, as well as time consuming to mix my own. A
treat dish of dry nestling food should be before the birds at all times.
This serves as a treat and protein supplement out of the breeding
season. In this way the birds are also trained to eat the nestling mix.
Whenever given a new food, birds will ignore it for a few days. If you
wait until the nestlings hatch before giving the rearing food, the
babies will starve by the time the parents sample it. When the birds
have young, give them as much dry nestling food as they want.
Nestling food can also be mixed with egg. To four cups of dry
nestling food, add one pound grated carrots, and one dozen grated hard
boiled eggs. Chop the eggs in a food processor shells and all. This is
for about fifty feeding hens. Boil the eggs for twelve to fourteen
minutes to ensure that no fowl diseases are transmitted to the canaries.
This mixture is given in an amount that the birds will eat in one
hour. All birds get one treat cup per day of this egg mix. The supply
for birds with feeding young is constantly renewed during the day. The
nestling food with egg spoils very rapidly, particularly during the
Summer. It would be best to prepare the egg mix fresh every day. If this
is not possible, refrigerate the excess immediately.
It has been stated that birds will die from overeating soft foods.
This is nonsense. That birds will be killed by fresh, nutritious foods
is the height of absurdity. It is true that birds will die from eating
rotten nestling food. Just like tropical fish, birds die not from
overeating but from overfeeding.
Grit and cuttlebone are before the birds at all times.
I must emphasize that there is not one diet for the adult bird, one
for the nesting hen, one for the young bird, and yet another for the
moulting bird. Each and every bird must get a balanced diet each and
every day of the year. It is foolish to think that birds may be bred on
a diet of seed and water. Try living on bread and water yourself. It is
ridiculous to keep a bird on a plain seed and water diet for nine months
and then to "gear up" for the breeding season. This misplaced economy is
responsible for the majority of breeding failures: hens not coming into
breeding condition, eggbound hens, dead in the shell young, and
nonfeeding hens. The percentage of protein in the diet will increase
during moulting and nesting, but the list of items in the diet should
I do not feed any milk to my birds but do add small amounts of yogurt
to the nesting egg food. Bread soaked in milk is a very primitive
nesting food. I question that birds can completely digest milk.
The original staple of the captive canary was freshly gathered milky
seeds and seed heads. Plaintain, Chickweed, Shepherd's Purse, Anne's
Lace, Charlock, Smartweed, Dandelion, and Thistle have all been
recommended as canary foods. The old time poverty stricken British miner
or farmer, our ancestors in the Fancy, maintained their beloved pets in
perfect health solely on such a diet. Only by gathering these foods were
they able to afford to feed the birds.
Today we are not allowed such a luxury. Plants in both rural and
urban areas are fouled by engine exhausts, factory fumes and by the
spraying of pesticides and herbicides. Feeding roadside plants can cause
lead poisoning. The only safe way to feed milky seeds is to grow them
yourself. I raise the small sunflower seed for this purpose. This plant
can be found growing wild. Seeds may be collected and cultivated in an
area that is known to be safe. This food is very rich and should only be
offered in small quantities. This will help to bring about a most
beautiful feather sheen.
The most practical housing for canaries is the commercially available
wire cages with metal trays. The seed and water dishes should fit into
the cage-front. This sort of cage is easily serviced without bothering
the birds. There should be a provision for two dividers, one solid and
one of screen. Since it is all metal, this cage is easily sterilized.
The box style cage may also be used but to no real advantage. Only in
a location subject to drafts will the cage with solid wood sides be
superior. Box cages are no longer a bargain. The material to construct
these cages might easily cost more than the conventional metal cages.
The construction of the box cage is time consuming and laborious. They
are also impossible to sterilize and require more maintenance, at the
very least a yearly painting.
I have found flight cages to be unnecessary. Supposedly birds in a
flight a healthier for they are thought to get more exercise. This is
not the case. In the flights birds tend to sit in one spot all day. It
is difficult for them to move about, for each tends to maintain a
territory. In a cage they will keep active jumping from perch to perch
all day long. Canaries do best in a cage around 24 inches in length by
10 inches square, one bird to the cage, except during the breeding
Young birds and hens may be put into a flight. Cocks over a year old
should not. They may attack and kill each other. The hens and young may
also be harassed and mutilated. In any event, flights must be constantly
inspected for birds failing or going light. Large populations bring
unbearable pecking order pressures on individual birds. These low men on
the totem pole will rapidly fail. Placed in individual cages they will
often recover. Despite all precautions, occasional unexplainable
mortalities will occur in any flight.
I must here mention the revolutionary system of Doctor Travnicek,
budgerigar and grass parakeet breeder. He uses all wire cages
constructed of one-half inch by one inch welded wire and fastened with
crimped clamps. Water is provided by means of automatic valves, a device
long used in labs for rodents. It is important to stress that the whole
cage is wire, including the base. Soiled food and droppings fall below
to a sheet of disposable plastic film. Since the waterers are automatic,
the birds are not able to soil their drinking water.
Every breeding season attaching the nest liner to the nest is a
disagreeable chore. Sewing. is very troublesome. I have used ELMERS
glue. That works, but it is difficult to change the pad-the whole nest
has to be soaked to remove the old glue. A local breeder has come up
with a better idea. A small hole is drilled in the bottom of the canary
nest. A hole is cut in the bottom of the felt nest liner. The nest pad
is then attached to the nest with a brass fastener, the kind with the
two "legs" that are used to hold papers together. This way the pads can
be efficiently and quickly changed.
Wooden finch nest boxes are time consuming to construct and to clean.
It is very easy to make small boxes out of 1/2" x 1" welded wire. Cover
the wire boxes with cardboard using twist ties to fasten the cardboard
onto the wire. When cleaning, simply discard the soiled cardboard and
sterilize the wire basket. A wide range of sizes and styles are easily
fabricated using these materials.
The birdroom itself should be a peaceful and relatively dry
environment. Optimally, it should be located above ground and away from
flashing lights and noises at night. Unfortunately, most of us are
forced to locate our aviaries within earshot of screaming babies and
rock music. That the birds survive and reproduce under these conditions
is a miracle! It is certainly not to be recommended.
The temperature of the bird room should regularly be between sixty
and sixty-five degrees. This should be raised, gradually, to seventy-two
degrees during the breeding season. Canaries will live and breed under
colder conditions, but this is minimum survival, not the best conditions
that we should strive to provide.
Artificial light for the bird room must be wide-spectrum fluorescent
bulbs. The fixtures are to be controlled by an automatic timer a
regularly set for eight hours of light per day. This will be slowly
increased, for the breeding season, to seventeen hours of light for each
twenty-four hour period. The birds will start to show a desire to breed
from about fourteen hours of light for each day, but at this point are
not really ready to breed. If the cocks and hens are united too soon,
the entire first round of eggs may be infertile. The pairs should be set
up at sixteen hours of light. The slight wait is required to insure
fertility. Seventeen hours of light gives the hen that much extra time
to feed the young. Birds must have proper rest. Turning the lights on
and off can be a death sentence.
It is usually recommended to increase the light only a few minutes
each day. With the mechanical timers this is not possible in practice,
since these devices are accurate only to the half hour. The old
fashioned timers must be periodically checked, set, reset, and
lubricated. Eventually they wear out. New computerized, remote-control
timers are available. These space age instruments are accurate to the
minute and can independently control many fixtures. They can also dim
incandescent bulbs. This allows dusk and dawn schemes to be implemented.
Sanitation can not be overlooked. The paper in the trays must be
changed at least once a week. More often is better yet. All water and
soft food dishes must be washed out every day and frequently sterilized.
A dish washing machine is best. The floor of the bird room is to be kept
swept and mopped clean.
Hand in hand with sanitation goes disease prevention and control. I
write prevention and control because treatment is only to be done under
a veterinarian's supervision. All sick birds are to be isolated and
professional assistance sought. The shotgun approach of antibiotics,
sulfa drugs, vitamins, and god only knows what else has killed as many
birds as germs.
All new stock must be quarantined. The cage and fixtures of a sick
bird have to be well scrubbed and disinfected. All wooden items, like
perches must be discarded. Mites, feather lice, and flies may be
controlled by spraying a .05% solution of pyrethrum. This may be
dispensed by means of a hand held mister. This pesticide concentration
can be sprayed as a mist directly on the birds and cages from a distance
of eighteen inches. A stronger mixture,. 1% may be used on the floors
and walls of the room, but not on the birds. Ivermectin, through a
veterinarian, is used to cure mites and lice.
The aviculturist should endeavour to make the birds' quarters
mosquito free. These pests are at the very least a source of irritation.
These insect bites are unsightly and perhaps permanently mutilating.
Mosquitoes are a very serious source of infection. Through them our
birds may be infected with Pox, Newcastle, or Ornithosis.
By following this outline anyone can experience success. It is now up
to the fancier to implement the rules.
This material may be reprinted by any non-commercial entities.
Full credit must be given to the author. The authors name, address,
e-mail address, phone numbers, web site, AND THIS NOTICE must appear
with any distributions. The document may not be edited, condensed,
annotated, or modified in any way. Any translations must state that fact
and the translators name must be listed. COPYRIGHT 1996
470 Grand St.
Jersey City, NJ 07302
Reproduced from the The Budgerigar & Foreign Bird Society
of Canada bulletin with thanks.
The following article is taken from the book: "CANARIES, HYBRIDS AND BRITISH BIRDS"
edited by John Robson and S.H. Lewer, London 1900
HISTORY OF THE CANARY*
BY A. RUDOLF GALLOWAY. M.B.. C.NI. NI.A.
THEORIES OF ORIGIN
[* For permission to incorporate part of this paper I am indebted to Professor Karl Pearson, editor of "Biometrika" (Vol. VII, Nos. 1, 2 October 1909), in which it originally appeared with illustrations and four colour plates - also published separately as "Canary Breeding - A Practical Analysis of Records from 1891 - 1909" by the University Press Cambridge.]
"At the present day there is little doubt that all the varieties of Canary have been evolved from the wild Canary (Serinus Canaria), of the Canary Islands in the Azores and Madeira, and all derived from one species.
It is comparatively easy for us, in these days of scientific progress, to come to this conclusion; but we can understand the great difficulty that 19th Century writers had in understanding the origins of a bird, of which twenty-nine distinct varie-ties existed by the early 18th Century.
Observers could not believe that all those varieties could have come from a single ancestor, and as a result many fanciful theories of origin were given; some based on supposed fact, but even these were false. Among these I would place the myths of the Chaffinch- Canary Hybrid, the Yellowhammer-Canary Hybrid, and other unknown hybrids of today.
[NOTE The wild canary is regarded as a sub-species of the Serin - (Serinus Serinus) which inhabits central and southern Europe and occasionally visits Britain]
FALSE ORIGIN MYTHS
As an example of these False Origin Myths, which may be traced from the earliest writers, let us quote from the article, "Canaria" in Rees' 'Encyclopaedia', published in 1819
"These (29) varieties are not the spontaneous offspring of the common Canary finch, but of that bird crossed with the Venturon and Cini or Serin, two species very nearly allied to the Canary finch, and both which inhabit the South of Europe. It is by this means, as well as by pairing the Canary finch with the Goldfinch, Linnet, Yellowhammer, Chaffinch, and even the domestic Sparrow. that so many varieties are produced. The Canary finch can interbreed with the Siskin and Goldfinch, but the offspring for the most part proves to be sterile. . . .
The two birds with which the Canary can be crossed in a fertile manner, as already stated, are the Serin or Fringilla Serinus, and Venturon or Citril, Fringilla Citrinella. The Serin is a bird of small size, being rather less than the Common Linnet. Its upper mandible is brown, the under whitish ; the plumage above brown, mixed with yellowish green, beneath greenish yellow, and having the sides marked with longitudinal spots of brown; the wings are marked with a greenish band, quills and tail brown, edged with greyish grey, and the legs brown.
This kind is found not only in Italy, but in Greece, in Turkey, Austria, Provence, Languedoc, Catalonia, and probably in all the climates of that tempera-ture. There are, however, certain years in which it is very rare, even in the Southern pro-vinces of France. Its song is agreeable and varied, but the song of the female is inferior to that of the male.
The Citril finch is larger than the Venturon, and has a louder note; it is indeed remarkable for the brightness of its colour and for the strength and variety of its song. The female is somewhat larger than the male, has less of the yellow in its plumage, and does not sing so well. or rather answers him, as it were, in monosyllables. It is found in Provence, Languedoc, Geneva, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and Spain. In Burgundy it is known by the name of the Canary. The plumage on the upper parts is of a yellowish green, spotted or variegated with brown ; beneath greenish yellow ; wings dusky and greenish ; and the legs flesh colour.
We conceive it right to be thus particular in pointing out the characters of the two latter birds. since they have been most commonly confounded as varieties of the Canary finch, which alone is found in the Canary Islands, and from which they differ specifically, although in general appearance and manners of life they nearly assimilate. It is with these two primitive species that the Canary bird is commonly crossed with most success, and from the union of which many of the more esteemed varieties of the common Canary bird are produced."
The "DOMESTIC SPARROW LEGEND"
" D'Arnault assures Salerne that he saw at Orleans a grey hen Canary, which had es-caped from the aviary, mate with a Sparrow and make her hatch [her eggs] in a Sparrow-can, which thrived."
The "domestic Sparrow" theory of origin I have traced to the following footnote to Buffon's description or the Canary
(From Amusements In-nocens, Ou le Parfait Oiseleur, 1774.)
The female Canary mentioned here must have been a female Sparrow, with white in its plumage, a fairly common sport [mutation] which we know had occurred be-fore the date of the story, as sparrows more or less white are mentioned by Brisson, Wil-lughby, and Aldrovandus. On no other explan-ation would such a mating in an open garden be possible. It is also quite likely that such a sport in the Sparrow would be called a Canary even at the present day by the majority of people.
It will be our object to prove that there is a much simpler and more feasible explanation of the great variability of the Canary than by supposing it to be due to crossing with allied species (the progeny of most of which we now know to be sterile), or even to those influences included under the term "domestication," to which Darwin attached much importance.
Among the earliest references to the Canary must be noted the description of Gesner in his "Historia Animalium," Book III., p. 1, date 1555.
Although the figures in Ges-ner are somewhat feeble, not to say grotesque, the illus-tration here is an exception. A fairly good engraving of a Siskin with laced cap is given, and after some remarks about nomenclature and classification, the author says:
"Huius generis sunt quas Anglia aves Canarias vocat "
(" Of this kind are those birds the English call Canaries ").
Gesner's description of the Canary may be here given (from Ray's translation, 1678, of Willughby's 'Ornithology' 1676)
"It is of the bigness of the Common Tit-mouse ; hath a small white bill, thick at base, and contracted into a sharp point; all the feathers of the wings and tail being of a green colour, so that it differs little from those small birds which our country-men call Citrils, or those they call Zifels, and the Italians, Ligurini (Siskins), save that it is a little bigger than either of those, liker in show or outward appearance to this (latter), somewhat greener than that (former).
Between the cock and the hen bird I have observed this difference, that the Breast, Belly, and upper part of the Head adjoining to the Bill, are more yellow in the Cock than in the Hen."
Gesner also gives another very interesting reference to the Canary at this date (1555) -Book III., p.249, "De Citrinella."
After describing the Citril as "being similar to Chloris (Greenfinch), with yellow or citron breast, grey head, and excelling all of this genus in song, except the Serin", he adds:
" Similar to this is, as I hear, the bird of sweetest song, called the Canary, which is brought from the Canary Islands, produc-tive of sugar"
He further adds
"It is sold everywhere very dear, both for the sweetness of its singing, and also because it is brought from far places with great care and diligence, and but rarely, so that it is wont to be kept only by nobles and great men."
Gesner also says, referring to the Canary Islands
" These are the Canary Islands, out of which in our age are wont to be brought certain singing birds which from the place they are bred, they commonly call Canary birds; others call them Sugar birds, because the best sugar is brought thence."
We learn from this that, in the first half of the 16th Century, Canaries and sugar were imported into Europe (includ-ing England), and as the final conquest of the Canary islands by Spain did not take place until the closing years of the 15th Century we know that little time was lost in bringing the first Canaries to Europe along with the sugar.
"The Epitome of the Art of Hus-bandry" London, 1675. By Joseph Blagrove. (P. 106.)
"The first I shall begin withal is the Bird called the Canary-Bird, because the ori-ginal of that Bird came from thence (I hold this to be the best Song-Bird) ; but now with industry they breed them very plen-tifully in Germany, and in Italy also and they have bred some few here in England though as yet not anything to the purpose as they do in other Countries."
He also writes (p. 107) :-
" Many Country - People cannot distinguish a Canary from one of our common Green Birds"
In Ray's translation (1678) of Willughby's "Ornithology" (1676), the following quotation from a late English writer (probably modified from Blagrove) is given
"Canary birds of late years have been brought abundantly out of Germany, and are therefore now called German birds, and these German birds in handsomeness and song excel those brought out of the Canaries. . . . They are fed with Canary-seed, wherein they take great pleasure, which therefore is wont to be brought together with them out of the same Islands."
"Gesner, from the relation of his friend, writes, that they are fed with the same food with the Siskin and Citril, viz. Line seed [Linseed or flax], and Poppy seed, and sometimes also Millet ; but particularly, that they delight in sugar and the sugar-cane, as also in that sort of Chickweed or Mouse-ear, which they commonly call Henbit. For, he affirms, that by this they are presently provoked to sing, etc."
In " A Gentlemen's Recreation " (1677) Canaries in England are mentioned as being mostly of a green colour and imported from Germany.
"Trait des Serins de Canarie," par Hervieux (1713).
Albin's " Song-Birds " (1759)
HABITATS OF THE CANARY
The Canary Islands* were made known to the Romans in Augustus' time, by Juba,
King of Mauretania, whose account is given by the elder Pliny, who states that at this time they were uninhabited, and that there were numerous birds:
"Omnes copia pomarum et avium, omnes generis abundant," etc.
(Pliny. Book VI, C. 32).
The islands were redis-covered in 1334 by a French vessel. In 1400 a Norman gentleman, Jean de Bethen-court, sailed from La Rochelle, landed at Lanzarotte and Fuerteventura, but was opposed by the natives. Having got a grant of the islands from Henry III., he, in 1404, mastered Fuerteventura, Gomera, and Hierro, but was repulsed at Palma and Canary. He returned home and died in 1408. His nephew sold his rights to Don Enrique de Guzman, and he, failing to overcome the natives, sold them to another Spaniard, Paraza. About 1461 his suc-cessors took nominal possession of Canary and Teneriffe, but the natives effectually resisted occupation. Meantime J. de Bethencourt's nephew had fraudulently made another sale to Portugal. Finally the islands were ceded to Spain. Canary, Teneriffe, and Palma being still unsubdued in 1476, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain compelled Paraza's successors to sell the islands to the Crown. In 1477 one thou-sand soldiers were sent out, and after much bloodshed the Spaniards, under Pedro de Vera, became masters of Grand Canary in 1483. Palma, in 1491, and Teneriffe, in 1495, were conquered by Alonzo de Lugo.
The approximate size of the main islands
Teneriffe, the largest : 60 by 30 miles.
Grand Canary: 24 miles diameter
Palma : 26 by 16 miles.
Lanzarotte: 31 by 5 to 10 miles.
Fuerteventura: 52 by 12 miles.
Gomera: 23 miles long.
Hierro : 18 by 15 miles.
In the case of the Canary Islands it is possible that the natives had domesticated the Canary many years before its intro-duction into Europe.
Although known to Arabian geographers in the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, the Azores were believed to have been uninhabited until annexed by Portugal, 1432-1457. Coloni-sation went on well, and in 1466 they were presented by Alphonso V. to his aunt, Isabella Duchess of Burgundy. An influx of Flemish settlers followed, and the islands were known as the Flemish Islands. The area of St. Michael, the largest of the Azores, is 224 square miles. "Birds are so plentiful that 420,000, including many Canaries, are slaughtered annually" (Encycl. Brit.).
It may be inferred, from the fact that Gesner in 1555 speaks of "the birds which the English call Canaries", that a very early importation of the bird had taken place into England, and probably this [import] came from the Azores into England, Belgium, and France some thirty years before the introduction to other European countries.
Madeira, an island thirty by thirteen miles, was not annexed by Portugal until 1420, although discovered long before 1351 by Portuguese ves-sels under Genoese captains. The advent of the Canary is thus seen to be independent of the usual folk-tale of a shipload of Canaries, bound for Leghorn wrecked on the island of Elba.
The Elba Legend
The extract from Olina,* (*Giovanni Pietro Olina, Roma 1622.) who wrote in 1622 with reference to this, may be given, as illustrating an important feature in the Canary, that is genetic variability, which will have important bearing later.
"There are also found of this sort of birds in the Island Ilva a degenerate kind,
descended originally from true Canary-birds, which were brought over from the Canary Islands in a certain ship bound for Lighorn, that was cast away near this Island, and after the shipwreck escaped and saved themselves on this Island, and afterwards propagated their kind here, breeding and multiplying greatly. But the difference of place hath wrought some change in the external figure of this Bird. For these spurious birds have black feet, and are more yellow under the chin than the genuine Canary-birds "
(quoted in Ray, 1678).
We have, in this little experiment in Elba, a repetition on a small scale of what had previously occurred, in all probability, in the comparatively restricted areas of the three original habitats [The Canary Islands, Madeira and the Azores].
There must have been more than an or-dinary amount of in-breeding in the history of the wild Canary, owing to its restricted island habitats. An early instance of this interesting fact and its result is recorded by Gesner as follows:
"For it is found by experience that by how much less they are (smaller), by so much are they more canorous [tuneful, sweet singing] . But the great (big) ones shut up in cages turn their heads round about and backward, and are not to be esteemed genuine or right-bred Canary -birds. Of this sort there are brought from the islands Palma and Cape Verde, which they call 'fools', from that motion of their head which is proper to fools."
This is an important reference to an early sport [mutation] in the direction of albinism and increased size; we know quite well at the present day the peculiar motion of the heads of some albinotic birds, especially when exposed to bright light, and of others with defective sight.
Dr. Latham (1823), in a footnote, quotes from "Adanson's Voyage," p. 20
"The Canary Bird, which grows white in France, is in the Island of Teneriffe almost as grey as a Linnet."
Adanson 's reference clearly points to the occurrence of a grey variety, and Buffon states
"The grey kind are not of a uniform colour ; some feathers are affected by different shades, and some individuals are of a lighter or of a darker tinge."
THE WILD CANARY (Serinus Canaria)
As we intend to trace the variations in plumage of the Canary from their origin, and endeavour to discover their cause, it is important to give the accepted descrip-tion of the original wild bird. In the Catalogue of Birds in the British Museum, under "Serinus Canaria," the following is given
British Museum Catalogue Description.
"Adult Male. General colour above, ashy brown washed with yellow and streaked with blackish brown down the centre of the feathers; rump. uniform olive yellow ; lesser wing coverts, olive yellow ; median and greater coverts, black, edged with yellow, the latter tipped with whitish; bastard-wing and primary coverts, black, margined with ashy-yellow; quills, dark brown, edged with ashy brown, tinged with yellow on the primaries ; upper tail coverts, ashy brown washed with olive yellow, with darker brown centres ; tail feathers, dark brown edged with ashy brown, tinged with yellow crown of head, olive yellow, streaked with blackish centres to the feathers and slightly washed with ashy ; forehead, dull golden yel-low ; eyelids and sides of face, dull golden yellow, with a dusky streak across the lower ear coverts; cheeks, dull golden yellow with a dusky malar stripe; throat and under surface of body, dull golden yellow; the sides of the upper breast, ashy grey; the sides of the body and flanks more ashy and streaked with black, more broadly on the latter ; lower abdomen, thighs, and under tail coverts, whitish; under wing-coverts and auxiliaries, pale ashy, washed with yellow; quills below, dusky, ashy along the inner edge. Total length, 4.55 inches ;
cul-men, 0.35" [culmen = length of upper bill]; wing, 2.75" ; tail, 2.2" ; tarsus, 1.65"."
Adult Female. Similar to the male, but a little browner, and having the yellow on the forehead, sides of face, and under parts less vivid. Total length, 4.6 inches ; culmen, 0.4" wing, 2.6" ; tail, 2.1" ; tarsus, 0.65". Both sexes more ashy in winter."
Thomas Pennant's Description 1776
Writing in 1776, Pennant says:
"We once saw some small birds brought directly from the Canary Islands that we suspect to be the genuine sort. They were of a dull green colour, but as they did not sing, we supposed them to be hens."
Gesner's short description gives perhaps the best general idea of the yellow-ish-green bird, but the British Museum detailed analysis is also important in view of the colour variations we must trace.
Latham also states, from Humboldt
"Canary finches in the neighbourhood of Orotave in Teneriffe said to be uniformly green, some with a yellow tint on their back."
As the earliest form of Cinnamon Canary was called the Dun, or Quaker, and was closely allied to the grey and cinnamon types of pale variation occurring in wild birds of the present day, it is necessary to give some information concerning cin-namon mutations and cinnamon inheritance generally, in order to understand subsequent variations,. As this has for many years been the puzzle of the Fancy, it may be well to summarise the pecu-liarities of cinnamon inheritance before adding any fresh information. Cinnamon coloured plumage in young birds can only be obtained by using a cin-namon, or cinnamon-bred, cock. If a normal cock, having no known cinnamon blood, be mated to a self-cinnamon hen, the young will have no cinnamon feathers. If a cinnamon or cinnamon-bred cock be mated to a hen with no known cinnamon blood, all the young which show any cinnamon feathers are hens. [Editor's note: the operation of this sex-linked recessive character is now well known but this was 1909]
THE GREY or CINNAMON CANARY - FOUNDATION OF LATER VARIETIES
I believe the grey or cinnamon Canary to be the origin (after the wild green) of all our present varieties of Canary. The grounds for this theory are mainly founded on a study of my wild-cinnamon British birds, and on the cinnamon and other hybrids I have bred in captivity. I have satis-fied myself that cinnamon blood, wherever found, indicates the presence of a mutating character - not just in respect of colour and plumage but also to size and form of body. The evidence is as follows:
· Three rich-coloured self-cinnamon greenfinches acquired in 1907 and kept in my outdoor aviary, in 1908 moulted to a pale cinnamon.
· One of my pale cinnamon greenfinches from 1907, moulted even paler in 1908 and is now creamy white, but still shows some traces of her cinnamon colour.
· We learn from this to distinguish between several shades and intensities of cinnamon colour which occur as a mutation among wild birds - a fact which we must remember when discussing the earliest varieties of canary.
The origin of the Old Dutch Frill:
One of my variegated cinnamon Canary-Greenfinch hybrids - having perfect, normal plumage - moulted in its second year into a Dutch Frill hybrid - the body feathers, although still cinnamon coloured, show the most extraordinary twists and turns - just like the Dutch Frill. The canary-father of this hybrid has no Dutch Frill blood, as I have bred the strain for many years and have never owned a Dutch Frill canary.
The origin of our birds of shape and position:
The same hybrid has assumed a semi-upright stance, thus indicating the possible origin of our canaries of shape and position e.g. Lancashire, Belgian and Scotch Fancy, which are supposed to have come originally from the Old Dutch variety.
The origin of the Lizard and London Fancy Canaries:
I have bred two Siskin-Canary hybrids - one with a perfectly shaped golden-yellow cap (the rest of the bird being dark - heavily variegated) and the other with a beautiful silver- spangled back - the rest of the bird being clear. The cap and spangled back are characteristic of the Lizard though I have never possessed a Lizard canary. The spangled back appeared at the first moult -just as with the Lizard canary.
I have also bred several other Siskin --Canary hybrids with irregular or broken Lizard Caps. The Canary parent in each case had cinnamon blood but no Lizard inheritance.
In addition to these characteristics of the Lizard occurring in the hybrids from a cinnamon-bred Canary, we know the Lizard and London Fancy Canaries both show the same unstable character of plu-mage as the original cinnamon, both of. these varieties being fit to exhibit only -during the show season after their first moult, owing to subsequent changes in plumage, and both being extremely alike in nest-feather and again at three or four years of age.
Consequently we may safely infer that both Lizard and London Fancy have been derived from cinnamon Canaries.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE CANARY
Bearing in mind these points with regard to wild cinnamon birds and hybrids between cinnamon canaries and wild birds, let us now turn to the Canary itself and study the earliest authentic records of its different varieties.
We have already mentioned that the first stage in the evolution of our favourite cage-bird from the wild green type described by Gesner was the occurrence [mutation] of a grey variety.
The colour grey occurs as a mutation in several of our wild birds at present, and is closely allied to the well-known cinnamon mutations.
We have ample evidence of the occurrence of this initial grey stage in the most interesting and instructive account of the Canary by Hervieux (1713). One is inclined to attach great importance to his views, as they seem to be founded on first-hand observation and experiments and are not mere repetitions of other writers views.
Many of the stories concern-ing the breeding of those mules, which we, at the present time, regard as impossible -e.g.: Chaffinch-Canary, Yellowhammer -Canary have probably arisen from the misunderstanding of Hervieux's statements; for he mentions the above two hybrids, but only to illus-trate his nomenclature "A male Canary being coupled with a female Chaffinch, the young which come from them are named 'Serin mulets de Pincon'." And the others the same : "Canary mule of the Linnet", "Canary mule of the Yellowhammer," "Canary mule of the Goldfinch."
Having stated this, Hervieux adds :
"Of all those birds of which I am about to speak, those which one pairs most commonly with our Canaries are the Goldfinches, male and female, for the others are but seldom used at all at present, so that is an experiment which some new fanciers wish to make, to see what sorts of mules are produced from these different birds."
This clearly proves that Hervieux had no direct personal knowledge of the [theoretical] Yellow-hammer-Canary and Chaffinch-Canary hy-brids, which subsequent writers (e.g., Buffon) assume, on this uncertain evidence, to have been bred. This prepares us to receive Hervieux's list of varieties of the Canary in 1713 with a considerable amount of assurance that we are dealing with facts which, being properly interpreted, are of the utmost importance.
[ Editor's note: A 'mulet' or 'mule' is the infertile offspring produced by crossing two separate species. For example a horse crossed with a donkey produces a 'mule' (same word) but one can never breed from a mule - it is infertile.]
But we meet in all translators, and in many subsequent writers with great errors even in the ren-dering of the variety names. For instance, the writer of the Canary article in Rees's Encyclopaedia (1819) trans-lates the term "Isabelle" as "pink," and gaily proceeds to speak of the 'pink Canary', and also the 'pink Canary with red eyes' This translation occurs also in Buffon. Before quoting the varieties, in order to understand the nomenclature it is vital to note the following passage
"It is necessary to mention that there are many Canaries, of which I am about to speak, which have, besides the white tail, the feathers or one wing, and often of both, white; but in spite of this par-ticular difference, fanciers do not give them another name, other than Canary with white tail, or Variegated kind."
It is evident that variegation, as we now know it, was just beginning at that time, and that it arose from the mutated types of which 'Gris' [grey] 'Jaune' [yellow] and 'Blonde' are mentioned. For Hervieux says that we know Canaries of these types, when they are of the variegated race, as having :
(1) Several white feathers in the tail,
(2) several white claws (ergot's)
(3) Le duvet
The transitional stage of the bird is also shown by Hervieux's uncertainty as to the kinds to include under the term "Variegated race," for he also adds (p. 272) :
"I say also that there are Canaries which are of the variegated race which have not, however, any of the three marks which I have given above, or which have not even one of them; so that it is necessary to leave it to the good faith of those who sell them to you for the variegated race."
These explanations prove that the term "race de Panaché " strictly means 'with a white tail', 'with a few white body-feathers', or with both these variations from the self-grey or self-cinnamon in their different shades.
In our muling experiments we have shown that the first variations to occur are: white feathers in the tail; a small white spot at the back of the head; or on other parts of the body. Our term "Variegated" is denoted towards the end of the list ("which commences with the commonest and finishes with the most rare") by the single word, "Panaché " e.g., "Serin Panaché commun" - "The common variegated canary"
To understand Hervieux's list, we must also recollect, as I have shown in my experi-ments with wild cinnamon sports, that self-cinnamon is a varying colour, and frequently changes in the same bird through various shades of pale cinnamon to a creamy white, often with a gloss of yellow on the surface ("blond doré").
We must also remember that the colour grey is, like cinnamon, one of the pale variations which occur in Nature, e.g. the grey Greenfinch, a very beautiful example of which, a female, was shown at the Scottish National Show, 1909, and is the property of Mr. J. W. Bruce, Coldstream. This bird is said to be three years old, and not to have changed its colour ; but it is quite likely that other examples might grow paler, just as the cinnamon type does, for present-day grey and grizzle crests invari-ably moult lighter each year until ulti-mately they become clear.*
The mottled or spangled type of varia-tion (in my opinion, closely allied to cinna-mon) also appears in the "agate" varieties.
Having considered these preliminary points, we are now in a position to interpret the list itself.
HERVIEUX'S LIST OF CANARIES (1713)
"Noms que l'on donne au Serins, selon leurs differentes couleurs"
"Je croy qu'il est apropos de marquer ici les noms que l'on donne communement aux Serins, selon leurs differentes couleurs , afin que l'on scach en quelle classe, on plutot en quel degreé de beauté sont les Serins que l'on a, ou ceux que l'on souhaite avoir ; pour cet effet je me suis proposé de les nommer par ordre, en commencant par les plus communs, et finissant par les plus rares."
"I think it appropriate to note here the names which are commonly given to canaries, as to their different colours, and their classification, and further to what degree of beauty are the canaries which one has, or those which one hopes to have. In order to do this I propose to name them by order, starting with the most common and ending with the most rare".
HERVIEUX'S LIST (1713)
1. Serin Gris commun. (The common grey Canary.)
2. Serin Gris aux duvets * et aux pattes blanches, qu'on appelle Race de Panachez.
(Slightly variegated Frilled Canary with white feet.)
3. Serin Gris a queue blanche, race de Panachez. (lightly variegated with white tail.)
4. Serin Blond commun. (The ordinary Pale Canary.)
5. Serin Blond aux yeux rouges. (The Pale Canary with pink eyes.)
6. Serin Blond doré . (The Pale Canary glossed with yellow.)
7. Serin Blond aux duvets, race de Panachez. (Slightly variegated Pale Frilled Canary.)
8. Serin Blond à queue blanche, race de Panachez.
(Slightly variegated Pale Canary with white tail.)
9. Serin Jaune commun. (The common lemon--yellow Canary.)
10. Serin Jaune aux duvets race de Panachez.
(Slightly variegated Frilled lemon-yellow Canary.)
11. Serin Jaune à queue blanche, race de Panachez.
(Slightly variegated lemon- yellow Canary, with white tail.)
12. Serin Agate commun. (The original Lizard Canary.)
13. Serin Agate aux yeux rouges. (The Lizard with pink eyes, showing cinnamon origin.)
14. Serin Agate à queue blanche, race de Panachez
(Slightly variegated Lizard Canary with white tail.)
15. Serin Agate aux duvets race de Panachez (Slightly variegated Frilled Lizard.)
I 6. Serin Isabelle common. (The original cinnamon canary.)
17. Serin Isabelle aux yeux rouges. (The cinnamon canary with pink eyes.)
18. Serin Isabelle doré. (The cinnamon Canary glossed with yellow.
19. Serin Isabelle aux duvets race de Panachez.
(Slightly variegated Frilled cinnamon.)
20. Serin Isabelle a queue blanche, race de Panachez.
(Slightly variegated cinnamon with white tail.)
21. Serin Blanc, aux yeux rouges. (The white Canary with pink eyes.)
22. Serin Panaché commun. (The original variegated Canary.)
23. Serin Panaché aux yeux rouges. (Grey -variegated Canary with pink eyes.)
24. Serin Panaché de blond. (Pale cinna-mon- variegated canary.)
Serin Panaché de blond aux yeux rouges.
(Pale cinnamon-variegated Canary with pink eyes.)
26. Serin Panaché de noir.* (Green- variegated Canary.)
27. Serin Panaché de noir-jonquille aux yeux rouges.
(Cinnamon-green [black and yellow] variegated Canary with pink eyes.)
28. Serin Panaché de noir-jonquille et regulier.
(Regular variegated canary, black and yellow: The London Fancy Canary.)
29. Serin Plein, qui sont a present les plus rares.
(Clear orange- yellow Canary, which is - at present the rarest.)
30. The Crest Canary, or rather, the Crowned - which is one the most beau-tiful. Buffon.)
NOTE: Duvets means the light, downy feathers which adorn the under surface of the body and it may be translated as 'downy' or 'frilled' for it is this part of the bird which first shows the tendency to the excess of feathering seen in Dutch Frills. Hervieux explains 'Duvets' thus:
"when taking your canary in your hand you find, on blowing upon the under-body and stomach, a little white down (un petit duvet blanch) - of a different colour from the natural plumage." He also adds: "There are some canaries which have much more of this down than others - the fanciers call the first kind 'Serins au petit duvet' and the second kind they call 'Serins au grand duvet'
EXPLANATION OF HERVIEUX'S LIST
THE study of Hervieux's most instructive list, which begins with the commonest and ends with the rarest, com-bined with a knowledge of the nature and behaviour of sports in wild birds generally, proves the single mutation origin of all the varieties of the Canary.
In classes 1 to 3 we have the Grey Canary, varying in the direction of frilled and white feathers and white feet.
In classes 4 to 8 the pale type (either of grey or cinnamon) shows the same variations, but in addition a more marked tendency to albinism (pink-eye), and towards the dif-ferentiation between "yellow" and " buff."
In 9 to 11 the uniformly lemon-yellow Canary shows sim-ilar plumage variations.
In 12 to 15 the original Lizard Canary proclaims its cinnamon descent by having pink eyes, besides the plumage changes like the others.
In Canary and Cage-bird Life for April 16th, 1909, Mr. L. Butterworth's lecture to the Rochdale Ornithological Club on " The Lizard Canary Fancy, Past and Present,' is given. In it, this lemon-yellow varia-tion, with its tendency to become paler, is described in connection with the Lizard Canary of forty years ago. At the same time, the "duvet" or frilled variety, appeared. As these statements from an experienced and observant fancier are important historically, I give them in full, premising that this lemon yellow colour in mules is well known to be due to cinnamon inheritance.
"When I first started to breed the Lizard Canary there was a strain of Lizards which was very plentiful in and around Rochdale, known as the Lemon Lizard, or Lemon Jonque, on account of the cap being a pale yellow colour, somewhat the colour of a lemon. In its nest feathers it had a back full of straight, narrow rowing; but after its first moult the colour of its cap and the tips of the small feathers were of the same pale yellow colour, the spangle being not nearly so distinct as that of the orange-coloured variety. Breeders, seeing that it stood no chance on the show bench, refused to breed with it, and, consequently, in a few years the strain died out.
About the same time there was another strain, known as the Flat or Hollow backed Lizard. This was a class of bird with a back full of large, distinct spangling, or moons, as we called them. The moons were distributed all over the back and not in straight, regular rows, as you see them in the Lizards of today. This class of birds had very often a split or parting down the centre of the back, and as it very rarely got into the money at any show, it gradually became scarce, until it has almost met with the same fate as the Lemon Jonque. I should never pair two golds or two silvers together without a special reason . . I remember experimenting in this direction many years ago. I paired a gold cock with a gold hen, and succeeded in breeding some decent young from the pair. Then I inbred with two of the young ones, also both golds. The result was the feathers on the young birds bred from the inbred pair, instead of lying close to the body grew the wrong way about. They turned up over the back just like those on a Frizzle fowl, which convinced me that you can go too far in that direction."
In classes 16 to 20 the original cinna-mon displays similar variations to those in previous classes. Class 21 is specially interesting to us, as the only white Canary* ever seen by British fanciers was exhibited, gaining 1st prize, at the Crystal Palace shows of 1909 and 1910, and is undoubtedly of cinnamon descent.
In classes 22 to 26 we have the start of our present-day variegated varieties.
Class 27 is interesting, as indicating what I call a cinnamon-green variegation, for these birds, the produce of a cinnamon cock with a dark-eyed hen, are all males, and undoubtedly show more pinkness of the eye than other green-variegated birds. They also fre-quently show a tendency to the dark green, almost black, London Fancy markings.
In class 28 we have the start of the London Fancy now almost extinct (1907) and its occur-rence immediately after class 27 may be of some assistance in re-establishing this beautiful variety.
In class 29 we have the appearance of a rich orange-yellow bird. The special quality of rich colour which characterises the Norwich Canary probably has its origin here.
Class 30, mentioned by Buffon as being in Hervieux's list, (whether it is really there or not), shows that Crested canary was known about 1750.
In our cinnamon-muling experiments we have shown that 'position' is correlated with cinnamon mutation and frills. In this manner our 'birds of position': Lancashire, Yorkshire, Dutch Frill, Belgian, etc. have arisen.
We have thus been able to trace the origin of all our present-day varieties, the subsequent perfecting of the different classes being due to the careful selection and skilful breeding of many generations of fanciers.
It only remains for some enterprising breeder to pursue the experiments farther to develop new canary varieties, as has been done in pigeons e.g., Fantail, Trumpeter, Black, Tumbler,* Silkie, and many others.
In the English (1718) translation of Hervieux the term " duvet" is taken to mean "rough-footed," and "Panaché " and Race de Panaché are both translated "copple-crowned." The one interpreta-tion is as non-sensical as the other, and quite as bad as that of the writer already mentioned who describes " Isabelle" as pink. But the reference to copple--crowns is interesting, as probably indicating the existence of a crested Canary in England before 1718. One feels, however, that in the case of this translator one has to deal with a poultry or pigeon fancier, and not a Canary fancier.
I may mention that Temminek, in his Histoire Naturelle Generale des Gallinace's, describes the Silk Fowl under the name of the 'Coq a' Duvet', and gives it the scien-tific title of Gallus Lanatus (Tegetmeier's "Poultry Book," 1867). Also, in support of my interpretation of Panaché let me quote the following:-
Description des Couleurs d'un Canari Panaché, observé avec M. de Montbeil-lard." [from Buffon's Nat. History of Birds - London 1793]:
"The shades and arrangement of the colours of the variegated Canaries differ exceedingly ; some are black on the head, others not; some are spotted irre-gularly, and others with great regularity. The differences of colour are commonly perceived only on the upper part of the bird ; they consist of two large black spots on each wing' the one before and the other behind, in a large crescent of the same colour placed on the back, pointing its concavity towards the head, and joining by its horns to the two anterior black spots of the wings. Lastly, the tail is sur-rounded behind by a half-collar of grey, which seems to be a compound colour resulting from the intimate mixture of black and yellow."
Buffon's "Natural History of Birds." London, 1793.
At this stage also, let me refer shortly to another old book on song-birds that agrees in every detail with my interpretation of Her-vieux's list of varieties of the Canary, and also adds some additional in-formation. The title is :
" A Natural History of English Song-Birds and Such of the Foreign as are usually Brought Over, and Esteem'd for their Singing, " By Mr. Eleazer Albin. London, 1759 (3rd Edit.).
Albin's knowledge of the song-birds he mentions, and their proper treatment in confinement, is so complete and excellent (e.g., his treatment of the Goldfinch with regard to hemp-seed) that this little book would still serve as an up-to-date guide at the present day. On this account I attach much im-portance to his "List of Varieties of the Canary" given below:
ALBIN'S LIST OF CANARIES (1759) 1. "Bright lovely yellow with jet-black spots" [This undoubtedly describes the London Fancy Canary, which, like the Lizard (the "agate" of Hervieux), we believe to be derived from the Cinnamon, and which is now almost extinct. (1909)
2. "The mealy-bird, so named from the mealy kind of colour which seems to cover his feathers." This is the buff bird of the present day.
3. " Mottled birds their chief colour is white mottled with black or brownish spots." These are our green-variegated and cinnamon-variegated varieties.
4. " All yellow." Our clear yellow.
5. " All white." Our clear white
6. " Grey" This is the original grey, the Serin Gris of Hervieux, which is closely allied to the cinnamon Canary.
7. Other varieties not named.
"The Epitome of the Art of Husbandry." London, 1675. By Joseph Blagrove, Gent.-
At this date in England Canaries were green, and variegation had evidently not yet appeared, for the author, Joseph Blagrove, who is par-ticularly well informed with regard to singing birds, says (p. 107):
"Many Country-People cannot distinguish a Canary from our common Green Birds, etc."
The above reference would seem to indicate that, in spite of a probable early importation of the Canary into England, little progress had been made in its domes-tication, and it also lends colour to the legend that the initial varieties (including even the London Fancy) were introduced by immigrant Huguenots (see Hervieux's list of varieties).