The Society:




  Join or renew

  Guest Book

  Hall of Fame

  Products For Sale

  Classifieds Ads

  Contact Us


The Avicultural Journal

  Journal Archives

  Exotic Bird Species

  Budgerigar Information

  Canary Information

  Parrot Information

  Finch Information

  General Information

  First Breeding Awards



  Affiliated Clubs

  Parrot Association of Canada

  Avian Preservation Foundatn


Showing Birds:

  Canadian Shows

  National Results

  Accredited Judges


Leg Bands:

  General Information

  Band Size Chart

  Trace a Band

  Band Prices

  Order Bands

  Current Ring Codes




    Copyright & Privacy Policies



Origin: The Canary Islands


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.

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 Lizard, Yorkshire, Norwich, and Frilled (which is also seen in many varieties). While some 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 bronze, vermillion, silver, and pink, including almost every hue except true blues and solid black.

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 should consist of 75% canary grass, 15% canola rapeseed, and 10% mixed specialty seeds such as flax, hemp, niger, and teazle. As much as 50% of the diet can consist of fresh foods, especially greens in the cole families mixed with grated carrot. 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 too much lettuce, except 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 birds, 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

The following article is taken from the book:

edited by John Robson and S.H. Lewer, London 1900


[* 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]

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" theory of origin I have traced to the following footnote to Buffon's description or the Canary

" 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."
(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)
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.

The Azores
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]

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.

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.

"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".

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'

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).

This site maintained by: The Avicultural Advancement Council of Canada,
E-mail: Webmaster
Copyright 1977 - 2012 © The Avicultural Advancement Council of Canada