The road to Cesena, Part 2

For many British breeders, the World Show has replaced the old National Exhibition of Cage & Aviary Birds (1) as the climax of the Lizard canary show season.  Of the 34 breeders from Great Britain who competed at Cesena, no less than eight entered birds in the Lizard classes.  That is almost a quarter of the British team; a remarkable level of support from fanciers of a minority breed.  Only Italy had more Lizard exhibitors at the show.

There are good reasons why the World Show has assumed the role that the National Exhibition once held.  The quality of the birds is extremely high, the competition is intense,  and it’s a great place to meet fellow fanciers and admire their birds.  There is a camaraderie amongst the Lizard breeders, just as there was at the National in the 1990s.  Even COM’s recent policy of allocating judges at random has failed to undermine the event.  Since I first participated in 2013, the Lizard section has invariably been judged by people who actually know something about the breed, a ‘coincidence’ that we can all be grateful for.  Nevertheless, there is one major difference between the two shows that I find a real challenge: the timing of the events.

The National Exhibition was usually held over the first weekend in December, and most Lizards were still in show condition.  The World Show is usually held in the third week of January, and those extra six weeks make all the difference.  The days are short, the weather much worse, and many birds will have ‘peaked’ before Christmas.  Maintaining a Lizard canary in show condition under these circumstances is a big challenge in my experience.

The build up to the 2018 World Show was no exception.  Entries closed on 30 November, and I selected, as best I could, the birds I hoped to send in January:  a broken cap gold, non cap gold, broken cap silver and non cap silver.  Here is the broken cap gold hen photographed at that time:

She probably peaked in early December, because it became evident that she was losing weight, which is great for breeding purposes, but not for showing.  Her spangles deteriorated, and by January it became clear she would not be going to Cesena.  I replaced her with her sister.  She had won a class of 39 broken caps at the Lizarddag and while she was not at her best in January, she deserved her chance.  She was awarded 90 points.

The non cap gold hen had been my best bird all through the show season.  You can see her in the photo taken during November at the head of this article.  She has her faults, but she also has the great advantage of being confident under the gaze of a judge.

I began to worry about her after Christmas.  She too was losing weight, and the show qualities that she had once displayed with ease were now intermittent; fine one day, a bit hit and miss the next.  Here are two photos taken of her at Cesena.  You can see how the lineage of her spangles was fluctuating, but thankfully she was in good form while being judged.

She returned from Cesena looking very tired.   That is hardly surprising.  She had been away from home for almost a fortnight and had travelled over 2,250 miles (3,600 kms).  She had clearly lost weight and her plumage had lost its sheen.  Here she is a week after she arrived home.

In retrospect, I was lucky that she won a medal.  Yet two weeks later, back on her usual food and in familiar surroundings, she was recovering well.  It just goes to show how tough and adaptable Lizard canaries can be.

It was a similar story with the broken cap silver hen.  Andy Williamson had picked her out for praise at the Kimberley show (2).  She possesses the kind of spangles that have startling clarity when they align.  Here she is in November.

By January, the lineage of her spangles was slipping and by the time she got to Cesena it was obvious that she was not the same bird that had impressed in November.  She was awarded 88 points, disappointing, but you can see that she looks tired in this photograph taken after she returned.  Fortunately, she has picked up and is looking much brighter now.

Finally the non cap silver hen.  She was probably the most consistent of my show team.  She seemed to handle the journey well, looked good at the show, and showed fewer effects of the long journey on her return.  She was beaten by a better bird on the day, but I’m proud of her.

This was the fourth time I had sent birds to the World Show, but they seem to have struggled more on this occasion. I have spent some time mulling over the reasons why this was the case.

My first concern is that the birds weren’t in as good a condition in the lead-up to the show as they were is previous years.  My management methods haven’t changed much, but the weather was worse: cold, wet and windy; a combination that few canaries like.  By contrast, the Italian birds seemed to have thrived since I judged at Bologna in early November, and some had improved significantly.  The benign climate must have been a factor.

The second was the length of the journey, although the Belgian and German birds had long journeys too, and even the birds from the south of Italy had a fair way to travel.  Nevertheless, the birds seemed more affected by the long road to Cesena than when my show team has travelled to Belgium or Holland.

The third was experience, or the lack of it.  Top breeders like Jules Etienne, Giorgio Massarutto and Alfons Tebroke have years of experience; they have learned how to produce their birds in first class order at the World Show.  I admire them.  I‘m still learning.

Next year the World Show will be held at Zwolle, Holland (3).  The date has been brought forward by a week and the journey from Britain will be much shorter, which makes it very attractive to British Lizard breeders.  I’ve started planning already; I hope you will too.


  1. Generally known simply as the ‘National’, it’s official title was the National Exhibition of Cage & Aviary Birds The old National was a very different event from its modern namesake.  It was a three day show that brought the show season to a close, and was a great social gathering for bird fanciers.  The modern National is currently a one day show at the beginning of the season, although that may change.
  2. Kimberly CBS is my local bird club.  It has two shows a year that I always support.  My birds are usually disqualified because they are not colour-fed, but they gain useful experience and judges Chris Jordan and Andy Williamson both gave me very helpful feedback on how they performed. Looking good in their stock cage is one thing, but handling the pressure of scrutiny at a show is quite another.
  3. Details here.

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