Part 1: a learning process

“Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn”  (Benjamin Franklin).

Let’s start with what makes the Lizard canary unique.  The Lizard is not a song canary, a colour canary, or a type (posture) canary.  It is a bird of pattern.  The Lizard is judged on the ornamental design of its plumage: a symmetrical arrangement of light and dark feathers set against a deep, rich background.  The best specimens display this pattern with startling precision.

We need to understand what the ideal pattern should look like.  Take a look at my drawing of the ideal Lizard.  It shows you the main features of the Lizard canary, how these features relate to one another, and how they form a complete and balanced composition.  Loose just one feather, or push it out of line with the others, or make it too fine or too coarse, and the precision of the design will be disturbed.

While Lizard Canary Basics is aimed at beginners and others who are curious, many readers will be active Lizard canary breeders who probably feel that they know all this.  In my experience you can never stop learning about the Lizard canary, and hopefully you will learn something from this blog, so let’s put that to the test.

Here’s a quiz.  There are no prizes, but everyone who learns something is a winner.

1.  The Lizard canary is sexually dimorphic, and there are significant differences between the appearance of a gold cock, a silver cock, a gold hen and a silver hen, yet the description of the ideal Lizard canary is based on only one of these.  Which one?

2.  You probably know that spangles are the most important show feature of the Lizard canary, but which feature is the second most important?

3.  Which show feature, regarded as important in most other breeds, is allocated no points at all?

4.  The COM show standard and LCA standard differed in one respect until last year.  What was it?

5.  The Yorkshire canary was known as the guardsman of the fancy; the Norwich as the John Bull; but what was the nickname for the Lizard canary in the early years of the twentieth century?

6.  What is the connection between a Lizard canary and macaroni?

7.  What are the chevron-shaped markings under the root of the tail called?

8.  Which defect is officially described as ‘a serious fault’?

9.  Spangles and lacings look rather similar, but what is the fundamental difference between them?

10.  How many chains of spangles does the Lizard possess?

Here’s a pictorial clue to one of the questions.  The answers can be found below.

Macaroni- Brown




1.  The gold cock Lizard canary.  Source: the LCA handbook.

2.  Feather quality; 15 points in the show scale.

3.  Size.

4.  Length (12.5cm in the COM standard; 13.5cm in the LCA standard).  The LCA standard has now been accepted by COM.

5.  The Lord Mayor.  Not, as you might think, an allusion to his ornate robes, but because he is in his pomp for only one year. 

6.  Macaroni is an old Scottish name for the Lizard canary.  It was coined in the 1770s and referred to a young man who had returned from the Grand Tour of Europe, affected foreign mannerisms, and dressed in ornate fashion.  ‘Macaroni’ became a term of derision meaning a fop, a dandy, or anyone who put on an ostentatious display.  Hence the well known rhyme from the American War of Independence:

Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony
Stuck a feather in his hat
And called it macaroni.

7.  These markings have no official name. 

8.  A run-cap (i.e. a cap that extends too far down the neck).  Source: the LCA handbook.

9.  The spangles spring from feather tracts along the spine.  The lacings spring from feather tracts located where the wings meet the body.  More about this in a future post.

10.  There are nine chains of spangles.  More about this in a future post.