Showing Birds

Dr. Al Decoteau


History of Exhibitions

F or centuries breeders of domesticated birds have been interested in comparing the quality of their product with that of others breeding the same breed or variety. Their goal was to selectively breed better birds, often breeding for color, size, feather quality, etc. Competition was keen, so on numerous occasions extensive debates occurred over whether a bird was superior to the one across the street. Many of these debates occurred at Farmers' Markets 'Where the product was on display for sale.

Occasionally an owner thought so highly of his product that he refused to sell it, indicating it was at the market for exhibition only. Soon his neighbor did the same thing; the debate was on.

In time it was a necessity that an intermediary or judge had to decide which bird of the same breed was superior. The judge would have to be completely neutral, preferably originating from another city or county, the more distant the better. There could not be any prejudice in such an important decision.

Soon these intermediaries became known for their knowledge of the breed or variety of bird that became their specialty. In due time the demand on them became intense. As interest in selection and production of various specialties grew, so did individuals become specialized judges.

The interest developed from a casual pastime to the point that a group of birds was split into many categories according to likes and dislikes. People started selecting for color, size, feather structure and general beauty. Consequently, numerous beautiful breeds of poultry were developed and, similarly, numerous breeds of canaries were developed. Exhibitions at Farmers' Markets soon developed into fairs and then into giant exhibitions


with much competition.

Thus developed perhaps the main reasons for exhibiting birds: to show the offspring of adults you the exhibitor paired and to see if these offspring indeed are better in quality than the adults. Many times a serious exhibitor would be depressed and disappointed with the production of inferior progeny, but often the happy exhibitor would be rewarded by reaping wins with progeny he produced through accurate selection.

By the late 1700s and early 1800s, there were numerous interesting exhibitions in England and Scotland, among other lands, with strong competition. Perhaps the largest and most popular exhibitions involved poultry and canaries. In the United States, the era of exhibitions began to a large extent in the late 1800s.

Cagebird exhibitions developed gradually and slowly. English exhibitors made greater strides in cagebird exhibitions than those in the United States, but as cagebirds were increasingly bred, an increase in exhibitions was even seen here.

Canary exhibitions became important throughout the country. With the advent of many canary clubs for popular varieties such as the Border, Gloster, Yorkshire, and Norwich, the shows increased in popularity as well as size. Specialty organizations such as The American Budgerigar Society created a keen interest in breeding and exhibiting this very popular parakeet.

With the advent of the 1970s an increase in the breeding of fine rare finches and parrots, as well as those not so rare, created a stir to exhibit in these categories. Cockatiel and love bird exhibitors developed their standards and soon could present specialty shows to be rivaled by few other types of cagebirds. The rush was on for better selectivity and for better type


birds so they will better conform to the standards of perfection.

In North America, there have been exhibitions occurring yearly for many decades. The National Cage Bird Show of Canada recently held their lOlst exhibition in Toronto, the Massachusetts Cage Bird Show recently celebrated their 75th anniversary show and this year the Indiana Bird Fanciers will be celebrating their SOth annual show. The "Show of Shows," the National Cage Bird Show in the United States is the parent of all shows.

The Importance of Specialty Clubs

in Exhibitions

For years, the National Cage Bird Show was mainly a showing of Canaries with some Budgerigars; there was one division devoted to the showing of Foreign Birds. As the Cockatiel breeders became organized into the American Cockatiel Society and later the National Cockatiel Society, they petitioned the National Board of Directors for a division of Cockatiels. This soon came to reality. Shortly thereafter, the African Love Bird Society petitioned for a division for Love Birds; this, too became an official division. This left the Foreign Bird division for finches, softbills and parrots.

In the decade of the eighties, two more strong societies were organized and developed thereby creating a separate division of Finches and Softbills and a division for Parrots. The foreign bird category was finally scrapped. These societies are the National Finch and Softbill Society and the Society of Parrot Breeders and Exhibitors.

It is the many societies that affiliate with the National Cage Bird Show that make up the rules and regulations as well as the Standards of Perfection. These guidelines are followed very closely. In addition, each society recommends their judges to be utilized in their respective divisions. For example, one guideline, almost universal, is the disqualification of hybrids.



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