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canario timbrado

SHOULD OUR BIRDS BE TUTORED?

SHOULD OUR BIRDS BE TUTORED? I

     Should canary birds be tutored (with masters or mechanical meanings) or should we let them develop their own song? This is an ancient question in canary-culture that needs others to be solved previously: what does song in canaries mean and how does it develop?, is it learned, genetic or both? The answers are not easy, same as with a lot of topics connected with our singer friends. We unknow how exactly work the multiple genetic and environmental factors that shape the song of a canary. All that we can do is to learn from the long selective breeding experience and the few clues that we can get from different scientific fields.

     We know that in Malinois (Waterslager) the song is,basically, learned and the birds just inherit the capacity to perform certain watery song. A non Malinois bird will never be able to sing those tours, but a pure Malinois, capable by its nature to do it, just will perform most part of his repertoire if is taught. Roller is different, with a larger number of passages inherited, although most Roller breeders educate their birds trying to improve their quality.

     But what can we say about Timbrado? There's a fact that supports the strong hereditary character of Timbrado song and this is that wild canary shares with our race almost the same repertoire. Of course wild canary song is a very primitive version of Timbrado's, but timbres, clucks, floreos and even some watery notes and rolled variations are present in their song, mixed with all kind of harsh passages and faults. And, what's very important, we can find in wild canaries the same main lineages that have been develop in Timbrado: discontinuos (floreados), continuos (classics), watery birds... and we find these lineages in specific geografic areas (islands or parts of islands). So genetically related canaries, in the wilds, sing in similar patterns, very much like happen in our studs. These specialized strains appear too in other european close birds (goldfinch, linnet, serin...) but not as clearly as in wild canaries. This may be explained because of the habits of canaries which, unlike those other finches, are sedentary species.

     So if most of the tours of modern Timbrado can be traced in wild canaries and, even, particular features like the presence of song lineages can be identified in both birds, it seems that song in Timbrado has a strong genetic character, closely connected with the wild form. But this is not a complete proof: in the forest there's, as well, some teaching and the similarities between Timbrado song and wild canary's could be just a chain of teachings lasting for centuries.

     Some scholars argue that the genetic role of song in canaries is very limited,quoting experiments in which young canaries were completely isolated or made deaf from birth and when these birds reached maturity their song was very poor (just a few notes) and unconnected. Those tests forget that song in birds is a social tool used, mainly, to attract females and mark territories and, so, a bird that has been deprived of all kind of social touch will probably develop a defective song, because his whole social skills have been severely damaged.

     As I've said previously Malinois is a race built on a basis of educated song; Roller has stronger genetic pool complemented with some teaching. And what about Timbrado? As usual, Timbrado world is confusing.

 

SHOULD OUR BIRDS BE TUTORED? II

     The breeders of "classic" Timbrado often (not all of them) argue that the birds can be tutored and, so, should be tutored. The first is obvious: canaries can imitate songs from other birds (even from different species) or noises from mechanical objects (bells, typewriters, alarms...). To defend the second point these breeders say that there's no reason to limit ourselves to the pure genetic song when there's the possibility of improving this song with some teaching. If a non taught bird is able to fill up in the score sheet say, 12 notes and a trained one 15, this bird should be trained. And, what's more, the ability to learn is, somehow, genetic so selecting good learners we're improving, as well, Timbrado's genetic background.

     But there's another point of view about this issue defendended by some Timbrado "classic" breeders and, specially, by "floreado" fanciers. These breeders argue that the education in song should be avoided and they've got their own reasons:

     a) A bird that has been tutored will forget quickly those learned tours, specially if were used like teachers birds from a different line. A canary cock, whatever his race can be, will perform his best song when is between 8 and 12 months old. As the mating period approaches and he gets excited, he can forget some tours, will sing others too quickly or, even, can develop faulty notes (specially in tours where appears CH sound _chaus,castanets in chas/chac..._) or "rozadas" (too strong R sound in timbres).

     A tutored bird will lose during the year most of the notes that had acquired and, if is not retaught, will come back after the moulting to his genetic song and ,so, his change can be even radical, complete. A non tutored bird, with just genetic song, can lose part of his repertoire but his change will never be so drastic.

     b) It's very easy to give to our canaries a wrong education. For instance if we leave our birds too long with a teacher, they will develop a song mostly copied from him and so a potential good genetic song could be masked after an inferior learned one. Or if we put our birds with a teacher from a very different line, they will make a defective copy of his song.

     c) If we buy a cock that has been trained we can never be sure (even if it got a good score at the contest) if it's a good genetic bird or just a bird with good learning skills and so to breed with this kind of birds is very problematic. Very often happens that our tutored bird changes completely his song, so it can't be used like teacher and we find ourselves with bad genetic birds (his offspring) that are not going to improve because we don't have a teacher from the same lineage that his father's.

      d) A bird that has been trained can, certainly, fill up in the score- sheet some more notes that a non trained but this is just because there are some with a fixed phonetical composition. For instance the phonetical composition of "church bell" is tilon-tilon and to achieve this sound some lines of Timbrado can need tutoring because if we dont tutor them they can perform other sounds as tuli-tuli or dilu-dilu, for instance, which are good flourishes. But these not trained birds are just changing one good sound (tilon) for other good one (tuli). They will not score under the note "church bell" but theyll be better in "flourishes"

 

SHOULD OUR BIRDS BE TUTORED? III

     But is it possible to build a good stud without any teaching, what kind of birds do we get?. It is perfectly possible and, for instance, the "floreado" birds in TIMBRADO.COM have been selected from the 50s with this criterion, to let them develop his own genetic song and then choose the best for breeding. The birds are separated from any adult cock as soon as they can eat by themselves, preferably by groups from the same parents and so they don't listen any song but can evolve in a social environment. Even some fanciers remove the cock when the hen is incubating, so there's no possibility that the offspring can learn anything at all.

     There are some advantages with this method: the handling of the stud is easier, the young birds evolve by themselves so we don't need to keep teachers and we avoid the difficult task of preserving these birds in a perfect song condition. On other hand, as the youngsters develop their own song each bird and, specially, each group of brothers sing in their own way that will be as close to the other groups as our inbreed is; if we teach our birds all of them will be very much the same and this can be very boring.

     BUT THE MAIN POINT OF THIS "NON TEACHING" METHOD IS THAT WE CAN MAKE A REAL SELECTION OF THE BEST BIRDS EACH YEAR AND KEEP THEM FOR MATING. SO WE WILL BE SURE OF THE QUALITY OF THEIR GENETIC POOL, THE CHANGES THAT EACH YEAR HAPPEN AND IF WE ARE, OR NOT, IN THE RIGHT WAY.

     I started with Timbrado at the end of the 70s with two cocks bought to a known breeder from Madrid, both of them "classics" as the "floreado" birds were still pretty unknown outside their home region, Asturias, in the very North of Spain. One of those had the best "timbre metalico" that I've ever listened, modulated and sweet, excelent clucks and acceptable floreos; even today this bird would be around 90 points. The other one was more modest, but a nice bird as well. As the breeding period was passing, the first one started to change, appearing harsh CHAUS and other "estridencias". After the moult the bird wasn't what I had bought: the modulated timbre was lost and now it was a raucuous "rozada", the clucks were vulgar and the floreos mainly unbearable "chaus". Where was my bird, what had happened?. Very upset I thought that my loved canary was a lie, something just made for a contest. When I had almost decided to change the following year to Roller, my second bird started to sing after a long moulting. To my surprise his song was almost the same as before and his sons happened to be a bit better. This second bird was the root of my stud for almost 10 years and, probably the reason because of what I'm still with Timbrado.

 

SHOULD OUR BIRDS BE TUTORED? & IV

     As we have seen there are two ways of dealing with the problem of tutoring and both could be valid, it's just up of the goal that we aim. If we want birds Malinois (Waterslager) like, in which the learning skills are as important, at least, as the genetic pool, we will do fine teaching to our canaries. But if we want really genetic good song birds, the non tutoring method is neccesary, and in Timbrado we've got an excellent raw material to work in this way. We must remember that all the tours that appear in Timbrado's standard and contest form are genetic, can be inherited. That's something that doesn't happen at all with Malinois (Waterslager).

     I've said previously that breeding good song bids is not an easy task. There are lots of factors that influence the final result and we're just starting to understand some of them. So a scientific approach is much more difficult in song canaries that, say, color canaries and it's even worse if we add new factors like teaching. With a trained bird we never know where the song that we listen comes from: is it a poor genetic bird but with great learning skills?, could have been better if properly trained or if no tutored at all?, what kind of offspring can we expect from him?. There's no way to say.

     Canaries with just genetic song (non tutored) are much easier to work with, so it's easier to improve our stud and, so, the general genetic pool of Timbrado. And it's important to say that this method is not just pure fiction: thousands of birds are bred like this each year in Spain with great results, a complete lineage of birds developed from the 50s (floreado lineage) is based in this practice.

     However, genetic song and teaching methods are not as opposed as they look like, actually we can even get the best of both if we've got enough room and patience. One of my teachers in this world was an ex-judge of Roller (when I met him in the 70s) which birds where almost as great as his knowledge and kindness. He had a pretty large stud and plenty of room and worked in a very close inbreed, so most of his birds where very tightly related. Each year he would make two groups with the young cocks, one of them to be tutored (and afterwards to be sold or kept like teachers) and the other to breed with the following year, these latest separated by groups of brothers and kept isolated without listening any adult bird, developing his own genetic song. I was witness of champions, almost perfect birds, that were sold because, as he used to say, "have been tutored, so you can't trust in them. My real champions are at home".

                                                                                                                                     

     P.S.: After using for decades the non instructional method of training in Asturias and other Spanish regions, we can say that the notes, themselves, are not inherited. Canaries, and specifically Timbrados, will pass to their offspring:

     a) The emission rythm of the notes that form their song. So, for instance, Timbrados rich in discontinuous tours (flourishes) will transmit this feature to their sons.

     b) The "timbre" (as quality of the voice) that allow us to distinguish, regardless of the particular tours, Timbrado from Roller or a Canary from a Goldfinch.

     c) The level of complexity in the song what includes features like the prevalence of cojoint variations (dúos) or polisylabic flourishes (tirori-tirori/ piyiyo-piyiyo...)

     d) The amount of different notes that form the repertoire.

     e) The prevalence in the song of certain vowels or consonants whether positive ("l","d","b"...) or negative ("ch", harsh "r"...)

     When I say that Timbrado has a strong hereditary character I mean that our birds can develop, without tutoring, all the notes of the standard. Its probably impossible to find a single Timbrado able to sing this huge repertoire, but the breed as a whole, considering birds from different lines, is able to sing without tutoring all these tours. They can even develop church bell, slow water, castanet or jingle bell, maybe the tours more difficult to find in our contests.

© Luis Sanchez

 

 

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