The Finch Weekly

There is no shortage of canary types of varieties out there in an amazing range of colors.  One of the most distinctive in terms of their markings is the Lizard Canary.  It is also one of the oldest types of canaries with a long and slightly troubled history.  Let’s learn more about those lizards.

What is the Lizard Canary?

The Lizard Canary was first mentioned as far back as the early 1700s when it was described as a mutation bred in captivity in France.  They were bred for many years but went into something of a decline in the early 1900s, mostly due to the two World Wars when bird breeding was understandably not a focus.  Some disease epidemics also affected the number of birds being bred and they were almost extinct.

Lizard canary

By the mid-1940s, they were almost extinct, with only around 40 birds believed to exist across the whole of Europe.  This was when the Lizard Canary Association of Great Britain was formed.  Their aim was to create and monitor a breeding program to save the Lizard Canary.

Thankfully, their work was a great success and Lizards are now one of the most popular ‘type’ canaries across the continent, especially here in the UK.  Their distinctive spangled effect feathers are seen in many cages and aviaries!

What is a Type Canary?

As a quick reminder, type canaries are one of the three main categories of these birds, the others being color and song.

Type canaries are bred for a physical trait or a shape but their colour or song is less important.  Other type canaries include Borders, Gloster, and Fife canaries.

Lizard Canary Description

So what makes a Lizard Canary?  Well, their size is around average, about 14cm or 5.5 inches in length including the tail.

Their name comes from the distinctive markings they have which include black crescent-shaped spots running down the back and breast – like the scales of a lizard.  It is also known as spangling.  But don’t worry if your lizard canary loses its scales during the annual molt – it will get them back again the next time for the breeding season.

Lizard canary bird

There are three main colors for these birds:

Sexing the Birds

One of the interesting things about these canaries is that they are one of the few that you can tell what sex it is visually.  That’s because the cock birds tend to be brighter and have deeper color to their feathers than the hens. If you like a bit of science, the hens display more melanins that affect the grey, browns, and blacks in the feathers while cocks have less so the lipochromes that affect yellow and red colors are brighter.

male lizard canary
Male bird with bright markings

Keeping Lizard canaries

Despite being quite different in looks, lizard canaries are much the same as other types of canaries when it comes to keeping them.  They can function in a cage or an aviary, enjoy a good seed diet such as a canary mixture or a foreign finch, and love to bathe.

They will always appreciate egg food and fresh greens as well as some enjoying cuttlefish while others prefer grit.

You can house them with almost any other similar or smaller-sized birds although they can hybridize with British species such as greenfinch, goldfinch, or even linnets.  Canaries generally can be quite ill-tempered with others around breeding season so plenty of room is a good idea or use separate cages for pairs.

breeding lizard canaries

Breeding Lizard Canaries

The classic canary nesting pan is ideal for them to build their nest.  The female does the work, creating a cup-shaped nest where she lays her blue eggs.

Some breeders remove eggs until the fourth day and use dummy eggs to keep the hen happy.  Then they remove the dummy eggs and put the real eggs back under the bird.  This ensures all chicks hatch at the same time and have an equal chance of survival.

Incubation is done by the hen and lasts for 14-15 days.  The cock will feed her on the nest and she’ll take short breaks.  The chicks are in the nest for around 21 days and are fed by both parents.  Once they leave, the cock will do slightly more of the work, especially if the hen has another clutch on the go.

Chicks are usually weaned after another 2-3 weeks and start to molt their adult feathers at around 10 weeks old.  Keep supplying plenty of egg food and fresh greens during this period as it is difficult for the little birds and they need all the nutrients they can get.

A Distinctive Type of Canary

Lizard canaries are a distinctive type with interesting markings that make them easy to spot at shows and sales.  But underneath, they are very much like other canaries varieties and this makes them great to keep and breed in cages or aviaries.

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