“Having paid my entrance fee I found myself in a very large and well lighted show hall and the sight that met my eyes was one to make my heart miss a beat – rows upon rows of the famous blue and black Lizard show cages!”
F.W. Snelling, The Lizard Canary Fancy, March 1956
I’ve used this quote before (1) but this time I want to look at those ‘famous blue and black Lizard show cages’ and, in particular, the blue of the interior. Why? Because that is the background against which Lizard canaries are seen.
For a society as fond of tradition as the LCA, you might assume that the colour adopted at the foundation of the Association in 1945 was the one we know as ‘Summer Blue’. You would be wrong on two counts. First, Summer Blue did not exist as a commercial paint colour at the time. Second, neither the design nor the colour of the standard Lizard show cage was as fixed as you might think.
The original colour was known, at least amongst Lizard fanciers, as ’Lizard Blue’. I doubt that was its trade name. Paint manufacturer invariably choose beguiling titles for their colour ranges, and I can’t imagine they would name a shade of blue after a reptile. I don’t know who made ‘Lizard Blue’ paint, but I believe I’ve seen it, or at least one version of it.
I remember Stan Insall showing me one of the show cages in his bird house (2). He told me it was very old and that he had repainted the interior with Summer Blue, but had kept a small patch of the original colour on the bottom of the cage. It was lighter than Summer Blue, with a hint of green (3). I wonder if it has survived?
’Lizard Blue’ seems to have suffered problems of colour consistency and availability, and in 1960 the LCA decided to change the colour. Its replacement was hailed as a paint that members ‘could buy off the shelf’. It wasn’t Summer Blue though. The new standard colour was known as ‘Luxol Nursery Blue’. I have been unable to find a colour sample but the name implies a shade of light blue.
The drawing of the standard show cage was updated by the simple expedient of crossing out ‘Lizard Blue’ and noting ‘Luxol Nursery Blue’ above it. If you ever need proof that life was simpler in those days, this is it.
Luxol was a brand introduced by the British Paint Company in 1957. The paint was promoted as a ‘one coat’ system (i.e. it did not require an undercoat). You can imagine how that might appeal to Lizard fanciers who felt obliged to repaint their show cages with the new colour.
Unfortunately the Luxol brand was short lived in Britain (4). Members complained at the 1968 AGM that Nursery Blue was unobtainable, which led the LCA to adopt Summer Blue for its show cages the following year (5). It is an excellent colour for Lizard canaries: the light blue with a slight turquoise tint makes colour-fed birds stand out, but remains sympathetic to natural coloured Lizards.
Summer Blue was a proprietary colour manufactured by Dulux (6), and remains the official colour for the interior of Lizard show cages even though the colour itself has been out of production for decades. The LCA website provides a reference code that can be used at commercial paint mixing services, but it may have changed as it wasn’t recognised when I searched for it on the Dulux website recently. However I did find Summer Blue in the Dulux Trade Archive with a different code.
It’s no wonder that Lizard fanciers have had difficulty finding Summer Blue, and helps to explain why they resort to alternatives when repainting their show cages.
Does it matter? I think it does. A standard colour is desirable for show cages; the uniformity looks better and avoids any suggestion of marked cages. It also prevents ‘colour creep’; a trend I’ve noticed where the blue has become deeper over the years, which doesn’t help a dark bird like the Lizard.
Fortunately Dulux has recalled Summer Blue from its archives and added it to its ‘Trade’ range. It still doesn’t appear in their colour charts, but it can be mixed to order at Dulux Decorator Centres in various paints including eggshell , which is the best finish for show cages (7). Just ask for ‘Trade Summer Blue’.
I don’t know how long Dulux will make Summer Blue available, so I hope members will take this opportunity of bringing their show cages back to the ‘period-correct’ colour. Those famous blue and black cages are part of our heritage and deserve to be conserved.
- I am well aware that the colours I have presented here will almost certainly look different on your screen, and that the actual paint colour will probably look different again. Please make allowances.
- Unfortunately for Lizard breeders outside the UK, no international paint code (e.g. RAL) for Summer Blue exists.
- Scott Archive: the Norwich Alliance show 1955. You can see it here .
- Stan’s bird house was a remarkable affair; it had been built around a tree which still stood in the centre.
- Of the colours you can see in the photo at the head of this article, the closest to ‘Lizard Blue’, as I remember it, is the cage overprinted with FSS, but perhaps lighter.
- British Paints was taken over by the Celanese Corporation of America in 1965, which sold the Luxol brand to Berger in 1969. Berger dropped Luxol from the British market, although the brand is still used in India. Source: Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History.
- Minutes of the LCA Council meeting 1969.
- The Dulux brand was founded in 1931. The paint was based on DuPont formulations, hence the name is derived from an amalgamation of ‘DuPont’ and ‘luxury’. Source ‘Dulux through the ages‘.
- Eggshell has a light sheen of 20% compared to 50% for satinwood and up to 100% for gloss. This gives eggshell a finish that is easy to clean without the glaring reflections you get from gloss paint.