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Warwick update

The originator of the Warwick canary, MICK WATTON, fills us in on the variety’s development

A lovely lime henA lovely lime hen

Since the previous two items on the Warwick canary appeared in Cage & Aviary Birds (News, October 15, 2009 and Warwick Avenue, January 21, 2010), I’ve received many letters asking for more in-depth detail, especially regarding the pictorial model and the scale of show points.

That had to wait until the committee of our mother club, the Canary Council of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, had scrutinised my draft proposals and given its seal of approval. The pictorial ideal and scale of points have now been accepted.

What next?

Currently some local canary fanciers are prepared to take the initial steps by selecting the smallest examples of clear yellow and buff Fife canaries and creating their own stud, as part of the “long-term jigsaw”.

This scenario will not all be plain sailing, in at least two respects. First, there is a dearth of small, egg-shaped-bodied, clear-bred Fifes.

Second, though the purchased stock are clears, it is a fair assumption that many of the siblings will be ticked-marked or lightly variegated.

The selection of the Fife stock is all-important – you need stock with rounded backs as foundation stock.

Purchasing Fifes with flat backs is a retrograde step. When later on you consider introducing yellow ivory colour canaries and Gloster coronas, there will be a momentary loss of body roundness in the majority of these first and second cross stock.

Finding a grizzle

For any hope of attaining a new model in livestock breeding, especially with three genetic factors playing a major force, Lady Luck needs to be on your side if you’re to achieve your goal sooner rather than later. Ideally, your choice of Gloster corona would be a yellow grizzle or a buff grizzle. Again, these two Cinderellas are rare on the show bench – in fact, I would guess that the vast majority of present-day Gloster exhibitors have never seen a yellow grizzle exhibit.

However, there are still some diehard grizzle enthusiasts (albeit in buff feathered examples) still ploughing a lone furrow in keeping this colour form viable.

I’m told that there are now a few Dutch imports gracing the British show bench, so the future is looking brighter than ever here in Britain. (Whether there is any adventurous newcomer in the Gloster fold who might specialise in yellow, buff or white grizzles is open to conjecture. But now that some forward-looking specialist Gloster clubs are allocating some clear and lightly variegated classes, will this be the revival of the original beauty of the dark corona clear-bodied?)

The introduction of the yellow ivory form alters the structure of the feathering to give a visual difference in colour. When this colour hit these shores from Dutch experimentalist colour breeders 50 years ago, many were the cream colour of piano keys, hence the name ivory.

Since those far-off days, British-based colour-breeders have transformed these original insipid ivories into glowing pinks of various shades, depending on gender and feather type. They were nicknamed “rose pastels”, though later the European term “red ivories” took over.

A similar process occurred with the yellow ground series, resulting in warm shades of yellow. This colour form is sex-linked in nature, as most other colour forms of canaries are.

On the other hand, the grizzle corona is recessive in nature, which means such birds can appear in broods of nest-mates which are dark-feathered, as are the parents – illustrating to the owner that both parents are carrying this grizzle colour in hidden form.

A lemon henA lemon hen

Three colour forms

Lady Luck again deals the cards when it comes to the Warwick canary, which can sport three colour forms of crest – clear, grizzle and dark – with the essentially clear plumage on the body. Because of the hereditary problem of melanin marks being a major player in preventing breeds of canaries (for example that old variety the Lancashire) from producing automatically clear-bodied offspring, the pioneers concentrated on clear coppies, thus cutting down on their chances of producing marked offspring.

This constant battle has always been uppermost in the minds of these pioneers and for this very reason they shunned, wherever possible, coppies with greyish or grizzled.

Later on, when the Lancashire faded from the show bench in the early 1950s a few dedicated fanciers turned to the clear Yorkshire canary as the saviour of the breed, which thankfully they succeeded – though with one negative result.

These Lancashire/Yorkshire crosses bred examples of marked offspring. Even today, in the few studs of Lancashires here in the UK, occasional tick-marked chicks are bred.

This will also be a major obstacle with enthusiasts of Warwick canaries in their project of building up the exhibition standards of the breed. If, for instance, in the fullness of time you had to select best Warwick from a clear crested, grizzle crested or a dark crested exhibit and these three exhibits were of equal show excellence, you have to deem the dark crested as best exhibit. That’s because, as I said earlier, it’s harder to achieve a dark crested exhibit with no marks on the rest of the plumage, than a grizzle or (less so) a clear crest.

However, if eventually you were to be in the favourable position to specialise in dark crest exhibits, you must be prepared to breed variegated stock.

A lemon cock, such as this one, should be paired only with other lemons or limesA lemon cock, such as this one, should be paired only with other lemons or limes

Feather types

With the Warwick, we have three choices of feather type: lime (in type canaries this is called yellow), its buff counterpart lemon, and lastly limo, which in colour canaries is termed mosaic. As in most breeds of canary, Warwicks should be paired lime to lemon (or vice versa), and limos should only be paired together.

Because the yellow ivory feather is compacted in structure, it’s impossible to produce the same abundance of crest feathers in their larger cousins the Gloster corona and crested canaries. Whereas these two breeds have a higher percentage of show points for corona and crests respectively, this won’t be the case with the Warwick canary. Instead, the aim will be a miniature canary of charm, daintiness and – most important of all – feather compromise.

So, with this potted history of canaries sporting crests, newcomers are now more aware that as new models are slowly developed, their hereditary factors will always follow the same predictable pattern.

Whether the Warwick will be popular and join old and new models depends on the determination of enthusiasts, because they will certainly take more steps backward than forward along the way.

In a future article, I will finish describing the scale of points and the pictorial ideal. However, I’ve described in some detail the correct bricks needed to construct the finished model.

Why Warwick?

I received a letter from a very knowledgeable Gloster canary exhibitor asking for details about the Warwick and asking why the word Warwick has been chosen. As I reside on the outskirts of Birmingham, which is now part of the giant urban conurbation called the West Midlands, Warwickshire has diminished in area, and coupled with the fact that the corona from the Gloster canary was borrowed to build up the jigsaw, I thought the name Warwick would be apt.


Colour canary breeder Mick Watton has recently developed a fully accredited new variety – the Warwick.

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