The Lizard canary: a dozen differences
The Lizard canary is a living antique; by far the oldest distinct variety of canary. The first clear description of a bird with a cap, and known as the fine spangled sort, was published in 1742, but there are clues that it was established much earlier in the eighteenth century.
One of a kind
The Lizard is not a type canary, a frill canary, a colour canary or a song canary. It is a bird of pattern. It is the only variety in this division, although it may be re-united with the London Fancy if attempts to recreate the breed are successful.
The Lizard is a highly ornamental bird, with precise and intricate contrasts of light and dark in its plumage. In the best examples, the patterns have a startling clarity.
The ground colour of the Lizard differs from other breeds in its hue and intensity. This arises from a combination of feather structure, dark underflue, and the Lizard’s unusual metabolism of colour pigments. The best golds have a metallic glint, while the best silvers have a mellow antique sheen.
No other variety places such emphasis on the quality and distribution of black pigments, whether it is in the wings, tail, legs and claws, or within individual feathers. The blacker the better.
Enter the world of the Lizard canary and you will soon find yourself speaking a language established in Georgian England: spangles, rowings, lacings, gold, silver, and cap are perhaps the best known. Unlike most other types of canary, things haven’t changed much over three centuries.
The Lizard is classic example of an ugly duckling turning into an elegant swan. Just watch sparrow-like juveniles emerge from their first moult with spangled splendour. Wonderful.
Lizards are in peak show condition in their first year, but have white tips on the ends of their wings and tail after the second moult. It is easy to assess whether a Lizard is a current-year or an over-year bird even if it is not wearing a closed ring.
No other variety is as easy to sex as the Lizard canary. Males and females are easy to distinguish; you don’t have to wait for the males to sing! It is also easy to differentiate between the two feather types (i.e. gold and silver), so there is no difficulty in selecting matched couples for the breeding season.
Lizards are healthy, fertile birds. They are easy to keep and breed, and not expensive either. Just obtain true-bred stock from an established breeder and you can look forward to producing nice youngsters. If you want a bigger challenge, try showing them!
There is a lot to enjoy: the beauty of the birds; their heritage; their inquisitive yet trusting nature; the rhythm of the seasons; the places you will visit; the people you will meet and soon call friends.
This unique canary has survived against the odds for almost three hundred years; you too could play a part in safeguarding its future. Something out of the ordinary and definitely worthwhile.
Huw Evans 22.08.2016