Cassino, Part 1: the Associazione Ornitologica Albatros

The last World Show I attended was at Matosinhos, Portugal in January 2020.  I was there to give the second presentation on the London Fancy in our quest for the breed to be recognised by COM.   One of the OMJ assessors came up to me after the presentation and asked if I would like to give a presentation on the London Fancy at an event he was organising in Italy.  Naturally I said yes, and he gave me his card.  His name was Riccardo Rigato (1) and I duly received an invitation from the Associazione Ornitologica Albatros based in Cassino.  I got in touch with Angelo Citro who lives in Battipaglia about 100 miles south of Cassino and asked if he would like to get involved.  Of course he said “si”.

The event was due to be held in March 2020, and we all know what happened next.  

Two years later Riccardo got in touch again.  The event was back on.  With the benefit of hindsight, the delay was a blessing in disguise because I had learned a lot about ‘progressive greying’ (the term used by biologists for what I had termed the ‘fugitive black’ gene) over those three years (2).  Furthermore, Angelo had been breeding the London Fancy with good results (two of his birds were on display), so he also gave a presentation on his practical experience of the breed (3). 

Presentation on the London Fancy canary in Cassino
Angelo Citro presents his experience of breeding London Fancy canaries

It was a prestigious event.  Riccardo had invited Carlos Ramoa (President of COM), Diego Crovace (head of OMJ) and Antonio Sposito (President of FOI), and all had accepted. There can be no doubt that their support has played a big part in the recognition of the London Fancy by COM (4).  Just as important for the development of the breed, there were about 50 breeders in attendance who asked pertinent questions and offered passionate opinions, as you might expect of the Italians.  Several “complimenti” too. You just know that if the Italian breeders take on the challenge, the quality of the London Fancy will improve immensely (5).

Presentation on the London Fancy canary in Cassino
Carlos Ramoa speaking at the Associazione Ornitologica Albatros conference
Presentation on the London Fancy canary in Cassino
Riccardo Rigato joins the discussion after the presentation

The Associazione Ornitologica Albatros is the creation of Riccardo Rigato.  Its purpose is to advance aviculture by bringing bird breeders together over a weekend to learn about birds and aviculture, and to obtain stock.  There is a conference with guest speakers on the Saturday evening, followed by a social dinner.  A bird sale is held on the Sunday morning, with the proceeds helping to defray the costs of the conference.  It is a successful formula and attracts people from many parts of Italy.  

Bird Market at the Albatros weekend in Cassino
The bird market on Sunday

The sale is held in a building at a transport depot because the owner is a friend of Riccardo’s and lets him have use of the building for the day.  This became a recurring theme; Riccardo is very well connected and seems to have no difficulty in getting support for his enterprise, but it is very demanding of his time and attention.  There was an amazing array of birds available, including two favourites of mine, shamas and red-fronted siskins, that we almost never see in the UK.  The display stands were smart and clean, the birds looked in excellent condition, and many traders brought their own lighting so that potential buyers could assess them thoroughly.

The bird market at the Albatross weekend in Cassino
A well-lit display of birds available at the market

Despite his busy schedule, Riccardo took the time to show us Cassino.  It was an emotional experience.  All I knew about Cassino up until then was from documentaries and old newsreels of the battle of Monte Cassino in the Second World War.  Allied bombing had reduced the town, and the Benedictine monastery that overlooks it, to rubble.  Commander Mark Clark of the Fifth Army described it as “the most gruelling, the most harrowing, and in one aspect the most tragic, of any phase of the war in Italy”. 

Monte Cassino
The restored monastery stands high above the town of Cassino

The monastery was rebuilt after the war, and it is magnificent, but it is the two military cemeteries that provided the starkest reminder of all the death and destruction.  Thousands of neatly arranged gravestones of Polish troops in one cemetery and of British and Commonwealth soldiers in the other testified to the devastating loss of life.  “All boys” sighed Riccardo.  Tears filled my eyes.  

Just click on any image in the gallery to see it at a larger size.


  1. Riccardo is a vet by profession and is the OMJ representative for European birds and hybrids, as well as the organiser of the Albatros weekend.
  2. My thanks go to Hein van Grouw for sharing his knowledge of progressive greying in birds.  Also to breeders Andy Early, Marko Dielen and Angelo himself for their observations on breeding the London Fancy canary.
  3. Angelo also translated the presentation from English into Italian, and acted as our guide over the weekend.
  4. The London Fancy canary was recognised by COM at the Gouden Ring show in December 2022.  You can read the report here.
  5. There was similar interest from Spanish breeders when I gave an updated presentation at the Amigos del Canario Lizard show in October. 

6 thoughts on “Cassino, Part 1: the Associazione Ornitologica Albatros

  1. A detailed and passionate account as usual. Where can I learn more about ‘progressive greying in birds’?

    1. I am told that Hein van Grouw has written two articles on progressive greying for Cage & Aviary Birds. The first part will appear in next week’s issue.

  2. Thanks for sharing this important meeting in Italy that led to the recognition of the london fancy canary as well as the discovery of Monte Cassino.
    Just sorry to learn the demise of Bernard Howlett RIP Mr. Howlett the first person who acted in the revival of the london fancy canary by creating the London Fancy Canary Club.

  3. Interesting article Huw

    Great work from you all in getting Com Approval, exceptional work from the breeders creating the LF, not many believed this to be possible

    Well done to you all


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