The Frill Canary Breeds

Nearly all fanciers are aware of the existence of the frilled canaries, but few realize that there are many distinct breeds of these birds. This ignorance is due partly to lack of information and partly because of a great deal of unfortunate mixing of the various types. This haphazard interbreeding has resulted in the production of frilled mongrels, not representing any breed.

The most impressive purebred is the Parisian Frill. The viewers first impression is of a bird too enormous to possibly be a canary. The average size is seventeen centimeters, about the same as a Yorkshire canary, though exceptional specimens might achieve twenty-two centimeters. The profuse frilling leads to the illusion of an even larger bird.

On the Parisian, all the feathers, the only exceptions being the flight and tail feathers, are frilled. The head is adorned with modified plumage referred to as the helmet. The forehead frilling is called the cap. This is not to be confused with the crest or corona of other canary breeds. The sideburns fall about the cheeks and the side of the head while a collar of feathers surrounds the neck. The upper chest sports the craw. The thighs are clothed in breeches and the lower chest and belly have the side fins. The mantle covers the back. All of these frilled feather regions are symmetrical as they are in pairs on either side of the bird. The best examples of the Parisian Frill have corkscrew toenails.

The Parisian Frill is the aristocrat of the frills. Unfortunately, this variety is often difficult to breed, requiring the eggs to be fostered out to pumpers. Pumpers are vigorous canaries, not of show type. These birds are used to hatch and rear the young of more delicate and fragile breeds,

The Padovan Frill is very similar to the Parisian, except for the head. The Padovan lacks the helmet, cap, and sideburns. Instead this bird carries a daisy cap, similar to that of the Gloster. Of course consorts, birds of the same breed lacking the cap, are kept. The Padovan occurs only in clear colors. The cap may be grizzled.

Another bird similar to the Parisian is the Milanais. These canaries are red factor frills. The corkscrew toenails are not allowed at the shows. A white frilled canary is also raised in Milan.

The North Dutch Frill is a medium size breed, slightly smaller than a Border canary. These birds have only the mantle, craw, and side fins. This means that the frilling is present in a band around the middle of the bird. The feathering of the head, neck, belly, and thighs is, ideally, the same as a regular canary. The head is neat and very much like an American Singer’s. The North Dutch Frill maintains a normal canary posture.

The South Dutch Frill is something else entirely. The frilling is the only similarity between this bird and its northern brother. Again, the head, neck, belly, and thighs are bare.

This breed is a bird of position, owing much to the Belgian canary. Birds of position are canaries that keep their necks bent so that they look hunch-backed. The South Dutch Frill is more slightly built than the North Dutch Frill. So much so that, to the uninitiated, these southern birds appears emaciated. When maintaining a normal stance this type is much taller than the North Dutch Frill but not as tall as the Parisian.

A good South Dutch Frill does not maintain an ordinary stance for long. When Displaying, the legs and body are held perpendicular to the perch. The head and neck are held straight out, parallel to the ground, forming a right angle with the line of the legs and the body. The beak is long and thin and the head is narrow. An overall appearance of “snakiness” is desirable.

The Gibber Italicus is in many ways the most unusual canary. Again we are dealing with a bird of position. The stance and feathering is very similar to the South Dutch Frill. An even more bizarre starved appearance is here the norm. The Gibber Italicus is the only canary breed raised only in the “hard” feathered form. There are no “frosted” Gibber Italici.

Our knowledge of the genetic nature of the frilled breeds is confused Tony Bucci, celebrated canary culturist, states that a single out cross to a bird of normal feathering will yield all normal feathered young. Mating the resulting birds together does not produce any frilled birds. Mr. Bucci claims that the frilling can only be regained by a regimen of line breeding. This would imply that frilling is inherited in a manner similar to size.

G.J. Plumb, old varieties expert, says that crossing a frilled canary with any other breed yields frilled young, but of a low quality. This suggests the possibility that frilling is dominant, but affected by modifiers. If this is true, the inheritance of the frilled feather structure is very similar to the inheritance of the crest.

This uncertainty stems from a lack of experimentation. The frilled breeds are so rare and so highly prized by their owners that few wish to waste them in the production of mongrels. Only the most scientifically oriented fanciers have so far investigated these remarkable birds.


Most parrots are monomorphic. This means that both sexes are identical. The actions of the birds don’t mean a thing either. Productive pairs might show little or no affection for each other. Unfortunately the reverse is all to true. Any two parrots of the same or even different species will often begin to preen, feed, and copulate. A “couple” of hens might even go to nest and lay infertile eggs. With many kinds of parrots, the birds actually form pair bonds in these homosexual couples. This means that if two birds of the same sex are kept together for too long, they may not pair up if offered partners of the opposite sex.

To avoid wasting time, both yours and the birds, three main methods of determining gender are used. Surgical sexing is the most widespread. In surgical sexing a veterinarian anesthetizes the birds and use an instrument called a laporascope to actually view the birds internal sex organs through a small incision. A trained avian veterinarian should have no trouble determining if the bird is a male or a female using this technique. Your vet will also be able to give you much valuable information concerning the bird’s health, age, and reproductive potential.

Since this is a surgical procedure, there is a possibility of loss of the bird. This is extremely unlikely. I and many aviculturists friends have taken birds for surgical sexing. Never have we had any bad results. Very small birds like lovebirds may look a little “out of it” for about twenty-four hours. Conures will be fine in about an hour. The giants like macaws will be up and complaining within minutes of the operation.

Hormonal sexing and chromosome sexing are two other methods for determining the sex of a bird. One advantage that these procedures offer is that they are non-invasive. This means that the bird is never knocked out and cut open. The bird’s life is never at risk. Another advantage is that the bird owner can send the specimen directly to the lab. If no avian vet is available, hormonal and chromosomal sexing will be the only choices.

As in any laboratory test, there exists the possibility of error. The samples must be properly prepared. Especially in the case of chromosomal sexing, collection of the specimen may be complicated. A competent, trained technician must do the actual lab work. The tests work better for some species of birds than for others. All three methods cost about the same.

Most breeders use surgical sexing to actually pair up the adult birds. Many aviculturists use chromosomal sexing as a factor in deciding which baby birds to sell.

Crested Canary

Gripping the upper perch, in positions assumed in display, are the BELGIAN FANCY (left), with head and neck extended at a sharp angle from the body, and the SCOTCH FANCY, with a smoothly arched exhibition posture. A “mop” of large, flat feathers adorns the crown of the CRESTED CANARY (lower left). Unusually long, wavy, and recurved plumage gives the FRILLED CANARY (lower right) the appearance of having been stroked the wrong way. Dandy of the English canaries, the YORKSHIRE (right center) should be slim, long, and straight as a soldier.

By Alexander Wetmore
Originally appeared in the December 1938 issue of the National Geographic Magazine

This Web version COPYRIGHT 2004

Another peculiar type is the coppy, or crested canary, in which the feathers of the crown are long and flat, and extend out from the center to form a cap that almost, if not entirely, conceals the beak and the eyes.

In the most sought-for types the crown is black and the body nearly clear yellow. Crested birds are bred in several strains of canaries, the most popular kinds being those of good size. The crested bird illustrated is of the Lancashire breed.

Norwich Canary

They need no fancy mixed foods ; hence their popularity with amateur bird keepers. The WILD SERIN (upper left) is a common European cousin of the wild canary of the Azores, Aladeiras, and Canary Islands, from which has been developed the hardy domestic pet. The NORWICH YELLOW (bottom center) and the NORWICH GREEN (lower right) are two color phases of one of the most abundant types of canary in captivity. Of spotless plumage, the WHITE CANARY (upper right) perches diagonally above the handsome CINNAMON, distinguished by pink or reddish-brown eves. The GOLD LIZARD (lower left) is bred for perfection of color pattern.

By Originally appeared in the December 1938 issue of the National Geographic Magazine

This Web version COPYRIGHT 2004

The Norwich canary which takes its name from the English city of that name, is a popular variety that is bred in either yellow of green. It is a large bird of rich color with full bode and small, rounded head.

White-eared Bulbul

An excellent talker, the WATTLED MYNA (lower left) can learn to enunciate as clearly as the best of the parrots. One of these birds on exhibit at a meeting in Washington. D. C., astonished a former director of the Budget Bureau by greeting him with the words: “How about the appropriation?” The lively, engaging RED-CRESTED CARDINAL (top bird) comes from southern South America. A splendid singer, the sprightly SHAMA THRUSH (white-edged tail) is also something of a mimic. The lowest perched bird is the active. noisy WHITE-EARED BULBUL. “Japanese robin” is one of several misnomers for the warbling RED-BILLED HILL TIT (on ground), a native of China.

By Alexander Wetmore
Originally appeared in the December 1938 issue of the National Geographic Magazine

This Web version COPYRIGHT 2004

The white-eared, or red-whiskered, bulbul (Otocompsa jocosa) is found from India to the Malay Peninsula. It is an example of a common type of which several species and sub-species are found regularly in captivity (Color Plate VIII).

A closely allied bird from India lacks the white tips on the tail feathers. Another, from the same country, is minus the red spot on the cheeks, and there are still others in which the red of the under tail coverts is replaced by yellow. There are some with yellow breasts, some with streaked throats, and so on. All agree in slender form and in jaunty, erect crest.

The bulbul of the poets is found in this family (the Pycnonotidae), a group of which some kinds are good songsters, while others are not so proficient. Bulbuls require soft food, but with proper care are hardy in captivity.

Cutthroat Finch

Fluttering against the cage bars is a WHITE-HEADED NUN from the Netherlands Indies and the Malay Peninsula. Perched on the upper branches are the BROWN-BREASTED NUN(left) and the BLACK-HEADED NUN. To the lower branches cling the THREE-COLORED NUN (full face) from India and Ceylon, the CUTTHROAT FINCH (left center), and the lovely CORDON BLEU (blue underparts). In the water splash the tiny ZEBRA WAXBILL (above) and the COMMON WAXBILL (left). The long-lived BRONZE NUN rests on the pool’s brink.

By Alexander Wetmore
Originally appeared in the December 1938 issue of the National Geographic Magazine

This Web version COPYRIGHT 2004

The name of the cutthroat finch (Antadina fasciata) – which, though called a finch, is a member of the weaver family – is taken from the crimson mark across the throat in the male (Color Plate VII). The female lacks this character but is otherwise similar. The bird is found wild in the drier sections of Africa, from Senegal to Somaliland and Rhodesia.

Cutthroat finches are easily handled in captivity, and are popular in aviaries. They often have a tendency to become darker in color when caged, caused sometimes, possibly, by eating hemp seed.


With a body no bigger than a sparrow’s, the graceful PARADISE Wydah (upper right, above its modest mate) tows a flowing tail that may reach a foot in length. On the ground rests the COMBASOU, a feathered Jekyll-and-Hyde whose winter suit (left) is as plain as that of the female (right), while in summer it is clad in dressy bluish black (middle). In the center are the brilliant RED-BILLED WEAVER (left) and the ORANGE WEAVER, both of the family whose name derives from their elaborately interwoven nests.

By Alexander Wetmore
Originally appeared in the December 1938 issue of the National Geographic Magazine

This Web version COPYRIGHT 2004

Occasionally, in an aviary or in some birdstore cage, one sees a tiny, black, sparrowlike bird with white bill and orange feet, whose plumage has a slight metallic sheen. This is the combasou (Hypochera cizalybeata), another African species that is common in the wild, where it lives familiarly about settlements, but for some reason is not abundant in collections of living birds (Color Plate V).

The combasou makes an excellent pet for those who enjoy unusual birds, though it is not a showy species. One that I kept for years lived in great contentment in an ordinary canary cage where it had the protection of a muslin bag around the lower section. Behind this screen it seemed to feel secure, but was frightened when it was removed.

Its clear, warbling song was given only when the room was quiet. Its plumage changes were most interesting, as for several months it would be in clear black feather, then would molt into a plain, streaked dress, and change after a period to black again.

Dilute Hen Chopper Canary

Dilute Hen Chopper Canary

The dilute factor was discovered by accident some years ago by a fancier keen enough to recognize something of its potential value. When this factor is present it dilutes by graying or thinning out otherwise standard colors. If it were not for this dilute factor in the bird illustrated, the cinnamon markings and the yellow would have been noticeable deeper in color.

Apricot Canary And Siskin 3rd Cross

Apricot Canary And Siskin 3rd Cross

When the second cross canary and siskin is mated back to pure canary stock again, the apricot coloring is one of the possible results. This bird illustrates the way in which the Red Siskin coloring has been diluted and evenly spread throughout. The apricot stock is used by breeders in crossing unrelated hybrid stock in order to intensify desired coloring, form, feathering, and size characteristics as well as to further introduce the color to type birds such as Border Fancies.