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