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Canary Shows – Rating the Songs of American Singer Canaries

CanaryBird clubs and associations regularly sponsor shows in which parrots, finches and others can compete for prizes based on appearance, color and even “breed standards”. Less common, but very popular among canary enthusiasts, are singing competitions. But just how does one judge something as “natural” as a bird’s song? Today we’ll look at the surprising array of criteria used to rate the songs of the ever-popular American Singer Canary. If you are looking to add a new aspect to your hobby, singing competitions might be the way to go (your own efforts will not be appreciated, so please leave the singing to your Canary!).

American Singer History

The breed known as the American Singer Canary was developed in the 1930’s. Canary enthusiasts seeking a good songster with a calm personality searched for breeds that might be crossed to produce a bird with both qualities. The German Roller was chosen for its singing abilities while the Border Canary was selected due to its good nature and suitability as a pet. Cross-breeding Rollers with Borders produced the American Singer Canary, which has become one of the most popular of all breeds.

Older breeds noted for their songs, including Timbrados, Rollers and Waterslagers, are judged according to strict standards (specific notes must be produced, etc.). However, American Singer Canaries are noted for producing unique songs – variety and “freedom” are valued above all else. Judges apply set criteria, but not in the same manner as with other breeds.

Judging Song Quality

American Singer Canaries are judged on a 100 point basis, with 70 points being allotted to the actual song, and 30 applied towards the bird’s appearance and condition. Talent is definitely valued over “surface beauty”!

Canary songs are evaluated over a 20 minute period, which is divided into two 10 minute segments. In the first, or “Freedom” segment, the Canary is awarded 1 point (to a maximum of 10) for each complete song produced. Song quality is not considered, although I imagine an impression is being formed in the judges’ minds at this time.

In the second 10 minute period, known as the “Rendition” segment, the judge evaluates the songs based on specific but somewhat subjective criteria. Sixty points are at stake. The following factors are considered:


Variety – how the various tunes and notes are spread about

Tone – pitch, strength; how the song “sounds” to the ear

Melodiousness – how the various notes and song bits flow into one another

Showmanship – how the bird “conducts himself” during the song; an upright posture and a bold, “proud” demeanor is valued

Evaluating Physical Appearance

Canary in a cageThe 20 minute song evaluation accounts for 70 points.  The remaining 30 possible points are awarded based upon physical attributes.  “Condition” (10 points) refers to the canary’s grooming (nail length, feather condition), activity level or vigor and overall health.  The cleanliness and set-up of the cage (there are specific rules as to perch placement, etc.) are also considered.

The “Conformation” evaluation (20 points) accesses how well the Canary meets the physical standards that have been established for plumage, size, body and head shape and other such characteristics; color is not considered.

The Ideal Canary

If you enjoy Canary songs, I suggest that you stop in at a competition and perhaps consider becoming involved.  Due to the flexible standards that have been established, it is easiest to begin competing American Singers.  As a bonus, American Singer Canaries are available in a wide variety of colors and make very trusting pets…and even the “least gifted” usually sing beautifully!



Further Reading

Video: Song of an American Singer Canary

National Organization for the American Singer Canary

Border Canary Information

Canary image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by 4028mdk09
Canary in a cage image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Freegiampi

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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