Lizard canary basics, Part 10: tiny details, big impact

Let’s start with a riddle: What am I?

  • All canaries possess them, but I have never seen any writer on canaries mention them.
  • You will see them in photographs, but rarely in drawings.
  • They are an insignificant detail in every variety except one: the Lizard canary.

Answer: they there are two tufts of feathers either side of the upper mandible, the smallest feathers on any canary.  For the purposes of this article we will call them bristles, although they are actually special contour feathers.  They have some unusual characteristics:

  • They grow forwards.
  • They are the last feathers to revert from a clear to a dark colour.
  • Their correct colour is dictated by the type of cap.

In the Lizard canary their visual impact is much greater than their actual size:

CCSH 2015-(09)h head-fss

In clear caps, those few extra millimetres of light feathers destroy what might otherwise have been the perfect oval shape. They stand out against the horn colour of the upper mandible. You end up with an oval plus a protrusion at the front.

NCGH 2014-052d head-fss

In non caps, those two small tufts are often clear, they stand out against what would otherwise be a totally dark bird.  It is a miniscule fault, probably less than one-thousandth of the complete bird, but surprisingly common.

NCSC 2014-029b head-fss

You sometimes see a bird with dark bristles on one side and a light bristles on the other.

NCSH 2015-034h head-fssOthers are dark both sides but include a few clear bristles.  It can be very frustrating, but when you are looking for perfection, these things matter.

Only in the Lizard canary can such small feathers have such a big impact.

4 thoughts on “Lizard canary basics, Part 10: tiny details, big impact

  1. An interesting topic, I have personally spent many years studying the face of the Lizard, not only are these tuft of feather important but also look at why the Lizard has a yellow row of feathers on/below the lower eye lid in both Silver or Gold and study the Lizard mask.
    If you get the opportunity with an I -Phone or I-pad zoom in on the eye and mask of the Lizard, fabulous detail will be revealed in particular look at bird 4 from the top in the pictures, how can you not be mesmerised
    Is there any significance in the detail of the eye itself as in the Pigeon fraternity?

    1. I know that racing pigeon fanciers analyse the eye in detail, but as long as the eyes of a Lizard look bright and healthy, I’m happy.

  2. Only in the Lizard canary can such small feathers have such a big impact.
    I think that this small tuft of feathers matters also in mosaic/dimorfic birds. It is appreciated when they are coloured as it does not spoil the mask homogeneity.

  3. Such a genetically complex and beautiful bird – and some say that outcrossing doesn’t cause any problems…

    I can’t wait for the next part of the Lizard Canary Basics.


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