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Short History of Cagebirds

The first real cagebird tamed to live and breed in a cage , as a hobby rather than for utilitarian reason, was the familiar and much loved canary.

A sturdy finch from the Canary Island and the Azores, this was the first bird to become entirely conditioned to a cage life.

In 1478 the Canary Islands were conquered by the Spaniards and wild canaries were brought back to Spain in large numbers. The singing canary became very popular. Wealthy Spaniards paid high prices for these highly desirable ladies' pets. A lucrative trade developed and canaries were exported all over Europe. The Spaniards however, were very careful to sell only male birds thus retaining a monopoly for nearly a hundred years. But in the middle of the sixteenth century, as we know from Giovanni Pietro Olina's Uccelliera, published in Rome in 1622, all this came to an end. A Spanish vessel bound for Leghorn carrying a large number of canaries, was shipwrecked on the isle of Elba and many of the birds escaped. Finding living conditions ideal they bred and multiplied considerably. Before long they were discovered by the Italians who not only sold them but started breeding them in large quantities exporting them to all countries in central Europe and eventually to the rest of Europe including Russia and England.

For about four centuries, the canary, by virtue of its beauty and sweet musical song and peaceful nature, remained the, most popular cagebird until it was superseeded by the budgerigar which John Gould, an English naturalist, brought with him from Australia in 1840. The craze for the budgie spread across Europe. Moreover, since it bred well and freely, it gained popularity. That the budgie has much to its credit is very obvious because it is beautifully coloured, vivacious and friendly with a distinct, if not outstanding, ability to mimic the human voice.

A long time had to elapse before the widespread importation of exotic birds was possible. Until then, fanciers caught and tamed songbirds. They housed them in small cages. Since the upsurge of interest in tropical birds by aviculturists living in cooler climates, the three main areas of supply have been South East Asia, Equatorial Africa and parts of North South America. The development of highly nutritious dried food such as those designed for human babies greatly aided the chances of survival of these small and extremely delicate birds such as sunbirds, hummingbirds and flycatchers.

The practice of keeping a pet bird or two in a cage for its pleasure and company has developed, on one hand, into a serious science and, on the other, into a large well-organised international hobby.

Undoubtedly, the practice of showing birds has greatly united and promoted the cagebird movements. Shows draw people together, enabling them to compare their work, discuss new techniques and, as important as anything, provide healthy competition. A large cagebird show is the focal point and shopwindow of the entire hobby covering every aspect of the fancy.

Donated by the Birds Breeders Association Club visit BBA club website

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