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1. Carmen Perez de Cortes: "The Characteristics and Mechanism of Song in Roller Canaries"--translated from Spanish

2. The Technical Commission on Roller Song of Spain: "Commentaries and Criteria of Judgement of Roller Song in Spain"--translated from Spanish

3. Originally from Kanarienvogel Magazine: "Roller Canaries in Sankt Andreasberg"--translated from Spanish

The Characteristics and Mechanism of Song in Roller Canaries
By Carmen Perez de Cortes, Roller Judge FOCDE and OMJ/COM—2000
Translated from Spanish by Sebastian Vallelunga

The act of singing with the beak semi-closed constitutes the most outstanding difference of the Roller bird. Among the qualities of its song, the hollowness and purity of diction are very much emphasized, as are its patent depth and its astonishing ability to “double” a tour.

In the same way that humans command an organ perfectly adapted for producing variations of air pressure in exhalation, which are interpreted as laughter, sobbing, words, etc., birds command a song organ, the function of which is partially similar to ours, acting as a regulating valve for changes of pressure in air leaving the lungs; therefore, it is responsible for its principal mission: vocalization.

In this way the Roller canary emits its song phrases, named after their form of expression: TOURS (the term in Spanish is “GIROS” which often gets translated into English by Spanish speakers as “turns” and has more of a connotation of a rounded or rolled sound—trans.), which in their way, are defined by the nomenclature used to correspond to each, such as “Holrol”, “Knorren”, and “Wassertouren”, etc (hollow roll, bass roll, water tours—trans.).

Its physical aspects resemble those of other song canaries, but its form of expression is the result of many years of selective development.

The lateral and medial tympaniform membranes of the song organ are subjected to variations of pressure, produced in the cervical or tracheal air sacs which completely surround the song organ and the air exhaled from the lungs, blocking, in major or minor part, the escape of the air and producing a vibration, owing to the variations on air pressure exhaled. This tightening and loosening of the tympaniform membranes doesn’t only obey the degree of pressure in the song organ, but also the internal tracheal muscles, exclusive to song birds, contribute to song in a decisively regulatory way.

Nevertheless, in talking about partial similarity with the human larynx, we must refer to two fundamental differences:

• Firstly, the possibility in the song bird of using the left and right tympaniform membranes independently, producing a song similar to an internal duet. In fact, we may acoustically evaluate this “phenomenon” in the song of the canary, not only in the “Knorren” tour, where it is found most frequently, but also in tours which are diametrically opposed being emitted in a simultaneous form, as in the case of the association “Pfeifen-Knorren” (flute-bass roll—trans.).

• According to Calder (1970), the notes or trills of birds are not produced by a continuous exhalation of air, but are due to a series of “mini-respirations” at a rate of 25 per second. This implies a great advantage because birds are not obliged to pause for the next breath, as occurs in mammals, but that the tour may be maintained for a substantially superior time in a continuous form. This phenomenon deserves an acknowledgement of its great importance, given that the duration of the tour is an aspect of technical merit.

Overall, it has been proven that the different tours that a canary is capable of emitting, and more specifically, the acoustic frequency that makes the distinction between a low and high sound, they accomplish, in common with the human larynx, due to a difference in the frequency of the vibrations of the tympaniform membranes. In this way, for example, the deep tones correspond to a lesser vibratory frequency than the high ones, and in the same way, the higher tones are those that have a greater frequency.

The Respiratory System and Its Mechanism

The filling of the lung of a bird is caused by a diminution of the pressure in the coelom and air sacs, owing to expansion, in the same way that this occurs in the thoracic cavity of mammals, of the sternum and the ribs. This diminution of pressure is responsible for the expansion of the lungs, and the consequent elimination of negative intrapulmonary pressure occurs because it becomes equal to the pressure of the external air, being inevitable, saving any obstruction of the upper air ways, due to the entrance of air into the lungs.

In contrast to the way it is in mammals where the inhalation phase is actively regulated by pulmonary action (the motion of the muscular diaphragm—trans.) and exhalation is produced passively as a consequence in relation to muscles; in birds all phases of the normal respiratory cycle have passive and actives components, due to the action of specific muscle systems.

Respiratory Physiology

According to Dunker, the lung of birds must be considered as a system comprised of essentially immobile tubes, confirmed in four fundamental observations:

• First, it has been shown that the volume of the pleural cavity undergoes only slight changes owing to the movements of the thoracic case.

• Second, one may observe the existence of a partial or complete fastening between the parietal and visceral pleura.

• Third, the tension of the pulmonary aponeurosis (the lung’s muscle connection—trans.) may remain more or less constant during respiration.

• Forth and finally, the existence of extremely small air capillaries has been demonstrated; these have the ability to sustain great superficial tension generated in their interior during inhalation, owing to the absence of an effective tensoactive substance. At the same time, we must remember that the pulmonary expression is not similar to that of mammals, but that which is produced is an increase in the number of bronchial tubules during inhalation and a decrease of the same during the exhalation phase. In some form, what we must interpret is that as the lungs fill in birds it is not due to an augmentation of the diameter of each respiratory tubule, but due to the appearance of many more, with which the internal surface area is increased while the overall volume remains the same.

The function of the air sacs is to activate, contributing to the dynamic imposed by the movements of the respiratory cycle.

Outline of the Respiratory Apparatus

1. Abdominal Air Sacs
2. Diaphragmic Air Sacs
3. Anterior and Posterior Thoracic Air Sacs
4. Cervical or Tracheal Air Sacs
5. Trachea
6. Lungs

Airways in the Lungs and Air Sacs

Many theories have been proposed to explain the air flow and gaseous exchange in the lungs of birds; among which, the most accepted is that of Bethe and Haselhoff. These propose that there exists a unidirectional flow between the medio-dorsal secondary brochus and the medio-ventral secondary parabronchus (that is, air flows from the center back to the center front of the lungs in one direction—trans.).

Bretz and Schuidt-Nielsen (1972) demonstrated that, in accordance with the hypothesis above, the respiratory system of birds operates in a similar fashion to a two-cycle pump. First, during the inhalation phase, there is produced an inflow of air to the posterior thoracic air sacs, during exhalation and the following inhalation, the air flow moves across the parabronchi (through the lungs—trans.) to the anterior thoracic air sacs, traveling in one direction. Finally, the air is pushed out of the anterior air sacs during the next exhalation.

The effect of the cross-current is the model to describe the gas exchange in the blood of birds and explains how the carbon dioxide level in the respiratory tubules, during exhalation, is higher than the carbon dioxide level in the arteries in the same period.

These relationships of carbon dioxide levels confer on birds a greater efficiency in the exchange of gases than have mammals because a lower degree of ventilation is necessary to achieve the same arterial carbon dioxide level.

Some Brief Comments on “Surrounding Medium”

It is appropriate to emphasize the great importance of the surrounding medium as a major moderating factor in the development of the canary. A possible definition of the surrounding medium would be a conjunction of all the external factors that influence the canary’s existence in a decisive way: CLIMATE, DIET, etc…

The genetic cargo of the canary, called the genotype, represents the necessary information transmitted by the parents, which is later conditioned, under the influence of the surrounding medium; the phenotype is, in a matter of speaking, its definitive configuration, and as an integrated part of this phenotype there is the song.

The nasal cavities not only have the function of tempering the exterior air which enters the lungs, but also the task of humidifying it in dry climates. The Roller canary requires an ambient relative humidity of around 65%. Ambient dryness causes an “aspirated” or harsh, less sweet and, at the same time, less perfect song. During the song learning phase in the Roller, it is necessary for the birds to be in delicate ambient light and away from the great light intensity of direct sunlight, owing to the fact that strong illumination stimulates the canary, causing it to have greater tension in the internal laryngeal musculature and, at the same time, augmenting the frequency of vibrations of the tympaniform membranes resulting, as was explained earlier, in a less deep song and a loss in the opportunity to acquire greater perfection.

Although a pure Roller canary will only very rarely copy, outside of its period of apprenticeship, another type of song foreign to its own song modality, it is worthwhile to keep it away from non-Roller birds with a distinctive song.

If, within a Roller’s song, certain tours are not desired by a breeder, even though these are part of the established norms of Roller song, and he is intent on eradicating them little by little, it is of the utmost importance to avoid putting the apprentice canary in contact with another which manifests the undesired tour; since, although the Roller may possess the genetic capacity to emit it, by depriving it of hearing the tour, one also avoids its manifestation in the apprentice bird.

The strain which the canary suffers due to a cold ambient temperature transforms the song, reducing its quality. It is of profit to maintain the ambient temperature in the range of 16-18 degrees C (about 60-65 degrees F—trans.).

In reference to diet, one must create an equilibrium between this factor and temperature: the colder the air, the greater the quantity of oil seeds.

In summary, a Roller canary must be trained with little light, ambient humidity, a spring-like temperature and an adequate diet.


COELOM—Secondary cavity, mesodermic in origin and limited by the epithelium. Characteristic of the majority of triploblastic animals (worms and all higher animal forms—trans.), its appearance is one of the great innovations of animal evolution. The coelom occupies the space between the endo- and ecto-derm and houses the gonads and digestive apparatus.

PLEURA—Membrane that covers the internal surface of the thorax and envelops the lungs. It is formed by two sheets, the visceral and parietal, between which there is an adhesive liquid.

TUBULE—A small tube or channel of the organism.

Commentaries and Criteria of Judgment of Roller Song
Prepared by Rafael Palomares Mallebrera
Approved by the Technical Commission on Roller Song of Spain, 1993
Translated from Spanish by Sebastian Vallelunga

The criteria used by our College of Judges of Roller Song has been repeatedly stated to be virtually unanimous, but we must admit that when one has to evaluate or explain one’s appraisal, it is very difficult or better to say almost impossible that the distinct criteria as applied by various persons will coincide in a mathematical way.

Beyond all else, there are distinct individual tastes, and when it comes to our birds the same occurs, and there are among us those who are passionate for birds in which the hohlrollen predominate, others of us are partisans of birds in which predominate the knorren, etc., and it fits that those subjects which coincide with our tastes will impact us the most, influencing us in such a way that our criteria are equal, but rarely identical.

Before entering into a discussion of valuation, it is opportune for us to hold a light exposition on the rules to have in mind when determining the quality of tours, commenting also on the vowels and consonants that are contained within the composition of the repertoire, as well as the types of rhythms that are emitted by the birds.

The characteristic which is most outstanding in this noble bird is that it executes all of its song with a semi-closed beak, and all those tours which are emitted with the beak open must be observed very carefully, since they are certainly suffering from a lack of proper form which could be a motive for penalization, or at least a notation on the score card in order to inform the breeder.

In order to analyze and evaluate the song, we must keep the following characteristics in mind: Pitch, Sonority, Purity, Strength, Volume, Length, Hollowness, and Gravity. To each of these we will refer as follows.

• PITCH: The lower and more grave the tone, the better the quality.
• SONORITY: We understand that sonority exists when the vowels are heard smoothly and are emitted with fullness.
• PURITY: We consider that purity of diction exists when the tours are always emitted with precise consonants and there are no superimposed extraneous sounds in the composition.
• STRENGTH: The emission of the tour must not be weak and its perception must be one of being easily heard.
• VOLUME: The sensation of volume is noteworthy when the vowels are ample, heard with plentitude, while the consonants must be almost smothered by the vowels. A tour may be sonorous without having volume by sounding as though predominated by overly strong consonants.
• LENGTH: This is distinctive to each tour. Each must be precisely long enough to allow itself to be analyzed and evaluated without resulting in monotony or the granting of too much weight to any one passage.
• HOLLOWNESS: Hollowness must always predominate the vowels; the emission must be clear, without interference by extraneous sounds, and employing the vowels O, OO (double), U, UU (double).
• GRAVITY: As the name indicates, this is the deepest part of the tone and exists when the canary emits a UU (double) sound.

After this description, we must indicate the vowels that these canaries use to construct their repertoires and sounds they make:


A..........A as in artichoke..........With a dry sound
E..........A as in late, E as in ten
I............E as in eel
O..........O as in only
U..........U as in cruel
Ä..........A as in late................Open “e” sound
Ö..........WE as in wet................Closed “e” sound
Ü..........UE as in fuel...............French “i” sound

The vowels of most value are the UU (this forms the gravest part of the text), the U, OO (comprising a low part), the O (a mid-range part), and the U, I (form the highest sounds). (The sounds in the table are mine; the originals were based on Castilian and listed as: A, EI, I, OU, U, E, E, I respectively. The fact that U is listed as a high and a low sound in the previous statement seems to me to be an error; I believe the author meant Ü—trans.)

The valuation of tours must be considered sufficiently before giving points when the vowels which intervene in the execution of the tours are the following: A, E, Ä, Ö.

We must keep in mind that the vowels A, E intervene with strength, producing tours which are flat and level and tend to be emitted with a nasal quality; hearing them is disagreeable and annoying. Those examples with nasal tours, it is advised, are not esteemed for use as breeders.

Now that the vowels have been commented upon, let us move on to the distinct consonants that can enter into the song:

Considered as good consonants are: B, D, G, C, K, L, N, R, W, and H (this last letter pronounced as in English).

Considered as of lesser value are: CH, T, S, SCH, Z.

After having defined the vowels and consonants which may intervene in the song, we can further say that a canary can emit it in three classes or forms of rhythm, that is: CONTINUOUS, SEMICONTINUOUS, and DISCONTINUOUS.

The values appraised for the tours according to their quality are as follows:


21, 24, 27—excellent or very good
12, 15, 18—good
3, 6, 9—sufficient


15, 18—excellent or very good
9, 12—good
3, 6—sufficient



Now that we have explored the preceding, we may proceed to commentaries on the distinct tours and there values, one by one.


This is one of the continuous tours (a very good one may earn up to 27 points). This should be considered the tour which is the king of the repertoire and seems to have the greatest influence on the rest of the song, since, when it is emitted in its best form, the whole of the repertoire is normally impregnated by it. Its emission should be with the consonant R (it is this which produces the rolling and continuous sound), as vowels Ü, O, OO, U, UU are used. The consonant must be sounded very smoothly, almost imperceptibly. It is evaluated as sufficient or in rare cases good when it is delivered in a horizontal form, or with the consonant more vocal (which amounts to the same). It is considered good to very good when the consonant is just heard smoothly, the vowels Ü, O, U, UU are used (descending order of pitch) and then back up the scale UU, U, O, Ü in reverse (ascending order). And ultimately its value would be very good when one hears the smooth consonant along with the vowels flowing in the following manner: Ü, O, U, O, U, UU (undulating form) and can achieve the maximum point value when it is emitted with sweetness, softness, and art.


This is a continuous tour (a very good one may earn up to 27 points). In order to evaluate it we must remember that this constitutes the bass of the repertoire and beyond that it must be a rolled and continuous sound; in order for it to be good it must be sung with gravity, depth, without the superimposition of extraneous sounds in its composition, and that it must be constructed with the consonants K, N, and R, which must all be heard equally. Joined with these must be the vowels O, OO, U, UU, which are those which bestow softness, hollowness, and gravity. It is evaluated in the same way as is done with the Hohlrollen, depending on whether it is emitted in a horizontal, ascending, descending, or undulating manner; it gains its highest score when one hears a very lightly super-positioned vowel Ü and the consonants almost disappear, since we are hearing it in its best form (HOHLKNORREN).


I’ll begin by confessing that for me it is a truly complicated tour to qualify owing to the great quantity of consonants which are included. In order to achieve agreeable results one must hear the vowels Ü, O, U with plentitude and depth, and this is rarely the case due to the influence of so many consonants (about 7), for this reason, it is very difficult for this tour to be awarded high points, although it is included among the continuous tours and is considered, therefore, very good (that is, it falls into the superior category and is worth up to 27 points—trans.).


This is one of the semicontinuous tours (a good one can score up to 18 points). It can be considered the tour which most acts as an adornment of the song, above all when it is emitted in its beaten form. Always when good hohlrollen are present, there is hope for a good hohlklingel, since the only difference is that the bird changes the consonant R to L or H, and also changes during this shift from continuous to semicontinuous. Emitted with the vowel Ü, it is valued as sufficient, with O it is considered good, and with the vowel U, according to its form of emission it can awarded maximum points.


These are the flutes, considered discontinuous tours (a good one can score up to 18 points). We will not fall into error if we classify this as a tour of impact, normally and habitually the “clasp” of the repertoire and for this reason, if one may consider it in this way, when it is the ultimate, so to speak, it is said to be good to very good, and it seems that the beginning and middle are better as a result (this is a particular criteria of my own). The correct considerations for evaluation are that it be heard with the consonant D (its best consonant); with the vowel Ü it is granted the classification of sufficient; emitted with O, is classification would be good; if it is emitted with U, and beyond that with gravity and depth, with stretched syllables and adequate pauses, as if the bird were resting between one beat and another, it can earn the highest point value. But heard with flutes that are emitted with the consonant T and vowels of little value, it may even be penalized (it depends on the hardness with which the consonant is sounded). We must keep in mind since this is a monosyllabic tour, if it is not emitted in at least three repeated beats, even as it is defined, it should not be classified.


This is laughter in a figurative sense (it is often described as a chuckling sound—trans.). It is a discontinuous tour (a good one is worth to 18 points). This tour is controversial in its evaluation owing to the fact that it is actually very seldom heard and, moreover, it can be confused with the hohlklingel; we can tell we are about to hear the emission of the schokel tour when, observing the bird, we perceive that what is to be emitted is coming from deep within the breast, requiring a great effort to deliver, while the hohlklingel comes from the throat and, therefore, is much easier to emit. As a good consonant H is used (pronounced like the Spanish J, very smoothly), with the vowel Ü, for a value of sufficient; emitted with O, the value is medium; emitted with U, the value is medium high; however, emitted with UU, and in slow, normal, accelerated forms, it can earn the maximum points. I repeat, it is very hard to ever actually get to hear this tour.


These are included among the discontinuous tours (a good one is worth up to 18 points). In actuality only profound and water glucken are recognized, being the only two forms to receive points; others can even be penalized. With the consonants GL and K, together with the vowels U, O, I, we have a gluck which is hollow and deep. But, if instead of GL, we perceive BL, K, with the same vowels, we have a water gluck. Both, with the vowel U, pausing, with hollow tones, and beyond that depth, can gain maximum points. Without fear of equivocation one may say that almost all breeders of hollow lines recognize this tour as the COCO (a very degenerative version which influences the rest of the repertoire). To whomever this might annoy, pardon for the COCO (I know there’s a joke in there somewhere, but I missed it—trans.).


This is a tour which is considered part of the lesser quality category and which can only be awarded up to 9 points. Within this tour we have two forms of emission; with the consonant L and vowel I it is called KLINGEL or bell (emitted in a semi-continuous form). The same vowel with the consonant R changes the form of emission since the consonant gives a rolled sound (emitted in a continuous form) and it becomes known as the KLINGELROLL. One should consider the klingel bell as the poor relation of the hohlklingel since it employs the same consonant L with the change in vowel to I (from this comes another name—“bell timbre”); to assign value to it we must observe the purity of the consonant as well as the smoothness with which it is emitted. Both letters must be emitted with equal weight.

In the same way that the klingel bell can be considered the poor relation of the hohlklingel, the klingel roll may be considered the poor relation of the hohlroll, since the same consonant R is used, with I as the vowel. Between these two klingeltouren the highest pitched part of the repertoire is formed; this is motive for us to keep in mind that, while evaluating these we must consider whether the bird is debasing its normal tone with these added to its composition; we must insist that they stand out only moderately from the rest of the repertoire.

When a bird sings klingeltouren in the two described forms, its point value may be the maximum, although this happens only on rare occasions. We must keep in mind that in order to evaluate them the pleasantness and the sweetness with which they are emitted must be taken into consideration.


Although there is an applicable scale, we cannot forget that beginning with the contests after the celebration of the 41st World Championship of the COM, up to 9 points may be granted as a maximum value for impression; when there are impurities, faltering song, etc., there is yet another scale with which to deduct between 1 and 6 points.





When a team of 4 examples emit the same tours, without defective notes or faults, with purity of diction and without irregularities, the maximum harmony points may be applied: up to 3 points. If among the 4 a canary emits a different tour, harmony would be scored as 2 points and, finally, if two birds sing a different tour, the harmony score would be 1 point.

We have already commented on all the positive tours, we must not forget to mention the faults or defective tours in the song and for this reason it is appropriate to touch on Dr. D. Evaristo Fratantoni, who in his treatise, Roller Canariculture, when speaking on faults and defects, literally says, “We must not react to faults with an overzealous severity, since very often they appear in accord, more or less (with elastic criteria), with the quality of the bird.” We must say we are in complete accord with him. We must be benevolent but, at least insofar as any defects are great ones, we cannot let them slip by without penalty; it is better to use compartmental observations in order to be consistent with each defect. Other defects such as AUFZUG, TZITT, SCHNARREN, CHOPS and CALLS, must also be the object of observation. But, we must not forget to give special mention to the calls: since we are speaking of those within the song, or better to say between tour and tour, they are, therefore, motive to penalize.


To draw up such a document is a great responsibility, since the document must be constituted in such a way that it allows identification of the quality of the bird; in its way, it is creating a radiograph for the judge who will sign it. We must be sufficiently suspicious of whether the score sheet reflects the reality that is a canary; in the same way that we have an exposition of all the positive tours, we must penalize, if necessary, the defects or at least those defects we can appreciate, likewise our observations must reflect any existing deformities in any tour, or, apart from the good tours, whether there are others of lesser value. We must not let any detail escape us. The score sheet must come full circle for the good of the family of canariculturalists who work on behalf of our friends large and small, these last being the roller canaries themselves.

As they are observed, they should be qualified with sufficient, good, or very good score results. One must assume that the numerical valuations are those considered in the categories of each tour.

Finally, it is useful to explain that, in general in the majority of European associations, in order to win prizes in roller canary song contests, the following point levels must be achieved:



(The original chart listed a score of 64 in the last space, but that is illogical; I changed the number to 84 in keeping with the way the other two categories break down numerically, and assume it was a typographical error—trans.)

This exposition has been provided because we have observed a great disparity in the criteria that exists on this theme in general among the distinct national associations which organize roller canary song contests and although we must respect the decisions of each one of these, we embolden ourselves to counsel that it would be opportune if they would base there own ideas on the that which was said.

Roller Canaries in Sankt Andreasberg
Originally published in the German periodical, Kanarienvogels
Translated into Spanish for Revista Pajaros by Julian Rodriguez Garcia

Translated from Spanish by Sebastian Vallelunga

The mountainous city of Sankt Andreasberg, Germany, celebrated in September of 1987 the 500th anniversary of its opening. Another motive to visit this city was, for me as a Roller canary breeder, the desire to investigate more closely the history of these birds and their development as singers. But before getting deeper into the breeding of canaries, I would like to familiarize you on something of the foundation of the city of Sankt Andreasberg, which may be of interest to more than one of you.

At the end of the 14th century, miners from nearby mountains came to the Harz in search of minerals. Rumors had arrived that they would encounter good mineral layers to the south of Oberharz. They packed their goods and equipment without fear of the fatigue which was encountered in their large displacement or of the hard trails of the mountains; riches and wellbeing would be encountered in the Harz. They settled in the valleys that today comprise the city of Sankt Andreasberg and commenced the difficult tasks of mining.

Their efforts were enough to ensure success, for according to some writings there were yet other layers spread here and there across the mountains for them to encounter; they had good results with the minerals they were able to scrape from the rock and which they sold in Bostar, Nordhausen, Hannover, etc. Between the recompense that they received for their hard work and the privations that they had been previously accustomed to, many found themselves at a good standard of living. They constructed small but comfortable homes and began families. In this way many whole neighborhoods were born on the slopes of the mountains. The miners could not at first agree on a name for their village. But as believers, the miners had Saint Andrew as their patron saint.

Each mine had its own proper name: The Mine of Hope, Saint George’s Mine, Divine Help Mine, Consolation Mine, Saint Andrew’s Cross Mine, etc. Each had something of the pious and special in its name. That called Saint Andrew’s Cross Mine, one that yielded an extraordinary amount and quality of minerals, was very close to the village. This was sufficient motive to eventually call the village Sankt Andreasberg. The first date that this place became known as a source for minerals under this name was 1487; in 1536 the first church was built, and beginning in 1537 Sankt Andreasberg acquired the status of a city.

Together with mining, the people dedicated themselves with persistence and loving care to the breeding of livestock. Their breeds of cows and goats are recognized as having special characteristics and are different from all others known to us. Their major preoccupation was the feeding of these animals, since in the Oberharz the climate is not suited to growing grain; forage such as alfalfa, etc. is scarce. Only potatoes can be cultivated so high up. The miners were obliged to dry all the grasses they could and store the resulting hay for the long winter and so have feed for their animals.

The inhabitants of the mountains were also passionate hunters, in this period before most forms of hunting were restricted and violators severely castigated and before bird catching had its first limits. Until 1870 bird catching was allowed to some point, then it was prohibited when the German Bird Law became vigorously enforced.

In that era, the mountain folk earned extra income catching native birds and trafficking in them. In this activity they used traps, nets, etc. The birds were at times bought by breeders or traded for merchandise.

Since in those times bird trapping was unrestricted, both young and old participated. From time to time, they trained the “wild” birds with all sorts of artistic methods; the mountain inhabitants were always occupied with caring for their birds with dedication and delight. As a direct result, the mountain people, who had a preference for catching birds, soon also became known for this trade by the frequent negotiations they had with bird dealers. Perhaps in one of the deals worked out, possibly with a Tyrolean dealer of exotic birds, they came into contact, at the beginning of the 18th century, with canaries which arrived at Sankt Andreasberg in this way.

One the other hand, miners from Inst in the Tyrol also came to work in Sankt Andreasberg, doubtless bringing their canaries with them to Harz, whose inhabitants would have welcomed these beautiful birds with pleasure. With these they realized their first real successes in bird breeding; during successive years they dedicated themselves to breeding and tried to augment the birds’ song endowments, having discovered that these qualities could be improved. There were also attempts to obtain yellow birds by means of selective breeding and the use of high temperatures in the breeding rooms. With time they obtained completely yellow birds. In this way simple miners were converted into breeders of the Harzer Edelroller (noble roller of Harz).

Special care was taken in the construction of cages which at times were truly works of art. Certain families later specialized in the construction of nests and transporting boxes, song cages and wooden containers in which the canaries of Sankt Andreasberg were shipped around the world. They were constructed in a small factory and in private homes where the work allowed mining families to increase their incomes. The wood employed was not important and hardly cost anything and the hours of labor were not counted. Delivery to the factory (regardless of the distance) was mainly accomplished by the women.

When in 1840 Professor Lenz of Thurgi went in search of the best breeders of canaries traveling all over Germany and also to other nearby countries, he quickly came to the conviction that the best canaries were bred in Sankt Andreasberg in Harz. Thus, these canaries began to distinguish themselves by the 50 year mark of the 19th century, and some breeders became especially preoccupied in the development of said quality. In this way, between the years 1860 and 1870, certain breeders stood out with very good examples of birds; Wilhelm Trute, who was born on March 5, 1836, in Sankt Andreasberg and who lived in a small miner’s house, became recognized world-wide for his birds. He had the good fortune to keep his stupendous line in high regard until the time of his death in 1889.

Two things helped in his popularity: the pair he received from his cousin Weiland and his indisputable talent for breeding birds which always surpassed their parents in the gift of song or, in a manner of speaking, could have taught their fathers a thing or two.

Another famous breeder was Volkman who bred birds with revolutionary talents. Moreover, Schell, Palm, Hoffman, Heger, Gonneke, Lange, Weiland, Engleke, and others also distinguished themselves with good breeding results.

High prices were paid for birds bred by those cited above. Those of Trute were especially recognized for their beautiful tones, perfect trills, and deep whistles.

Also, the birds called kuller or koller were bred by then in Sankt Andreasberg. Between the years 1878 and 1884, Mr. Pape, from whose notes this account was reconstructed, frequented the house of Wilhelm Trute, but was not allowed to enter the breeding room or song training room; these were a sort of sanctuary for Trute.

In large part the outcomes attained in the form of good results in singing ability are due without doubt to Mrs. Trute, known as Schwarse Minna who understood canaries better than her husband. After his death, she continued to breed birds for many years succeeding in maintaining them with good results. After the death of their only son who continued with the breeding and who in later years was completely blind and died in relative comfort in 1920, the Trute line was maintained by other breeders.

The fame of old Wilhelm Trute reached its highest degree when the then crown prince—later Emperor Friedrich—received one of Trute’s birds for his birthday. Mr. Pape accurately recorded that, in consequence of this, at the subsequent song exposition of Sankt Andreasberg, shortly before Christmas, Mr. Trute was offered 300 marks for one bird, which was a lot of money at the time, and moreover he refused to sell it. Mr. Trute told the would-be buyer: “You keep your money and I’ll keep my bird; in this way we’ll be assured of being good friends. My reputation is for my wife and me a source of pride, one which we want to preserve.” If other breeders had thought the same way, the very best birds would have remained in Sankt Andreasberg.

A relative of Wilhelm Trute (Karl Trute) continued with the line until its fame declined when Heinrich Seifert appeared with his grave voiced examples with bass rolls. Trute tried everything possible to conserve his highly prized line, later searching for positive qualities which were improving little by little in such a way that the line continued to be bred for a long time yet.

For training, small cabinets were used, which were built by the artisans of Harz. According to the advance of the song sung by the birds within, the cabinets were hung higher or lower on the wall. The differences of temperature at the different levels of height served as a contributing factor in song learning. With few exceptions, the majority of breeders bred their birds in colonies or groups. They made every effort to retain the best birds under normal circumstances, but if a stranger offered a high price for a certain bird, the result was usually a sale, eventually provoking a decline in the breeding birds of Sankt Andreasberg. Many breeders did not understand the necessity of reserving the best birds for themselves. It has been calculated that the number of males bred each year approached 18,000, and this corresponded to the number of hens bred. The dealers, who came every autumn, knew how to take advantage of this surplus. The prices fell and breeders had to be satisfied if they received 3 marks for a male or 20 pfennigs for a hen.

In 1870 a merchant settled in Sankt Andreasberg and began to accumulate birds and market them world-wide. He promised the breeders that if they reserved and maintained a certain number of males and hens for him he would pay them a pre-set price. Many of the breeders fell into this trap. In autumn he told them which pairs he selected for breeding, the offspring of which they would later have to hand over. In this way, he always held the best under his control. Once this form of arrangement was discovered, various other merchants lined up to take advantage of the breeders, and in this way the breeders lost their commercial freedom.

The males were classified by Mr. Maschke, according to their song quality, in six different classes and in this way they were accumulated and sold. The relative ability determined value:

a. The principle qualities were represented by sounds and phrases which were hollow, deep, undulating, koller (descending), clucking, watery, bell-like, purring, chuckling, or croaking.

b. The secondary qualities were various whistles, hisses, hollow whistles, flutes, and purrs.

c. The representative qualities and characteristics of the song were evaluated. The preferred voices were well-sonorous, full, clear, not too high in pitch, if possible without faults, beginning as low as possible, diverse, with songs of long duration, with each individual phrase being of long duration, and with beautiful transitions between one act and another.

In order to guarantee that the chosen birds were the ones that actually arrived, before their shipment a seal or mark was placed on the wing. With time, the breeders came back to the understanding of the necessity of reserving the best birds for themselves once again and returning to the practice of forming their own branch or line, a practice which the dealings with the merchants had broken up, with rare exceptions.

Little by little the breeders went about creating their own commercial ventures. To this can be attributed the newly created periodical The Sankt Andreasberg Sheet on Canary Breeding. The first issue came out in the year 1880. Its editor was the printer Friedrich Hansch. He was a breeder and a first class authority on the appraisal of birds. Through published announcements, including those published outside the area, the breeders encountered a good market. Certain daring merchants came to buy as many as 5,000 birds which they later sold with good profits in Belgium, England, etc.

With time the world market collapsed, becoming so saturated with canaries that they ceased to be a profitable commodity, returning the breeders to their individual sales. Yet with all this, they still fetched 20 to 30 marks a piece.

Between 1904 and 1906 the mines of Sankt Andreasberg were closing. The miners that had lived there moved to other cities of Harz for the most part.

In place of the closed mines, there opened other industries where some of the miners found new work. Mainly these were factories that produced inlay work, sawmills, and paper mills. This restructuring acted as the agent of the near disappearance of canary breeding in the area.

How to Prepare a Breeding Area

The breeding room was of the simplest form; any well-prepared area would serve. First the walls and ceiling needed to be prepared, after that a double floor was placed. The windows were covered with adequate grating. On the walls were affixed, as needed, some square boxes which would serve as nests. In the center was installed a dried tree or large branch with food receptacles attached. As heat sources, old iron ovens or stoves were used, which could be lit from outside the room; these used cheap fuels and produced the mild heat needed. In front of the door and the stove were installed the grates or mesh necessary to prevent the birds from escaping or burning themselves. In this type of accommodation were introduced 15 to 20 males and 50 or 60 hens.

In earlier times a smaller site was prepared; this was simpler yet. This extended the length of a room in the house, to about a meter below the ceiling where a type of shelf was fastened to the wall; the shelf had a depth of about .75m and the area was defined at the top by the ceiling, at the back by the wall, and at the front by grating. Various nests of diverse models were installed by hanging them within this structure; these were nests of wood with perches of wood affixed. This type of structure was encountered in all of the breeders’ homes. These had the advantage that just under the ceiling there was a constant temperature and the breeders could disregard providing any extra heating.

As a third possibility, there were cages; here were housed a male and various hens. These consisted of a caged space running to 1m in length by .70m in width and .70m in height. Nests were also hung within these.

The breeding period began almost always on Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras (since this is tied to the date of Easter, it can vary by more than a month between about February 5th and March 9th—trans.). For the miners, this was a day of prayer and remembrance on which religious services were offered for companions who had been involved in mining accidents and those who had died during the year. Participation in these services was a natural response for the inhabitants of this small mining city.

The custom was that while the husbands were at church, the wives put the males into the breeding precincts where the hens had been housed for the previous 15 or so days. For nesting materials, moss was employed along with strings of clean yarn. The baskets destined for use as nest inserts were previously covered with a mixture of lime, clay, and salt to avoid a porous base. As soon as the first round of young abandoned the nest, it was washed with petroleum, water, and soap; it was then left to dry and then covered for some hours in lime, after which it was re-coated in the mixture cited above. All of this was designed to avoid plagues of mites. Later, they discovered less labor intensive techniques to avoid such plagues.


This was the great mystery of the breeders of canaries and to them we dedicate the next lines. It must be said that I know of what the feed was composed and how it was fed; therefore, for me it is no secret.

Here we are treating principally of rape seed, hemp was used little and most other seeds were unknown. For both males and hens, egg, poppy seed, and carrot were mixed together with the rape three times a week; during the summer lots of greens were given, but only a few were provided before incubation if any hemp was given. The soft food was prepared with a hard-boiled egg base, which was grated the day before and was mixed with white bird bread, which is made as follows: they combined 1kg of flour, 1/4kg of butter, 2tbs of sugar, a pinch of salt, a pinch of saffron and 5 pfennigs worth of yeast. This was to be mixed with fresh milk into dough of which small loaves were formed and baked in an oven and then stored in a cool place. One of these small loaves was sufficient for mixing with one egg.

The young birds were fed in the first weeks with the egg-based soft food. Once they abandoned the nest, they were provided with a mixture of soft food and rape in order to accustom them to the rape for later life. In addition, it was necessary to place abundant fresh water within the enclosures for bathing; the water was placed in flattened receptacles in order to prevent the hens from becoming to wet, and, to prevent the young from falling in, small wooden pieces of distinct shape acted as floats.

For drinking, “mineral water” was provided. This was simply made by introducing a piece of iron into the water which would produce water with high iron content; this would then influence the level in the blood of the birds.

The mixture of egg, poppy, and carrot also had its purpose. The egg was to fortify the birds, the poppy provided tonic effects for good health, and the carrot aided in good digestion. The only known medicine was white syrup, which contained: linseed, white poppy, and the flower of the tusilago (possibly teasel—trans.).

Canary breeding was reduced to almost nothing during the war (1914) due to the scarcity of feed. Breeders numbered 300 or 400 before the war but very few afterwards. From the old outstanding lines very few survived indeed: Karl Trute, Schreidermeister, Volkman, and Willi Schier. The rest were beginners. As a result, Karl Trute acted as song appraiser, whose knowledge and sense of justice were recognized in all quarters.

Today, more than 100 years after its heyday, that fame which was once held by little Sankt Andreasberg as the world center of canary breeding scarcely remains at all, unless one is considering it as the cradle of the roller canary.

At the end of my history of canary breeding in Sankt Andreasberg, I would not want to pass over the debt of gratitude I owe to Mr. Jochen Klahn and the Werner Stille collection of photographs in the city, these put important information and very valuable photographic material at my disposal. For me, as a breeder, spending the last week of September in Sankt Andreasberg was a completely special event. Being surrounded by mountains continues today to offer the visitor an idyllic picture. Its main street and adjacent inclines are full of lovely and well-cared-for houses which radiate not only a sense of comfort and beauty, but also connect the present inhabitants with the history of roller canariculture in the city.


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