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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
SHOULD OUR BIRDS BE TUTORED? II
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
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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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 don┤t 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 they┤ll be better in "flourishes"
SHOULD OUR BIRDS BE TUTORED? III
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.
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.
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.
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? &
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).
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.
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.
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".
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.
"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.
level of complexity in the song what includes features like
the prevalence of cojoint variations (dúos) or polisylabic
flourishes (tirori-tirori/ piyiyo-piyiyo...)
amount of different notes that form the repertoire.
The prevalence in the song of certain vowels or consonants
whether positive ("l","d","b"...) or negative ("ch", harsh
I say that Timbrado has a strong hereditary character I
mean that our birds can develop, without tutoring, all the
notes of the standard. It┤s 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