DTI001 20_12_17 

Bengalese Finches
British Birds
Game Birds
Love Birds
Raptors and Owls

Crests in profile

WALLACE DEAN explains how canaries became crested

Beatle-bird: a Gloster corona buff shows a classic cap-like, not tufted, crest

One of the early mutations of the canary was to create an alternative to the feathering on the head, which we know today as the crest.

Reference to this is made in various books from the 16th and 17th centuries. But whether it occurred in captivity or wild stock is not known – either could be true, as is the case with the cinnamon mutation.


Canary keeping in the 1860s

Ever wondered about the origins of birdkeeping? Here, Rosemary Low enjoys the work of the Rev. Francis Smith, who wrote about keeping and breeding canaries in the 19th century

The Canary: frontispiece and title page from Mr Smith’s book

In almost every house, in almost every back street in Manchester, when the cottage doors were open, you could see canary breeding cages hanging on the walls and “hear their occupants enlivening the gloomy desolation around”. So stated the Rev. Francis Smith in 1868. He wrote a classic book called The Canary, its varieties, management and breeding.

His vocation took him to some of the poorest homes. Visiting a recently bereaved woman he noticed a canary in what had once been a very handsome cage. He asked how she could afford to keep it when she could barely feed herself. “Ah! Sir, that bird was my poor husband’s – and I keep it for his sake,” she replied.


A lifelong passion

BERNARD PALMER got into birdkeeping just as World War II was ending. Now his birds are widely sought after. Here he shares his love for Irish canaries and tells Ron Toft why his birds have kept him going through tough times

Bernard Palmer

AS A schoolboy, Leeds-born Bernard Palmer was always interested in birds – wild as well as captive-bred ones.

By the time he was 15 and living in Weymouth with his parents, Bernard was an avid reader of Cage & Aviary Birds. Bernard says: “In those days, it resembled a tiny book. It had a big green square at the top and cost threepence – a big chunk of my pocket money.”

In 1945, as the war drew to a close, Bernard became determined to acquire some cage birds.

Bernard explains: “I knew canaries and budgerigars (my father had kept these before the war) were right out of the frame. They cost a fortune and were very rare at the time. You could, however, get British birds and these were advertised every week in Cage & Aviary Birds, so I decided to save up for some. My parents agreed I could keep birds as long as I looked after them myself.”


(Yorkshire Fancy) Trimming and preparation for breeding

Preparation is the key to successful breeding. For canary varieties carrying longer feather, breeding preparation includes trimming the plumage to aid mating.

With Borders as with Yorkies, always assess each bird’s condition

Even smaller breeds of canary, such as Glosters, can carry excess feathering, and certainly the larger varieties such as Borders, Yorkshires, Norwich and Lancashire canaries will all benefit from a trip to the barbers.

When I remove my birds from their flight cages at the end of February, I handle each one, assessing it individually. I check for good bodyweight, and a nicely plump belly, particularly with the hens. Handling each bird is the only way to assess this, which is a very good guide to condition. Those that are in a satisfactory condition receive a quick bikini trim, cutting away excess feathering above and along the sides of the vent.

Removing excess feathering enables the birds to mate more easily, but always be sure to avoid trimming the circle of guide feathers that encircle the vent, as these are used by the birds as an aid to mating. While each bird is being handled, it is a simple matter to trim overgrown toenails and occasionally beaks, and apply additional anti-mite powder.


(Yorkshire Fancy) Serving an apprenticeship

BRIAN KEENAN suggests that new fanciers should kick start the year by embarking on a canary apprenticeship

The great Edwin Henshall,  who originally introduced Brian to Yorkshire canaries

ONE of the great pleasures I have enjoyed over the years is visiting other fanciers, with no ulterior purpose in mind, other than good company and a bit of a chinwag. As a boy, I would often call in on my way home from school to visit a local Norwich canary breeder, who had a whole host of birdkeeping information, which he would willingly share with me. I still remember some of those early lessons today, about weaning chicks, how to prepare your own softfood, natural seeds and grasses to look out for, and so forth.

In my early teens, I remember regularly visiting Edwin Henshall, who started me off with Yorkshire canaries when I was an eight-year-old boy, and helping him dig out the footings for his new birdroom in Bollington. That room was dug into a hillside, and Edwin had strict planning rules to abide to, which meant we were tunnelling down! Of course, we also spent quite a lot of time in his temporary birdroom, and I have no doubt we could have completed the job in a quarter of the time, had we not spent time looking and discussing birds.


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