Last Saturday in October: the Lizarddag, Holland; first Saturday in November: the Bologna show, Italy. An opportunity to compare the birds at two of the hottest Lizard canary shows within one week. Lucky me.
Readers may remember the glowing report of the 2016 edition of the Bologna show by Joe Coakley. He ‘left Bologna in awe of the Italian Lizard Canary’. With the next World Show being held in Cesena, where the Italian birds will be out in force, the 2017 Bologna show offered a preview of what the home team might look like.
The Bologna show is unique in Italy. It caters for posture (type) canaries; judging is based on the comparison method, or at least a variation of it (1); and several judges are invited from Great Britain, Ireland and Belgium. One of the reasons for the success of the show is that it gives Italian breeders a rare opportunity to have their birds assessed by a specialist judge (2). A total of 3,500 birds were entered at this year’s event.
There were 185 Lizard canaries on show. They came from all parts of Italy, and most of the leading breeders were present. I had the best natural lighting available in the hall; I was surrounded by eager and competent stewards; and no shortage of good birds to assess. In short, perfect conditions for judging. So what did I find?
Let me start with the major awards. Fabio Macchioni took the lion’s share, winning Best Lizard, Best Gold, Best Opposite Sex, and Best Stam. Best and Second Best Silver went to Antonio Petraroli. The headlines do not convey the full story however; several other breeders were in the mix. Alessandro Gaiazzi won three classes; Furio Coppello won two, plus Best Gold Stam; Pietro Botrugno and Maurizio Trevisan were also winners, while Gianmarco Orazi and Fernando Fermi were in the top two. In other words, this was not a two-horse race; there were several breeders in contention.
As so often happens, the top awards were decided on how the birds performed during the final stages of the judging process. Spare a thought for the birds here: many had been waiting for several hours since they had won their class; some that had been in top condition had begun to fade. The best show birds possess stamina as well as quality.
Three birds stood out: a broken cap gold hen from Fabio Macchioni and two silver hens from Antonio Petraroli. All three exhibited good colour, excellent spangles and profuse rowings displayed on a broad frame so that they could be seen to their best advantage. There are times when the best bird is clearly superior to the others, but this was not one of those occasions. Each one of them was good enough to win; but when it came to those final moments, it was the gold hen that caught my eye.
With the benefit of hindsight I can say that a fourth bird could have joined that elite group, but it failed thanks to a perennial Italian problem: the lack of show training. I had to mark several exhibits as ‘wild’ because they were in a state of agitation and incapable of being judged (3). Inevitably, the birds calmed down during the show, and by Sunday morning one of them was good enough to have been in contention for Best Opposite Sex. Italian breeders please note.
For all his praise of the 2016 event, Joe listed a number of shortcomings he saw in the Lizards in his show report (4). Those same faults were still present in 2017, and one of them is likely to undermine the chances of the Italian birds at the 2018 World Show: the darkness of the legs.
You might think that Italy, with its copious amounts of sunshine, would be the last nation to suffer from such a problem. Not so (5). The darkness of most birds fell short of what is expected of a medal winner at the World Show. Only Antonio Petraroli’s birds were truly dark (6), most of the others were well below international standards. What should a judge do?
I took the view that I was judging Italian Lizards in Italy and that I would judge the birds on Italian terms, much as I would if I was judging colour-fed Lizards in Great Britain. Yes, a compromise, but a stricter policy would have reduced the competition to very few birds.
Those parameters will not apply at the World Show however, and it is unlikely that the judges will be so lenient. The vast majority of Lizards at the World Show will have dark legs, and the judges will have plenty of good birds to choose from. The Italian birds have many fine qualities, but their light legs will place them at a disadvantage.
Finally a word about one of the unsung heroes of the Bologna show. Antonio Petraroli is best known for his high quality Lizards; few people realise how much work he puts into the show (7). He takes a week’s holiday to organise and work at the event. He is one of the first to arrive at the show hall in the morning and one of the last to leave at night, but he always has a smile on his face and always finds time to help people like me.
Best in Show? Antonio Petraroli without a doubt.
- The major exceptions are the frilled varieties, which are assessed by Italian judges using a hybrid combination of the points and comparison systems.
- This is contrary to OMJ policy which decrees that all posture canary judges are experts in all varieties of posture canaries at all COM shows. The growing popularity in Europe of specialist shows with specialist judges indicates that many breeders think otherwise.
- One exhibitor admitted that some of his birds had been in his aviary until the day before the show. I doubt that he was alone
- The faults included “slightly long caps; a patch in the neck; some silvers and golds light in ground colour; and the some golds with a light collar round the back of the neck and over the shoulders, which stops the spangle from running true; a bit of a ‘quiff’ in the throat; a line in the chest”.
- I have been given several reasons why Italian breeders struggle to get the legs of their birds dark: high temperatures (40˚+); problems with mosquitos; lack of access to the sun (e.g. basement birdroom).
- Antonio does not exhibit at the World Show. That’s a pity because his birds are well qualified to compete at that level.
- Antonio is also responsible for the promotion of the show. British readers may remember an article he wrote about the show for Cage & Aviary Birds in May this year..