Zebra Waxbill

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

The zebra Waxbill (Sporaeginthus subflavus), found throughout much of Africa south of the true Sahara. takes its name from the bars on its sides that suggest the stripes of a zebra. It is marked also by the bright-red rump. the reddish under-parts being found only in the male. It differs from the other waxbills not only in color but in having a shorter tail.

European Goldfinch

Though in the wild state it is no mimic, the engaging BULLFINCH (upper pair, male left) in captivity may easily be taught while young to whistle simple tunes. The LINNET, pleasing vocalist of the European finches, bobs on a twig (right), awaiting its turn at the bath. Eating out of the hand quickly becomes a habit with the pert little EUROPEAN SISKIN (lower left). The gay, sweet-voiced EUROPEAN GOLDFINCH (center, below) is far more brilliantly colored than the familiar American species. These four birds, like most of our smaller feathered pets, come from the Old World.

By Alexander Wetmore

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

The European goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) is a handsome fellow of gay plumage, a prime favorite abroad, and is often brought to America. It may be excitable when first captured, but with a little attention soon becomes tame.

In its native home it ranges through Europe and northern Africa to Palestine and western Asia, several geographic forms distinguished by slight differences in color being found in this region. The song is pleasing and, coupled with the bright plumage, makes the bird most attractive.

Common about gardens and cultivated lands, the European goldfinch often nests near houses. Its cup-shaped nest holds from three to six bluish-white eggs spotted with brown.

The bird is one that has been transported often to other lands, and now is established in Bermuda, New Zealand, and in various places in Australia. For a while there was a colony in and about New York City, but after a time the birds did not thrive and their introduction there has been called a failure.

Virginia Belmont Audio

The Psychology of People and Pets, 12/10/77
Virginia Belmont Radio Show

Mordecai Siegel’s Radio Show, Vets and Pets:

Virginia Belmont's Famous Singing & Talking Birds

Virginia Belmont’s Famous Singing & Talking Birds

Editor’s note: Introduction printed on the record jacket

Virginia Belmont is an international and outstanding pet authority, and is also the owner of the renowned Belmont Bird & Kennel Shop in Rockefeller Center, New York City. Her shop always set a very high standard in the Pet World.

This record gives important highlights on the care and training of pets in the home. It also presents her amazing Bird Symphony, in which she has trained her beautiful canaries to sing on command – solos, duet, quartet, sextet, or chorus.

A recognized pet authority, Virginia Belmont is highly qualified to give advice to all pet owners, as her accomplishments in this field are many. She believes that respect, understanding, and especially love, are the prime requisites in training birds and animals – yes, and children, too!

Her life has been like a story book, full of almost boundless and wide varied experience. From her compact and elite Shop in Rockefeller Center, her love and sunshine have poured forth in all directions to those who have sought her advice on pets – or their own personal problems.

Love of life – animals – birds – people – has kept this vibrant and charming human being almost decades younger than her age (now in her 65th year). She has a gift of magic with people and pets. They feel her warmth and enthusiasm immediately when in her presence, and she has an uncanny ability to heal them when they come to her.

Since Virginia Belmont’s first professional stage appearance at the tender age of nine, she has attained many distinctions. One of the most notable was being proclaimed World’s Champion High Kick Terpsichorean Dancer – by none other than that legendary and never-equaled impresario, Florenz Ziegfeld. Her began her great association with Joseph Belmont, who had the featured presentation in the Ziegfeld Follies, with his famous singing birds, the Canary Opera.

She opened the beautiful Roof Gardens in Rockefeller Center in 1935 with her Belmont Bird Symphony, and her Shop has been in the RCA Building ever since.

She loves Rockefeller Center and all it represents – a truly magnificent “City Within A City,” which is the Mecca for visitors from all parts of the world – its great forum of buildings – a virtual emblem of the precious American heritage of freedom – the wonder and beauty of the enchanting floral displays in the Channel Gardens, surrounded by the United Nations flags waving in the universal breeze, providing inspiration to all those who may stop to contemplate – above all, the warmth of the Yuletide Season’s impressive presentation, crowned by perhaps the world’s most beautiful Christmas Tree symbolizing peace, love, and unity of all mankind.

With the Shop serving as the heart of her constant activity, she has been much sought after as a performer on radio and television, as well as a writer and lecturer. She toured the nation for years with her 3 famous Westinghouse Talking Mynah Birds – AC, DC, and TV – astounding audiences with their still unrivaled performances.

“The only record of its kind in the world” – indeed a modest caption – and further indeed, the accomplishment of one who has been called by so many, “the one and only” Virginia Belmont. It points up her vast knowledge and great rapport with the Bird Kingdom. And this can be said to extend to the Animal and Human Kingdom – which is to say, perhaps simply, God’s Kingdom.

By Virginia Belmont

This record is dedicated to Joseph Belmont, whose abilities and character have been a great influence in my life. It is also dedicated to all people who know and love pets.

To those who do not own or understand animals and birds, this recording will provide a much-needed source of information and advice.

The beauty and expression in the song or in the magic flight of a bird, brings us in much closer harmony with the oneness of the universe. A child who is taught to love, respect, and observe the natural habits of animals and birds, will surely be impressed with the beautiful and the good.

This recording has been many years in the making. While listening, you may feel the passage of time, patience, perseverance, and love, which enabled me to accomplish what you hear. All the birds are live and real, and have been trained to sing and talk on command.

There is a silent language which exists between God’s four-footed and winged creatures – and Man. When a human being is ready for this experience, it can change his whole aspect of life, for he comes to realize that everything that lives has some great value to share.

Perhaps you will note the natural response and love between myself and the birds. In the “William Tell Overture,” you will clearly hear the canaries stop and start at a silent command.

For your listening pleasure, birds from all parts of the world will delight you with their song – the Brazilian Cardinal, Pekin Nightingale, Indian Shama Thrush, and the incomparable Mexican Clarino.

You will enjoy Bambi, a Panama Parrot, who counts from one to five, and whose parrot antics entertain thousands of visitors who come to see him in my Shop at Rockefeller Center. You can hear my pet Cockatiel, who not only tells Bambi to “Turn over” when Bambi stands on his head, but also whistles the first part of “Caprice Vienois.”

TV, my dearly beloved Mynah Bird, will amaze you. Judged the smartest and most intelligent Mynah Bird in the world, with an astounding vocabulary of over 500 words, TV’s conversation with me may convince the most utter skeptic that anything is indeed possible – just as he amazed audiences, when performing throughout the United States for many years. He was the only bird ever to say the full commercial, “You Can Be Sure If It’s Westinghouse.”

Lastly, dear friends, it is my fond hope that this record will enlighten, instruct, and help create a much better understanding and relationship between humans and animals. Man cannot survive without these God-given creatures.

Be kind, gentle, and loving to those which have been entrusted to your care. You will then feel that heartwarming and unseen inter-relationship, enjoyment and happiness, which should exist between you and your pet.

My pets send love to your pets, and I send my love to you.

Canaries in Eugenics Research

Canaries in Eugenics Research - Cold Spring Harbor - 1906
Canaries in research and administration building of Carnegie Station for Experimental Evolution, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y. Date: 1906

A Race of White Canaries

The Journal of Heredity, Volume 5, Issue 5 – 1914
Organ of the American Genetic Association, Washington, DC
A monthly publication dedicated to Plant Breeding, Animal Breeding and Eugenics

Establishment of a race of white canaries is described in a recent number of Knowledge, by Maud S. Martin. It started with a hen from a much in-bred buff strain, that sported to pure white, and was mated with an unrelated buff male. All of the offspring were buff, but when bred together gave 48 buff chicks and 18 white ones. Matings were carried through the third generation seemed to prove that the color was subject to Mendelian laws, buff being dominant and white recessive. Twenty-five extracted recessives were secured and are now breeding pure in every generation. They seem to be full as vigorous as the type, and have black, not pink, eyes.

# # #

An more detailed account appears in Experiment Station Record, Volume 30.

Red Factor Canary Color Feeding

Male Venezulean Black-Hooded Red Siskin
A fancier of my acquaintance possessed a pair of wild bred Venezuelan Black Hooded Red Siskins. Not wanting to feed them anything “artificial,” the birds were not given any concentrates to improve color. These Siskins were fed seed, greens, carrot, and grated, hard boiled, egg. Under this diet, the cock moulted out a brassy shade of yellow, losing all traces of red. The Red Factor Color Bred canary derives its scarlet hue from its Red Siskin heritage. If the Siskin’s color is dependent on diet, clearly so must be the red of the canary hybrid.

In the wild state, birds eat a wide variety of insects and other arthropods, algaes, mosses, fruits, and berries. From these items, various carotenoids are metabolized and deposited in the plumage. Here in the North Eastern United States, the Virginia Cardinal fades noticeably in the Winter. During the cooler months, the birds diet is limited to seeds. The Flamingo consumes plankton that contains pigments. When deprived of their natural food, these birds moult out as white as a factory-farm chicken. Flamingos in Zoos are fed either beet juice or, more often in properly managed collections, commercially available coloring agents. It is neither unnatural or deceptive that the Red Factor needs special substances to develop optimum coloration.

It is as natural to provide the Red Factor Color bred with carotenoid concentrates as it is to provide the feeding hen with hard boiled egg. Does the wild canary consume boiled chicken egg to feed its young? No! Before domestication, the birds would feed their nestlings insects and wild plants. From the same sources would the wild Venezuelan Black Hooded Red Siskin obtain its brilliant color.

During the dark ages of canaryculture “color fed” birds were banned from exhibition. From the start there was disagreement over what constituted color feeding. Some considered even grated carrots to be a form of color feeding. Most allowed any form of fruit or vegetable but frowned on concentrates. Where red pepper, the color feeding standard of Type breeders, fit in was anybody’s guess. The rule was impossible to enforce and only served to create ill will. No one admitted to any form of color feeding. Some birds of extraordinary heritage that were not fed special diets, were not allowed to compete. At other shows, relying on the honor system, only the “cheats” could hope to win

Even today the novice is often misled by devious fanciers. Names will be omitted here to protect the guilty! At one show for Color Bred Canaries, I overheard a winning exhibitor who bought large quantities of chemical concentrates from me tell a newcomer, “Color feed? Oh no, I give only greens.” I will unequivocally state no Red Factor canary has won any show in the color bred section for at least forty years that was not color fed.

There are many myths surrounding Red Factor color feeding. Some enthusiasts mistakenly believe that carotenoids will injure the birds’ livers or in some other way shorten the birds life span. I have owned Red Factors that lived for over ten years and that were color fed. Go to a health food store. You will see Beta-Carotene prominently displayed as an additive for human diets. Beta-Carotene is an anti-oxidant and is believed to help in the prevention and healing of injury and disease, including cancer. Beta-Carotene is one of the mainstays for Red Factor color feeding.

The substances used for promoting color in Red Factors are all classified as fat soluble. What this means is that the organism has no simple mechanism for removing excesses from the system. The use of the color feeding agents improves the bird’s appearance and promotes health. Misuse and abuse can cause harm. Directions must be followed diligently concerning dosages. As a rule of thumb, any of the chemicals can be fed just until the birds develop a pink color in the droppings. This is a sign that the birds are not able absorb and utilize any more of the pigments.

Unfortunately, many fanciers refuse to read or follow directions. Water must always be given fresh every day. This is doubly true for water that contains color feeding compounds. The chemicals themselves must be stored in a cool, dark, dry place. Though they will not spoil, heat, light, and humidity cause the substances to lose potency. Refrigerated the substances will last indefinitely.

There is no minimum age to start color feeding. The fancier should provide the feeding hen with color promoting substances in both the water and the nestling food. In this way the young will leave the nest nearly as deep a shade of red as they will be after their first moult. Also, canaries color fed in the nest will fledge completely with red feathers. Youngsters not color fed until after they leave the nest retain white flights and tail feathers, thus the term unflighted.

The adult birds should be color fed at all times. There are several reasons for this. Some only color feed during the moult. The bird’s system must be saturated with the chemicals before the moult begins in order to develop the best possible color. The only way to ensure this is to continuously provide the concentrates. Red Factor Canaries require a higher percentage of carotenoids than is normally found in the diet. Also, if the birds are not provided with a constant source of pigments, when losing an odd feather, it will grow in a different shade. This will ruin the bird for exhibition.

There are three main chemicals used in color feeding Red Factor Color Bred Canaries: Canthaxanthin, Beta-Carotene, and other orange carotenoids. Canthaxanthin is the most powerful color promoting substance. Some breeders use Canthaxanthin as the sole chemical for color feeding. This is not the best course to take. Birds fed only Canthaxanthin will develop a dull brick shade of red. The proper ratio is to give the birds half Canthaxanthin and half Beta-Carotene. This way the birds will develop bright, fire engine red feathers. These concentrates should be constantly available in the water. The proper amount to give is one teaspoon of the blend to one-half gallon of water. About one weeks worth of water can be mixed up at a time. Refrigerate the unused portion. Canthaxanthin and Beta-Carotene can also be fed in the nestling food. Mix one teaspoon of the mix of Canthaxanthin and Beta-Carotene with one kilo of dry ingredients.

Feeding the carotenoids in the nestling food definitely is a good idea, but for the maximum color the water also needs to be treated. Of course, birds in the nest will only have the rearing food as a source of pigment. Until they fledge, the chicks don’t have access to the water dish. The adults do need soft food as a protein supplement year round, but one can’t depend on them eating enough of that each and every day to reach the best color. Adult birds, especially if the weather is warm during the molting season, do drink a lot of water. The drawback of this method is that additional effort is required. Automatic watering systems hooked up to the utility pipes can’t be used.

Canthaxanthin and Beta-Carotene are the basics of Red Factor color feeding. Other orange carotenoids are also available. When given in addition to Canthaxanthin and Beta-Carotene, a brighter red color is the result. Orange carotenoids are in an oil base. They are added to the nestling food or mixed with a treat seed like thistle or hemp. Mix one teaspoon of the oil with one pound of seed. Allow to stand over night before feeding. The seed will absorb the pigment.

When buying Canthaxanthin and Beta-Carotene demand pure ingredients. Sucrose, dextrose, and other sugars, vitamin C, and vitamin B are added only because they are cheap;they do not improve color. Many dealers over charge without mercy. Others do not store properly. With a little comparison shopping, pure chemicals can be obtained at reasonable prices. Buy only from a vendor that has a high turnover and refrigerates the product until the time of shipment.

Carotenoids are found in berries, beets, sweet potatoes, squashes, tomatoes, and cherries. The birds should also be fed these foods so that other pigments, perhaps not yet identified or synthesized, can be obtained by the birds. These fruits and vegetables are given in addition to the chemicals.

Canaries are being exhibited today that are the equal of the Venezuelan Black Hooded Red Siskin, as far as color is concerned. Type canaries, mostly Norwich and Borders, have been inter-bred with the Red Factor Color Bred to improve size and shape. The products of such crosses most be carefully selected and bred back into red stock to improve color. No method of color feeding will generate red birds if the hue is not latent in the pedigree.