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Birds of a feather want more to flock together
KEEPING canaries is a bit like keeping thoroughbred racehorses, although it doesn’t hurt as much when one sits on your shoulder.
There are other differences. The stable’s a bit smaller, for example, and there there’ll never be enough by-product to turbocharge the vegetable patch.
In spite of all that, the basic principles are the same. The best specimens are matched with one another to produce even better offspring, bloodlines are carefully documented and nutrition is tailored to maintain tip-top condition.
There are also competitions, although cage birds are judged on appearance rather than speed. Next Friday, January 18, Swindon Cage Bird Society will hold an AGM that may be the last in its 107-year history unless new members can be found. There are currently only about 10. The problem isn’t a lack of keepers but a seeming lack of awareness about the society and what it offers.
“We know there are many people in and around Swindon who breed birds and keep them in garden aviaries and as pets in the home,” said society president Ron Denham.
“We would welcome these people at our meetings. Help and advice is freely available, and remember you don’t have to be an exhibitor of birds to become a member.”
Member Fred Allen, 76, a retired electrician who lives in Covingham, added: “We’re willing to show birds and help anybody out.”
Just about all canaries kept by enthusiasts in this country are members of the species Serinus canaria domestica, whose ancestors were first brought from their homelands – islands off the North African coast – about four centuries ago.
Selective breeding has produced countless varieties. Fred favours the Gloster, a neat, plump, green and yellow bird with a little mop of long feathers on its head. If you see four on the same perch, it’s impossible not to think of an early Beatles publicity still.
Ron, an 88-year-old retired water worker from Coleview, likes the Border variety, a trim and pretty bird. “They used to call them the little gem,” he said, “but over the years they got bigger and bigger.”
Another member, 87-year-old retired carpenter Howard Booth, prefers the colourful and challenging Norwich, named for the city which became such a centre for breeding that its football team is still known as The Canaries. “It’s the size of them and the colour,” he said. “They’re also the hardest to breed.”
All three men say keeping the birds is good for both body and spirit, whatever one’s age or background. Between them they have well over a century of experience in the hobby and each looks younger than his years.
As Ron put it: “For anyone looking for a hobby, keeping birds of any variety is very fascinating, and from my own experence can be recommended as a way of taking away some of the stress of modern living.”
He can be contacted for further infromation on 01793 831169.