Lizard canary basics, part 13: in fine form

My guest contributor this week is Ernest Gracia, an OMJ judge living in Gibraltar, and presently a co-opted member of the IOA committee, as its representative in Gibraltar.  Ernest is not a Lizard canary breeder, but he takes a special interest in the breed and is regularly invited to judge at the two Spanish Lizard Canary specialist club shows.

In 2016 he was asked by the Spanish Technical Commission for Posture Canaries to write an article about his understanding of the ‘form’ of the Lizard canary, given that the standard for the breed makes no reference to this concept.  Instead of providing his own interpretation, Ernest opted to quote from true experts of the breed who had expressed their point of view in this regard.  The original document is in Spanish, but is translated into English here because it is an excellent summary of the traditional view of the ‘form’ of the Lizard canary:

Broken cap gold hen Lizard canary of medium size

In his description of the Lizard canary in 1878 (1), W.H. Blakston wrote that ‘In shape and general confirmation it … belongs to the chubby school, and in no way claiming to have any connection with Shape or Position birds’.   The head ‘must also have good width of skull, in order that it may show to greatest advantage … the cap’.

John Scott, one of the founding members of the Lizard Canary Association in 1945, breeder of a continuous line of Lizard canaries from 1937, and President of the Association from 1988 to his death in 2012, described the shape of the Canary Lizard thus:

“Lizards are not judged on their shape, but common sense dictates that if the spangling and rowings are to be seen to advantage, they need a bird of cobby appearance, with deep rounded breast and width between the shoulders. The skull should also be broad and nicely rounded to set off the cap.” (2)

Terry Dodwell, a former President of the Lizard Canary Association and author of several books on canary culture, refers to the shape of the Lizard canary as follows (3):

“So far, no mention has been made of ‘type’ in the Lizard canary and, indeed, no points are allocated for it in the Scale of Points of the Lizard Canary Association. There is, however, an ‘unwritten’ type that is recognised and adhered to by breeders – a type which is dictated by the need of showing off the show points to their best advantage. It will be appreciated, for instance, that the spangling would not be well displayed on a  long, slim-bodied, narrow-backed bird.  Neither would the cap look at its best on  a small head nor one which has a flat or narrow skull.  Similarly a pinched waist or narrow chest would be quite unsuitable for carrying the rowings.

Of course, Lizards possessing these faults in type do exist but they are almost invariably passed over by breeder and judge alike in favour of a more ‘cobby’ type of bird, broad of back, full in breast and bold in head,  and yet without giving the appearance of being over-stout. “

In the standard of the Ornithological Federation of Italy (FOI), you can read the following note (4):

“NB: No mention is made of body shape or size [with reference to the scoring scale of the country of origin – England – as like the Italian scale itself] in the Lizard score scale. However, it must be borne in mind that a good Lizard must possess fullness and roundness of form, with rounded head so that the cap is presented in its right proportion, and the body and back must be wide to ‘host’ in the best way the scales [of the dorsal design and chest].  Also the chest must be broad enough and rounded. “

Lastly, as regards size, the meeting of the COM-OMJ, section E (posture canaries) held in June 2014, COM-UK (at the request of the Lizard Canary Association), recalled that this had already been established at 13.5 cm (5), but had not yet been amended in the COM standard. The relevant note is recorded in the minutes.

Ernest Gracia

Clear cap gold hen Lizard canary – a large bird

Additional notes by Huw Evans:

There are no points for ‘type’ in the Scale of Points currently adopted by both the LCA and COM.  The LCA’s Description of the Ideal simply says that the Lizard canary should be ‘neither over-stout nor too slim’, while the ‘breast should be round and fairly full without giving any appearance of stoutness’.

There is a good reason for this: ‘type’ in canaries goes much further than their size and shape.  It also includes features such as the overall proportions of the bird, the shape of the skull, the freedom (or not) of the neck, the rise (or not) of the back, the draw of the tail, the length of the legs, the stance of the bird etc.  Judging a Lizard according to these criteria would simply detract from the essential characteristics of the breed: the Lizard canary is a bird of pattern, not of ‘type’.

Notes on the illustrations:

The broken cap gold hen at the head of the article is a very cobby bird, the sort of shape that appeals to many breeders, but her breast undoubtedly gives the ‘appearance of stoutness’. Many judges, especially on the continent, would penalise her for this.

The other two gold hens are sisters. It is difficult to compare their size from photographs, but the clear cap is much larger; an imposing bird.  The broken cap has the better spangles and rowings, but it was the clear cap that did better at shows and attracted the attention of other breeders.  It just goes to show that, rightly or wrongly, “a good big ‘un will always beat a good little ‘un”.


  1. Canaries and Cage Birds by W.A. Blakston et al, (1878-81) p.155 & 156.
  2. The Lizard Canary Association website, reproduced from an article in Cage & Aviary Birds (undated).
  3. The Lizard canary and other rare breeds by Terry Dodwell (1982) p.28.
  4. Criteri di giudizio dei canarini di forma e posizione lisci, by FOI (2001) p.18.
  5. Les Nouvelles (No 12) by COM (second half of 2012), p.28.


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