Sweet Bird of Youth: the sequel

I finished Lizard canary basics, part 9: Sweet Bird of Youth by asking if any of the eight juveniles I had photographed were going to be stars of the future.  Would we see their names in bright lights?  In the best Hollywood tradition, the article left the leading characters facing an uncertain future; to find out what happened to them we have to watch the sequel.

The sequel is the story of the moult: the transformation of the sweet birds of youth into spangled adults; ugly ducklings become elegant swans.  Or so we hope.

I stress ‘hope’ because the outcome cannot be predicted with certainty.  Even distinguishing between males and females, golds and silvers, can be tricky.  Many a promising youngster encounters a mishap, or simply isn’t good enough; you need luck as well as talent to reach the top.

For better or for worse, let’s follow their story and see how the class of 2015 turned out:

2015 juv 1 BCGC-fss

Juvenile No 1.  A surprise result.  I was confident this bird was a silver male thanks to the combination of bright colour with those dark breast and belly markings, but he moulted out as a gold.  Nevertheless, a good bird to breed with, as he will be carrying the genes for good rowings.

Show record: shown locally.   Disqualified each time.

2015 juv 2a BCGH-fss

Juvenile No 2.  A broken cap gold hen.  A good one too, marred by a white tip on a plucked feather.

Show record: only shown once.   Disqualified.

2015 juv 3 CCSH-fss

Juvenile 3.  A silver female.  My favourite bird of 2015.  Missed most of the show season due to an injury to her foot.

Show record: only shown once.   Disqualified.

2015 juv 4 BCSC-fss

Juvenile No 4.  Another that I got wrong.  I was expecting a silver female, but it turned out to be a male.  Outstanding rowings.

Show record: shown locally.   Disqualified each time.

2015 juv 5 BCSH-fss

Juvenile No 5.  A silver hen.  Similar in appearance as a juvenile and as an adult to No 4.  You may recognise them; they were the trick combination in Sexual dimorphism in Lizard canaries: turning theory into practice.  That’s not a coincidence; they are cousins.

Show record: won a large class at the Lizarddag.  Also shown once locally; disqualified.

2015 juv 7 CCSH-fss

Juvenile No 6.  A silver hen.  Good, but not good enough.

Show record: not shown.

2015 juv 6 CCGH-fss

Juvenile No 7.  A gold hen.  A ‘nearly’ bird: lovely spangles, but disappointing rowings and legs.

Show record: shown once.   Disqualified.

2015 juv 8 NCSH-fss

Juvenile No 8.  A silver hen that lived up to my expectations until the World Show.

Show record: won a strong class at the Lizarddag, but was awarded only 89 points (i.e. mediocre) at the World Show.

If you go by their show results, you could easily assume that only two of these birds were any good, and even they failed on occasion.  Look a little deeper and you will find that show results don’t tell the full story.  The birds that were disqualified fell foul of the LCA’s colour feeding rule. I knew that would happen when I entered them, but I like to support my local shows and the people who run them.  Of the birds that competed at continental shows, the results varied with the experience of the judges.  Again, I was aware of that likelihood when I entered my birds, but I like to compete against the best.

Despite these set backs, I recommend that every breeder should exhibit their birds at competitive bird shows because they are the best places to learn about Lizard canaries and what it takes to succeed with them.  Don’t rely solely on the judge’s opinion but compare your birds against the others and come to a reasoned judgement of your own.  If your birds are not top of their class, identify their shortcomings and plan how to overcome them.  Be prepared for disappointments and get over them.  Also look for positives, perhaps steady improvement, or a feature in which your birds excel.  Above all, look, listen and learn.  I’m still learning.

We are at the beginning of another breeding season and another generation of the sweet birds of youth.  It is a tale that is retold every year, but the ending is never predictable.  Perhaps this is the year when your birds will be the stars of the show.

6 thoughts on “Sweet Bird of Youth: the sequel

  1. Huw,

    On the Non Cap Silver hen some Judges/breeders would say the coverts have white tips to the fringe end of the feather on all, what is your opinion of their opinion which was discussed @ the World Show, this is also more apparent on Juvenile No 5 and could /is a mis- interpretation of silver fringe at the end of the feathers

    1. Lizard canaries moult their covert feathers. This is more obvious in silvers than in golds because the latter grow back with a golden fringe and don’t look like typical over-year feathers.

      As far as judging is concerned, the real question is not whether these are over-year feathers, but how neatly they have regrown. For example, I like the silver fringe of the coverts of bird 5 (broken cap silver hen); it is regular and compliments the pattern of light and dark. I don’t like the coverts of bird 2 (broken cap gold hen) as much because one feather is longer than the others and has a more pronounced light tip. It spoils the symmetry of the design. However, it is a tiny detail and would only come into play if you had to choose between two birds of equal merit.

  2. Not an easy one for a beginner. I am just about getting the hang of sexing the moulted birds and although I got 3 of the youngsters right (sex and colour) I think it was more by luck than good judgement.

    I was wondering about the disqualifications as some of the birds looked really good (well to me they did) but I hadn’t taken in to account the colour feeding requirement

  3. Huw,

    I fully appreciate the coverts moult on the Lizard, its how they regrow and retain their neatness and quality/uniformity that interests me and why some birds retain that light silver fringe where as others do not and why most golds retain their light gold fringe on the coverts.
    My observation and listening to discussion was the amount of white in the coverts@ the World show particularly in the golds and the high scores obtained when they had no uniformity/quality.
    I think it is a good point to make regarding the coverts so that would be Judges/Beginners understand the differing quality of the coverts

    On a colour fed bird the coverts do not always show this to the extreme due to the colour food masking

  4. Huw,

    Just an observation, why did bird 4 have excellent black toe nails (deep black) claws, feet but lost some of its depth following the moult


    1. The darkness does fade with time, but as far as bird 4 is concerned, I think the difference is mainly down to a) different lighting and b) different camera.


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