2017 has been an eventful year for Piet Renders (1). A fall at work resulted in a broken pelvis and a damaged spine amongst other injuries, and whilst he has recovered, he still has pain and limited mobility in his left arm which has prevented him from returning to work. The fall happened during the breeding season, but fortunately his wife took over the care of the birds and achieved a record result of 250 youngsters. Every cloud has a silver lining . . .
When I arrived with Marko Dielen the day before the Lizarddag, Piet was busy training his birds. A stack of 10 show cages contained the birds from which Piet would select his six contestants for the Lizarddag. Another stack of 16 cages contained the birds sent to the Meijel show. That’s a total of 26 birds of show-quality London Fancies, a record for Piet, and probably the finest array of London Fancies seen for almost 150 years.
On closer examination, they were a mixture of 2016 and 2017 birds in jonque (intensive yellow), mealy (non-intensive yellow, also known as schimmel on the continent), white, cinnamon (brown) and fawn (white-brown). They represent a dilemma for the future direction of the London Fancy.
On the following day, all but the jonque and mealy birds would be rejected by the judges. I wrote about this in my show report and won’t repeat those comments here. The quality of the over-year birds was excellent, and I had to check the ring colours to tell them apart from the current-year birds. Piet told me that many birds improve in their second year, with even fewer black marks on their bodies, yet their wings and tails remained dark (2). This is contrary to what Victorian and Edwardian authors would have you believe, and may be unique to the Dutch strain, but that is by no means certain (3).
The London Fancy is not recognised by COM at present, but is undergoing a three-year trial period. COM’s standard policy is to permit only first year canaries at the World Show, but in my opinion there is a case for making the new London Fancy an exception to that rule (a similar exemption applies to parrots & lovebirds for example).
Allowing second-year London Fancies to be exhibited would have several benefits:
- The pool of good show birds would be increased.
- It would encourage more fanciers to breed and exhibit the variety.
- COM would be seen to be making a positive contribution to the renaissance of an historic breed of canary.
The revival of the London Fancy is at a critical stage; its future is by no means secure. Far too much depends on the hard work and dedication of one man. COM and its judges could make a big difference if the goodwill is there.
Gallery: click on an image to see a larger version.
- I assume that most of my readers will be aware that Piet is the founding father of the Dutch strain of London Fancies. You can read a report of my visit to his home in 2016 here.
- An observation confirmed by Marko Dielen and others.
- The London Fancy was in decline by the 1850s, and so rare in the last quarter of the nineteenth century that I suspect that much of what was being written was based on hearsay rather than first hand observation.