The Greatest Show on Earth?

Regular readers of this blog may remember my effusive account of the Club Amigos del Canario Lizard show which I published one year ago.  That event attracted over 300 Lizard canaries plus the Ocelados (1). It was a memorable event.  Could this year’s show improve on that remarkable gathering?  Yes!

I Show Nacional del Canario Lizard, Baños De La Encina translates as “The National Lizard Canary Show in Baños De La Encina”.  The key word is Nacional.  There are two Lizard canary clubs in Spain: the Amigos and the Asociación Española del Lizard.  In the past they have held separate shows, often on the same weekend and sometimes in the same region.  Cynics amongst my readers may detect a hint of rivalry here.

2019 was different.  Thanks to the diplomacy of the presidents of both clubs (2) it was agreed they should join forces and organise a single national show.  Result: 540 Lizards and 70 Ocelados (3)!

Spanish Lizard canary show
The show hall and about 400 of the 610 birds on display. Juan Carlos Blanco Carrasco and John Canepa in command.

This year, the show was held in Baños De La Encina, an Andelucian hill top town north of Granada.  It was a stunning setting with picturesque streetscapes and historic architecture. The show was held in a sports hall in the modern part of the town, but fortunately the building featured clerestory windows so we had good natural light for judging.

The organisers had invited an international team of judges:  Ernesto Gracia (Gibraltar), Paulo Ferreira (Portugal), Fabio Macchioni and Domenico Mungiguerra (Italy), Joe Coakley and myself (Great Britain).  It was an interesting combination: four Lizard breeders-cum-specialist judges, and two OMJ judges.

Spanish National Lizard canary show
Judging for Best in Show

Domenico and Fabio are well known in the Lizard world thanks to their achievements at major Italian shows and the World Show.  Their own birds are top quality, and they know a good Lizard when they see one.

Ernest is the doyen of the Lizard canary in Spain, widely respected for his erudite articles on the Lizard and London Fancy (although his expertise extends to many other breeds); I regard him as the Spanish speaking equivalent of John Scott.  Praise indeed.

I hadn’t met Paulo before, but it soon became apparent that he was well informed about the Lizard and had a fascination for the London Fancy.  It also helped that Paulo is a polyglot, able to converse with all the judges in their own language.  What a talent, but better still, he proved to be a fascinating and knowledgable companion throughout the weekend.

This was Joe’s third judging engagement in Spain and his popularity was endorsed by the cheer he received at the prize presentation.  No wonder they keep asking him back.

All in all, a well-balanced team of judges.

Spanish National Lizard canary show
Four of the judges (from L to R): Ernest Gracia, Fabio Machioni, Domenico Mungiguerra and Paulo Ferreira

There was a full classification on offer: natural coloured Lizards, colour-fed Lizards and white ground Lizards (blues), but even dividing them into the various caps and gold/silver categories meant that some of the classes were huge.

I started with a class of 45 clear cap natural coloured gold (intensive) Lizards.  It took ages, not least because the top ten birds were at a very even level.  The winner came from Juan Carlos Blanco Carrasco, but it was a close contest and the winning margin was tiny. I felt it was only fair to acknowledge the three exhibits that didn’t make the final seven with a note of encouragement on the cage labels.

Joe had an even bigger challenge with a class of 85 broken cap silver hens.  Yes, 85!  Undaunted, he gave every bird time to settle, and a chance to shine.  Congratulations to Miguel Recacha Gonzales for winning that class, an achievement in itself.

When it came to the finale, the judges were presented with three birds: the best of the  natural coloured Lizards, a broken cap gold hen; the best of the colour-fed Lizards, a clear cap gold hen; and the best of the blues, a non cap hen.  The vote was 5:1 for the broken cap.  It turned out to be a bird bred by Francisco Arabi Muñoz, whose stud is founded on British stock.  Hoorah!  The only disappointment was that Francisco was not there in person to collect his award.

Spanish National Lizard canary show
Best in Show: a broken cap gold hen Lizard canary by Francisco Arabi Muñoz

The best colour-fed was a bird from José Maria Figal Quesada, a repeat of his triumph last year, and the best blue from Miguel Recacha Gonzales.  My congratulations to both.

Spanish National Lizard canary show
Best colour-fed Lizard canary: a clear cap gold hen by José Maria Figal Quesada
Spanish National Lizard canary show
Best blue: a non cap hen by Miguel Recacha Gonzales

The winner had won her class under the adjudication of Fabio and Domenico.  In some ways it was a brave decision because she sported a white tip in one wing feather and her legs could have been darker, but her overall quality was more than enough to overcome these imperfections.  Her spangles, rowings and ground colour were a joy to behold.  A worthy winner.

The winners always grab the headlines, but have a look at the full results PALMARÉS 2019_.  When you consider the size of the classes, getting into the top seven is an achievement.  Congratulations to everyone whose name appears in the Palmares (awards).

The greatest Lizard show of all time?  How do we judge that?  In terms of quantity it is almost certainly the biggest Lizard show ever.  That tells you something about the enthusiasm of Spanish breeders for the Lizard canary.

We can also judge the show by the commitment of everyone who organised the event and who travelled from many parts of Spain.  Yet again José Manuel Lopez Souto travelled from Gallicia in the north of Spain, a round trip of over 2000 kms.  I have no doubt that winning the class for clear cap silver Lizards made it worthwhile.

Spanish National Lizard canary show
The audience at the prize presentation. José Manuel Lopez Souto is on the front row, third from the left.

And how do we measure those intangibles, such as hospitality, a warm welcome, and a great social gathering?  Just look at the packed terraces overlooking the show hall at the prize ceremony.  Look more closely and you will see that the audience included spouses, partners, parents, grandparents and children too.  The weekend was more than just a bird show; it was a social event and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

The final yardstick is the quality of the Lizards, and that is where the Spanish breeders need to concentrate their efforts.  Last year I raised the widespread problem of poor ground colour: pale and insipid.  It was just as common this year.

The light was fading by the time I took photographs, so to demonstrate the difference between good and poor ground colour I decided to focus on a key characteristic: the extent of lipochrome and melanin pigments between the legs, which is most obvious in golds (intensive) birds.  Here is the winner.  Note how both the lipochrome (ground colour) and the melanin (dark markings) are present right up to the root of the tail.

Spanish National Lizard canary show
The winner displaying lipochrome (ground colour) and melanin (dark markings) between the legs.

Now look at a typical gold hen.  Note how the area around the vent is off-white and is devoid of melanin markings.  I would estimate that at least 90% of the golds I saw suffered from this fault.

Spanish National Lizard canary show
A typical gold hen with very pale colour, and almost no melanin, between the legs

The dullness of the melanins was another symptom.  Rowings that should look like a chain of black moon-shaped spots were reduced to narrow stripes; they were often non-existent on the belly.  Then there was the absence of lacings.  I can accept that lacings, being the covert feathers, will change as the birds move, but I didn’t expect them to be almost invisible.  A worrying defect.

My advice last year was for breeders to seek out the people whose birds are strong in ground colour.  Rich ground colour is a feature of pure-bred stock, and these are the birds you need to improve all the other features too.

The Best Lizard displayed none of these faults, and I hope that Spanish breeders will be asking the reasons why.  If they focus on the basic principles, I have no doubt that the Spanish Lizards will become a major force at international events.

Spanish National Lizard canary show
The men who made the show possible (from L to R): Francisco Jose Cuesta Garcia (Kiko), Manuel Jesus Cala Villagran, Alfonso Fernandez Sanchez and José Maria Figal Quesada.

I Show Nacional del Canario Lizard, Baños De La Encina was one of those shows that I will never forget.  The headlines may focus on the record breaking number of birds, but it is the beautiful location and the enthusiasm of the Spanish Lizard breeders that I will remember (3).


  1. Ocelado is the Spanish name given to cinnamon Lizard canaries.  I understand that some have already been imported into the UK, so expect to see them at a show near you soon.
  2. The two Presidents were Francisco Jose Cuesta Garcia (better known as Kiko) of the Amigos and Alfonso Fernandez Sanchez of the Asociacion . Their collaboration produced an amazing event.  My compliments.
  3. Unfortunately it seems unlikely that next year’s show will be a combined event.  It won’t be the first time that politics has undermined the good of the Lizard fancy.  We can only hope that the two associations reconsider and build on what they’ve achieved at Baños De La Encina.

Finally a gallery of other photographs taken on the day.  It should come as no surprise that they reflect my fascination with the event, its location and, above all, the people.  Just click on an image to see it at a larger size.

2 thoughts on “The Greatest Show on Earth?

  1. Thanks Huw, really enjoyed reading that.

    A most comprehensive report on the show itself and the great social week-end event that it hosts.

    And in genuine Huw Evan style, the report is furthermore not lacking in a distinctly honest and expert general review of the Lizard canary as being presently bred in Spain – and Spanish breeders, indeed any Lizard breeder, should take good note of the maestro’s guidance.

    “The weekend was more than just a bird show; it was a social event and everyone seemed to enjoy it”.

    … and I’ll second that; I was there, and I for one certainly enjoyed every minute of it!

  2. You would think they would want to keep this amalgamation between associations going, well done to everyone involved

    It would be a dream come true to see this birdage in uk shows

    Bloody politics


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