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A perspective: my London fancies
Cage & Aviary Birds

A perspective: my London fancies

Posted Monday, April 13, 2015   |   1516 views   |   Family & Home   |   Comments (0) BERNARD HOWLETT describes his approach to breeding the London fancy canary and looks forward to a revival of the variety

Both the Lizard and the London fancy are variegated birds and came from the same ancestors. The London fancy is a variegated and “dilute” form of the Lizard, while the Lizard is a feather-controlled version of the London fancy. It is very delicate in feather control when paired to another variety of canary.

Although we generally look at the Lizard as a form of self, it is a type of variegated bird. Clear-capped Lizards have an area of clear feathers on their crown that are devoid of melanin pigment, as is the area of skin from hich they grow. This makes them variegated birds. Lizard canaries are unique because they have been bred for centuries to “fix” the feature and position of variegation, so that it only appears on their heads. This, however, is not strictly true, as light feathers do appear from time to time in studs. These birds are not used for breeding purposes, so that the true image is maintained.

Simply pairing it to another canary can spoil the unique pattern of the Lizard and hundreds of years of selected breeding is lost. That is what I did in 1997, when I attempted to breed a bird that looked like a London fancy. This was not the London fancy itself, because I thought at the time it would be impossible to discover its real image. I paired Lizards with green opals, which I thought would break up the controlling features of the Lizard. Both are recessive “self” birds that have dark underflue, are of the same size and perch in the same manner.

I only paired this combination of varieties for a couple of years, and since then I have tried to control the variegation left by the crossing. Variegation is difficult to control, but the Lizard pioneers managed to do it and I will never give up trying.

"I’ve had to rely on trial and error, but have indeed some evidence of a dominant factor"

What I need is in the form of a dominant gene – if I can discover this, I can produce a lookalike London fancy. I’ve had to rely on trial and error, but have indeed found some evidence of a dominant factor within my strain.

Many of my birds are clear with black wings, while some have a few black tail feathers. Within the past few years, however, I have bred birds with a completely black Lizard-like tail. Some have faults elsewhere in their plumage, and a tiny number are exceptional look-alike London fancies.

All those with a black tail produce roughly one in four offspring with a black tail. I assume this dominant factor for hue of tail is single-factor. I have yet to breed a pair of these together to establish a double factor. If a double factor for black tails is created, I suspect this will enhance the percentage of black-tailed birds bred. The darkness of beak and legs of the single factor black-tailed birds is quite dark.

The dominant factor for black tails probably comes from the opal, which I used in 1997-98.

Projects concerning the London fancy have come a long way during the years I have worked on my own venture. The climate is now open to further experimentation. The London Fancy Canary Club’s membership is growing and soon will produce lookalike London fancies each year, which the hobby can be proud of.

Bernard Howlett is the general secretary of The London Fancy Canary Club.

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Cage & Aviary Birds is the world’s only weekly newspaper for birdkeepers. Written by bird experts for bird fans, it is packed with news, advice and comment from the avicultural scene. An essential resource for members of bird clubs and societies, it also offers an unrivalled marketplace for sellers and buyers of birds and all bird-related products, both in the British Isles and around the world.

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