Species group: Canaries
Other common names: Italian Humpback Frill Canary; Gibber Italicus Frill
Scientific name: Serinus canaria domesticus
The rare Gibber Italicus Canary is a delicate canary bred for type and posture, best suited to the expert who can provide for its special needs while appreciating the humpbacked, balding, skinny appearance that gives even younger birds the look of extreme old age. Anyone working with this special species is advised to connect with other hobbyists and breeders, perhaps through the Old Variety Canary Association or another specialty club.
Italian breeders developed this unusual canary by performing intensive inbreeding of an older variety known as the South Dutch Frill. By breeding yellow to yellow, the developers could create a line of birds that was smaller and less frilled, with sparser plumage. The Gibber Italicus is certainly eye-catching, but it is also a nervous and somewhat fragile canary, not at all suitable to the beginning bird breeder. Inbred canaries can produce too many babies that are dead in the shell or that do not survive very long after hatching.
The ideal Gibber Italicus has a figure seven shaped posture, standing upright on stiff legs yet with its head and neck thrust forward. The long legs are unfeathered, as is the area around the breastbone.
18 grams (0.6 oz)
14 - 16 centimeters (5.5 - 6.3 in.)
8 - 12 years
Behavior / temperament:
They are not bred for song and won't take any prizes away from the singing varieties, but the male Gibber Italicus Canary is capable of a pleasant song. He might look like a shaky old man, but he has the same testosterone as any other male canary and needs to have his own territory, unshared with any other adult male in the same cage. This variety is sometimes described as nervous, but the shakiness may be more of a physical mannerism than true fearfulness, because birds trained early can learn to display their special posture very well in the show cage.
The Gibber Italicus is a bit of a hothouse flower bred for the exhibition hall, not the rough and tumble of a large aviary. As a posture bird, they may even feel insecure and shaky in a wide open aviary. Because of their bald spots, they are not as well protected against damp and cold as some other canaries, and they need a comfortable, climate controlled birdroom. Each individual or pair requires its own cage. The living quarters might be a minimum size of 24”w x 18”d x 24”h, and it is strongly advised to consult with other exhibitors about which show cages should be used for training.
The backbone of the Gibber Italicus Canary diet is a high quality canary seed mix formulated especially for canaries, with a high proportion of canary, rape, flax, linseed, sterilized hemp, thistle, and not too much millet. Some high end seed mixes also contain freeze-dried fruits and vegetable bits, and anise may give the mix a wonderful aroma. Test the seed for freshness by soaking and sprouting. You can also buy special seeds that are easy to sprout in the home. These so-called soaking seed blends may include sunflower, safflower, and wheat that would otherwise be too large or too difficult for a canary to crack by itself, yet once sprouted, they will gain in vitamins and become soft, delicious treats that your bird will love. The Gibber Italicus is naturally thin, but it's good to work with someone else who understands this breed, to make sure that they are not underweight.
Chopped fresh greens like unsprayed chickweed, dandelion greens, and oregano are highly recommended, but any healthy greens such as the flowering heads of broccoli or chopped fruit like apples, apricots, and so on, will add vitamins and flavor to the diet. You should also be able to find some pellets formulated especially for canaries. Some people report that their canaries first learned to eat their pellets after they sprinkled them with a little apple juice.
Protein is important for the molting or breeding Gibber Italicus Canary. Many people make a classic eggfood which consists of a hard-boiled egg chopped up well, with about 1 teaspoon of brewer's yeast (NEVER baking yeast) stirred into the mix. Don't leave eggfood sitting around. Remove what's left in the bowl after a couple of hours. The Gibber Italicus should not contain any red factor and thus should not be color-fed.
Written by Elaine Radford