1.  Training Song Canaries for Competition
2.  A Very Brief History of the Spanish Timbrado Song Canary
3.  A History of Timbrados in the US and USTF
4.  Patricia Last's USTF Announcement and Welcome Message--December, 2002
5.  The Evolution of the Timbrado's Song

Training Song Canaries for Competition
Sebastian Vallelunga

General Principles
Every young male canary is trained, that is “conditioned to sing” in a manner of speaking, whether this is done by setting him up for failure as a shy singer with a limited repertoire thru neglect of an effective program or it is done by setting him up for success as a confident singer with a wide and pleasing repertoire thru the correct set of circumstances for the style of bird in question.

The first factor which must be taken into consideration is genetics. Song canaries inherit four very important components when it comes to singing: 1. the desire or predisposition to sing (also called “freedom of song”), 2. the physical song apparatus (the syrinx or voice box and the muscles associated with this, the mouth and tongue, and the lungs and air sacs), 3. the neurological and psychological components (including the brain’s song center and the bird’s ability to learn song thru listening—to other birds or to itself—and repetition), 4. individual song components (certain tours or sounds seem to be “hard wired” in different breeds and lines of canaries).

All of these components must be appropriately selected for in the breeding program before any young can be trained. This is done by choosing birds from a line that produces a majority of birds which seem to enjoy singing and do it frequently and which sing a song that sounds right for the breed or variety with at least a minimum level of proficiency in the most important tours of the breed or variety. This selection applies to both cocks and hens; it will not profit you in the long run to buy a great male and then breed him to hens of poor, or unknown, quality or lineage!

Here comes the first controversial point: most song canary breeders generally advocate the use of an adult male of the same line to act as a tutor for the young, but this is not universally the case. A good tutor can teach correct diction and actually encourage the young to broaden their repertoires of tours so long as he has a wide repertoire himself. On the other hand, the young will copy any flaws the older male may have right along with the good parts of his song. Many breeders of timbrados advocate a non-tutored approach wherein the young males never hear the song of adult males and are allowed to discover their own genetic song. This is especially true of floreados which will often develop much more elaborate floreos or flutes of their own than what they would otherwise copy from adults.

For good or for ill, certain breeds and varieties are more susceptible to learning the songs of other canaries. American singers and timbrados are the most teachable (or corruptible, depending on your point of view) followed by waterslagers, and the rollers are the least likely to learn tours from other canaries.

If tutors are to be used, they should be placed in smaller cages near the young males as soon as these older birds have undergone the molt and are singing their “fall” song. Later, once more formal contest training has begun, the tutors should be near at hand at all times as the young will continue to fine tune their voices right up until contest time.

The next thing you must know in order to plan your training is whether your breed or variety is what I call “hot”, “warm”, or “cool” in song style. This will determine the style of training required. Songsters of hot song temperament sing at the drop of a hat and can be loud and enthusiastic, even strained, in their singing, and in posture these are frequently quite upright in stance. Canaries that are warm in song temperament are more often a bit more staid and calm in their song (unless breeding) with more variety in volume and usually adopt a posture that is something between upright and low over the perch. Finally, cool songsters are frequently low volume, calm, and sit low over the perch while singing. It should be noted that these are general descriptions of the song temperaments and that any bird may be louder or quieter, etc., depending on personality, circumstance, or mood.

Old fashioned classic timbrados and most traditional American singers are hot singers.

Some modified classic timbrados, some intermedios and floreados, and many contemporary American singers fall between hot and warm song.

Some intermedios and most floreados, those few American singers that lean heavily toward roller or waterslager heritage, as well as most waterslagers are warm in song.

A few waterslagers and a few rollers fall between the warm and cool song style.

Most rollers are cool in song style.

The song style “temperament” (hot, warm, or cool) will tell you which of the following training approaches to use.

Heat is psychologically associated with light and cold with darkness in the human mind, and this fits the following training models quite well.

Formal Contest Training for the Hot Temperament

American singer breeders barely do any formal training for shows at all once the birds have been tutored or even played tapes of both wild birds and other canaries (the strategy is to allow the bird to pick and choose his tours from among a wide range of samples presented to him when young). The only formal training consists of placing the birds into their song or “shelf” cages and a few car rides so that the birds will be accustomed to traveling by the time of the shows.

This means that American singer canaries are allowed to develop their songs in full light right up until the day of the show. Once the birds go to the show, they are housed in a dimly lit room under bed sheets, but they are never in total darkness even then. Remarkably, the American singers almost always begin singing right away once they are staged before the judge (in random groups of eight or so) despite the fact that they don’t undergo the rigorous conditioning to sing on cue that the members of some breeds go through.

Last year I used a modification of this approach in training my classic timbrados. I placed the young birds in individual double breeder cages (½ per young male) starting in October. In November (about 4 weeks before the show) I moved them into individual song cages, but they were placed so they could see each other in stacks of 4 birds per stack. They remained this way until they were calm in the cages (about a week). By that time every bird was singing most of the day. At this point the cages were moved so that the birds could not see each other (since I used Valencia style cages, they were just turned so the solid side blocked their view into the other cages, but cardboard or wooden dividers could be used with other cage styles). After about four days, the birds were placed into open song cabinets which where later closed up at the end of that week except for two 30 minute sing out periods per day. Each cabinet has four 1¼ inch air/light holes on the front and these remained uncovered and the boxes where still in the same bright room the young males had been in since the start of their training; this phase also lasted a week. It was only during the final week before the contest that the cabinets were covered first with a sheet and later with heavy towels in order to prepare the birds for their stay in the darker contest holding room. The daily 30 minute sing out periods continued until travel day. Once the young birds were housed in closed cabinets, I loaded these into the car for a couple of short drives and one longer one simulating the drive to the contest. I always gave the birds a sing out period after each ride and by the second trip every bird sang. By the way, after a very short time the birds are expert at finding the food and water in complete darkness and even practice singing in the dark.

Formal Contest Training for the Warm Temperament

Training for the warm temperament involves a very similar procedure to that I used with my classic timbrados last year. The major difference is that one needs to begin the process about a week earlier before the contest in order to add a week of darkness at the end (closed cabinets in a dark room with heavy towels over them). This represents a total training period of 5 weeks. In addition, once the birds are housed in the closed song cabinets all the shades on the room should be pulled down in order to darken it as much as possible. The two 30 minute sing out periods should be used here as well. Also remember to condition the birds to sing after having been on a car ride as above.

Formal Contest Training for the Cool Temperament

Again, the training here is similar to the last category, but one more additional week of darkness should be added at the end, so the process should be begun an additional week earlier. This represents a total training period of 6 weeks.

Alternate System to Encourage Singing on Cue

Rather than the two 30 minute sing out periods to encourage singing right away, some European waterslager breeders have gone to an automatic timer that turns the room lights on for 10 minutes five times a day. This would give the birds more than double the practice at beginning to sing as soon as they are in the light than the 30 minute system. It should work just as well with other breeds.

Song Cabinets

The song cabinets I mentioned are really carrying boxes as well as darkening chambers; each cabinet or box holds 4 song cages (one team). These boxes keep the birds calmer when they are being moved and constitute a safe and familiar place for the birds in the strange surroundings of the holding room. If at all possible, such boxes should be used for transportation and training. Of course, you can train your birds without these using towels or cardboard boxes.

A Very Brief History of the Spanish Timbrado Song Canary

There is some evidence that the wild canaries were used as captive cage birds on the Canary Islands long before they were exported to Spain and eventually from there to the rest of Europe, and it was as singing cage birds that the Spanish first encountered them after they took over the islands in the 1470’s. The exported birds may have started as sailor’s curiosities which were brought back to the Spanish mainland as individual singing males, but they soon caught the eye of Spanish aristocrats and wealthy merchants who were anxious to acquire the birds and willing to pay more money than the sailors could earn in any other way. Eventually a brisk trade grew, and canaries were included among the exotic luxuries which were being imported on Spanish treasure ships from a growing Spanish empire.

According to the romantic stories about canaries which are reprinted in many canary books, Spanish conventos and monasteries were the first to crack the problem of breeding the canary in captivity and that the breakthrough was due to the dedication of the members of the religious houses of Spain who already made good incomes for their houses by raising sheep and other livestock. Those who speak of this story usually emphasize the imagery of the friars’ and monks’ chants being beautifully blended with the songs of their birds in a sort of concert which is both natural and divine. According to the story, the secret of breeding canaries was kept within the walls of these houses at first and then within the borders of Spain. Whether this is true or not, there is some evidence that the Spaniards did try to keep canary hens from being exported by royal edict and saw the birds as a crown monopoly and source of revenue for the government.

According to one line of thought, whether it took place in a private home or behind monastery walls as legend would have it, the first clutch of eggs to be hatched in Spain is a very significant event for timbrado aficionados because this first brood of young canaries must be considered the first timbrados, even though the name would not be invented for hundreds of years!

The popularity of the canary as a songbird among the nobles of Spain, where they are said to have been carried about by liveried servants in golden cages, also spread to places like Italy, Germany, France, the Low Countries, and eventually England.

While in Germany and the Low Countries deeper voiced birds which would eventually become rollers and waterslagers where being developed and in France and England the color, feather texture, posture, and shape of canaries were emphasized, in Spain the breeders quietly went about the business of selecting the best singers of the song that they had originally fallen in love with.

What little that is known about Spanish canariculture during the almost 400 years between the first decades of the 16th century and the last decades of the 19th century is due mainly to surmise. With the exception of a few small and relatively insignificant mutations (cinnamon, dominant white, crests), the canaries of Spain went on, year after year, much as they had been on their native islands. The breeders’ selection goal seems to have been to preserve the magical sound of the wild bird as nearly as possible. Today there are many places on the internet where one may hear the song of the wild canary and, although it varies from area to area, the major characteristics may be described as varied, bright, somewhat metallic (although both hollow and watery notes can be present), and remarkably complex. No wonder the desire was to preserve it.

In the 19th century a craze for greater size swept the canary world and not even the Spanish breeders were exempt. Some breeders crossed in frilled canaries in order to lengthen the small Spanish songbirds. This was a tragedy as far as the voice of the birds was concerned, a tragedy which some misguided breeders attempted to correct by crossbreeding with rollers. Much of the style of the diminutive and bright voiced little birds that had been beloved in Spain was lost. However, in some areas of Spain certain courageous breeders continued to resist the fashions of the day and kept their birds pure.

In the early 20th century a group of breeders began to cross their birds back to wild birds from the Canary Islands in order to recapture the original voice of the Spanish song canary and, although much of their work was lost due to the Spanish Civil War which began in the 1930’s, their example is still followed by many Spanish breeders today.

Due to the events of the late 19th and early 20th centuries described above, today timbrados can be found in three voice styles: the clasicos, which include many rolls in high, medium, and deep pitch in their song; the discontinuos, which are said to go back to those canaries which where never crossed to rollers or frills and which have very few or no rolls in their song; and the intermedios, which fall anywhere between the two.

A History of Timbrados in the US and USTF

The Spanish timbrados of the United States have their own short but twisted history. Although a few unappreciated specimens of the Spanish timbrado may have made it into the United States in the mid 1980’s, it wasn’t really until the early 1990’s that good birds and good information about them began to be available. The first real pioneer on the American timbrado scene was Alberto Berríos who founded the Spanish Timbrado Society of America (STSA) based on the practices and score card of the FOE of Spain. The FOE held that only the continuous style or clasico birds should be considered true timbrados, while the FOCDE, the far larger organization in Spain, embraced the discontinuous style singers as well, which were traditional to many parts of Spain including lines from places like Vich. The Spanish Timbrado Society of America (STSA) was established in 1998, and its stated goal was to educate the public about the keeping, breeding, and training of the Spanish timbrado. However, all this was coupled with the desire to promote only the clasico style song and information about what constitutes a good song on the FOE score sheet. The STSA was the club that introduced the Spanish timbrado as a separate division of the National Cage Bird Show at that organization’s 52nd meet which occurred in Puerto Rico in 2000. The founders of United Spanish Timbrado Fanciers (USTF) were part of the early effort to promote the timbrado in the United States as leaders in the STSA. Many of the original USTF Board members, Patricia Last, Stephen Slates, Pamela Cale, Nella Hurtado, Eduardo Hurtado DVM, Daniel McKeever, and Patricia Roberts, had previously held offices or leadership roles in STSA.

Also in 1998, in southern California, another group of breeders got together to form the American Association of Spanish Timbrado Breeders (AASTB) after their recent importation of a shipment of timbrados directly from Spain. Bea and Jack Fout had been raising timbrados since 1993, but with this importation, they and the small group decided it was time to begin a formal organization. This organization would take its inspiration from Spain’s FOCDE and use that federation’s score sheet.

These two organizations went on in tandem with little interaction, and certainly no cooperation, for a number of years although the birds being exhibited at their contests were all virtually the same at that point. It wasn’t until the end of 2001 that 72 birds of floreado lines (their descendents are discontinuous to intermediate in style) were imported.

By the time of the National Cage Bird Show held in Santa Clara, California in 2002, the group of members of the STSA named above had become dissatisfied with some of the organizational aspects of the STSA club, including what was perceived as an attitude of divisiveness. As a result of that, United Spanish Timbrado Fanciers came into being.

According to founding president, Patricia Last:

“Whether as breeders, striving for excellence in producing consistently high scoring competitive birds, or as seekers of the cheerful companion that brightens our lives with his beautiful song, one thing is clear: we need a united force, which has only the best interest of this unique and wonderful variety in mind. Especially in the United States and the Americas, we need a venue for the respectful exchange of information, new ideas, and the promotion of the Spanish Timbrado. If we are to grow and thrive, we must set aside politics and personal issues and put the Spanish Timbrado Fancy first!”

At one point USTF hoped to be the club of middle ground, inclusive of the spirit of both the FOCDE and FOE, and hoped to settle some of the disputes that were beginning to arise among American timbradistas, as timbrado breeders are sometimes called, as to what should be considered the ideal song and the ideal philosophy behind this song. In Spain, the FOCDE was forced to act as a sort of midwife to the compromises required to create a single song code for all its members, those who bred clasicos, those who bred discontinuos, and those who bred everything in between! How could anyone hope to reconcile the even wider differences between the followers of the FOCDE and the FOE here in America? It seemed an impossible task.

Yet, this is what United Spanish Timbrado Fanciers has wished to see from its inception. Originally, the USTF Board members proposed a third score sheet, developed by Dr. Hurtado after many conversations with Timbrado breeders internationally, which was intended to fall somewhere between that of the FOCDE and that of the FOE, but it soon became apparent that this plan was doomed to fail because USTF was informed in no uncertain terms that neither club would send its judges to evaluate birds in the US using anything other than its own club score sheet. At this point, USTF was left with no other alternative than to select one of the two sets of criteria already established by the respective clubs. The selection was based in part on the notion of inclusivity which USTF had already espoused in its desire to have a completely unified set of criteria of judgment for all three song styles. For this reason USTF selected the score sheet of the FOCDE which allows a wider range of talented birds to succeed as timbrados.

There is no denying that the birth of USTF was painful, especially in its early days. The new organization had to start from scratch with only the talents, insights, and determination of its founders to rely on. This new beginning caused not only a sense of hope but also some anxiety and even frustration on the part of the first leaders: most beginnings are like that.

Today USTF is the most active of the US timbrado organizations, at least in one sense, holding three song contests throughout the United States. The USTF board is interested in talking to timbrado breeders and local bird clubs around the country about expanding the number of contests even further. Our long term goal would be to have at least one contest in each region of the country so that more and more breeders would have access to the expert opinions of trained judges in order to help them with selection and breeding decisions which will improve the songs of their lines: clasico, discontinuo, or intermedio.

Patricia Last's USTF Announcement and Welcome Message--December, 2002

Patricia Last – President 

Announcement:  To all Timbradistas and aficionados of the Spanish Timbrado:

Since I came to the Spanish Timbrado Fancy several years ago, I've noted the zeal and love expressed by all of those involved with this wonderful variety. Surely that is fitting, for it exemplifies the marvelous temperament of the Spanish, who originated the variety and who approach all of life, with great passion. To hear the song of the Timbrado is to become enchanted! To become educated in its complexity, with all the attending nuances, is to understand the true passion of the Timbradista! That is what we all strive for and that is the uniting force behind everyone who loves the Spanish Timbrado.

Many who are active in the breeding, care and exhibition of Timbrados, find the well-documented political division among the various European and American organizations, confusing and troublesome. It is clear that all share the love of Timbrados, all desire to preserve and promote the pureness of their song and all endeavor to educate others, who have an interest in the variety. So the question becomes, what stands in the way of a unified effort, which facilitates education and the promotion of the Spanish Timbrado, to the rest of the bird fancy?

Reading the many posts on various Timbrado lists, I've wondered about the reasons, for dissension and unwillingness to cooperate. Surely it is not from the songs of the birds themselves, for the wondrous song of the Spanish Timbrado brings appreciation and joy to every ear. Only the scoring is different. So the question becomes first, why not and then how can we establish a method of scoring, which recognizes and incorporates both the F.O.E and F.O.C.D.E?

In the United States, where the Timbrado Fancy is relatively young, some of the most knowledgeable Timbradistas seem to be at odds over incidents long past but which seem ultimately, to have led to an even broader genetic base for Spanish Timbrados here. Perhaps the initial perception of those incidents was negative and understandably, hurt feelings resulted but the significant result (over time) for all concerned, has essentially benefited the Timbrado Fancy in the United States, through the importation of more birds. The point is, why hold on to anything negative, when we have such a great opportunity to unite and expand the Fancy. Issues of personality must not be considered, if the best interest of the advancement of Spanish Timbrados is the goal.

To strive for constant improvement in a breeding program, requires producing many birds. Surely we, who are breeding, must be limited in our quest for consistent excellence, by the number of birds that don't fit into our plans for competition or reproduction. While those birds may be delightful companions, we must select only the very best to be utilized in our breeding programs. This means we will all have companion quality birds, which can provide canary lovers, who have no interest in breeding or competition, a unique and lovely song. Thus it is imperative to educate the public and to create a market for those birds. In doing so, we will also encourage new breeders. This can only be positive for the Timbrado Fancy. It means we will have more birds competing, breeding and finding their ways into loving show and companion homes.

Whether as breeders, striving for excellence in producing consistently high scoring competitive birds, or as seekers of the cheerful companion that brightens our lives with his beautiful song, one thing is clear: we need a united force, which has only the best interest of this unique and wonderful variety in mind. Especially in the United States and the Americas, we need a venue for the respectful exchange of information, new ideas, and the promotion of the Spanish Timbrado. If we are to grow and thrive, we must set aside politics and personal issues and put the Spanish Timbrado Fancy first!

Thus, I would like to announce the creation of UNITED SPANISH TIMBRADO FANCIERS, INC. We are a strictly apolitical organization dedicated to the growth and health of the Spanish Timbrado Fancy. Our mission is to unite all who love and breed these remarkable birds and to provide a venue for the free exchange of knowledge and ideas, in order to encourage and support Timbradistas everywhere, through a cooperative effort, which encompasses education, mentoring programs, exhibitions and friendly competitions.

United Spanish Timbrado Fanciers, Inc. received its Corporate Charter as a Not for Profit Corporation, on 1 November 2002. Our mission is to unite, educate and mobilize all who love Timbrados, for the benefit and growth of the Timbrado Fancy.

To that end, every person who breeds, shares a home with, or is interested in Timbrados is welcome! We seek your input and your support and offer a common ground, where we can all work together for the benefit of Timbrados everywhere. Please join us as we embark on a united journey, which educates our members, grows interest in the Spanish Timbrado in the Americas, enables a method of recognition of new judges and offers a Standard which provides evaluation of Timbrados in such a way, as to be acceptable to all.

Founding members of the USTF, Dr. Eduardo and Mrs. Marianella Hurtado, have created a Standard and Score Sheet, which embrace both the F.O.E. and the F.O.C.D.E. You will find it on our web site. We are in the process of inviting comments and dialogue, from a number of Spanish Timbrado Judges from both disciplines, as well as from Timbradistas, who are well renowned for their knowledge and expertise. Comments are also welcome from all who are interested in the exhibition of Timbrados and can be made on our email discussion group at You can subscribe to this group by clicking the USTF Discussion Group link, on our web site, or by sending an email to

Our final Standard and Score Sheet will be determined at such time as the discussions we are inviting have been concluded. We expect these discussions to be open until February 28, 2003. The final version is to be in place not later than March 31, 2003. It is our goal to have the USTF Score Sheet, become the Standard of Judging for all Timbrado shows in the United States. It will most definitely be the Standard of Judging for all shows held by the United Spanish Timbrado Fanciers, Inc.

Additionally, we are in the process of creating the first ever Registry for the Spanish Timbrado. It will be open to all who have purebred closed and traceable banded Spanish Timbrados. The USTF Registry will provide and maintain a database, which includes the extended pedigrees of all Timbrados and their participating breeders and owners. As the information expands, the knowledge of breeders will be facilitated, via the ability to contact the Registry, to learn who bred a particular bird and what it’s pedigree is.

We are ready to provide closed, colored, traceable leg bands (to our breeder members) in accordance with the yearly color changes, which are standard in the Canary Fancy. These bands will be accepted at our USTF Shows and the NCBS National Show. All breeder-members will receive a $5.00 discount on their first Leg Band order (placed before June 1, 2003), as a member’s benefit.

We welcome your applications for 2003 membership and look forward to sharing and expanding the Spanish Timbrado Fancy with you.

Applications and more information on how to order leg bands and other materials can be can be obtained by visiting our web site, which is up but still a work in progress, at, or by contacting our Treasurer:   Daniel McKeever.

We welcome and eagerly anticipate, your avid participation.


Patricia Last
President USTF 

The Evolution of the Timbrado's Song

Many experts on the Spanish Timbrado Song Canary agree that it is in the process of developing or evolving a modified song through the process of breeder selection for more and more complex floreos and floreos lentos.

According to this idea, the more complex that the fast or slow floreos become the less continuous singing the canary will do.

Our judge at the December 2nd Timbrado Song Contest, Candido Lorenzo, warned that selection must be for complexity (taking into account both quantity and quality of the floreos) and not simply for the lack of continuous tours. He believes it is counterproductive to breed from a male that has fewer continuous tours but also simpler floreos than from one with a few more continuous passages in his song but better floreos. In other words, selection for more complex floreos will lead to fewer continuous passages in the song, but actively selecting only for fewer continuous passages will not necessarily lead to good floreos!

The judge created the score sheet model which can be accessed at the link below to show how Timbrados of continuous, intermediate, and discontinuous style can all score well. As you study the different strengths of the scores shown, you should realize that the evolution runs from continuous to intermediate 1 to intermediate 2 to discontinuous, from left to right.



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