by Linda Greeson

I visited my first bird show with great confidence. After all, I had in my past experience years of participation in dog shows. How different could a bird show be?

It turned out that there is a great deal of difference in the two. I sat there, surrounded by all those apparently knowledgeable people, with not the foggiest notion of what was going on. There was considerable doubt in my mind over whether this aspect of aviculture was really for me.

I am forever grateful to the friend who urged me to attend again, this time entering some of my birds. Without the considerable knowledge I have gained over the years, I realize now that I was very lucky. I randomly chose seven of what seemed to me to be my best birds, six exotics and one cockatiel. When five of my entrants made it to the top bench I was overwhelmed, and really "hooked" on showing. Ever since, bird shows have been an important part of both my career as a breeder and my social life.

When I was handed a show catalogue at that first show, I flipped through it, tucked it into my purse, and wondered why so many there found it such absorbing reading. It did not take me long to discover what a wealth of information can be found in these catalogues, even those prepared by the smaller clubs. At the larger shows, where cost is not an inhibiting factor, the catalogues are full of valuable information well worth keeping for future reference.

Most catalogues follow a fairly predictable format. The program and list of scheduled events is a guide for making the decision as to how best to spend your time. There is a great deal going on at most of the shows other than the actual judging process. An overview can help you mark the events of particular interest and use your time most productively.

Every catalogue outlines the rules covering that particular event. The exhibitor needs information on what constitutes an acceptable show cage. At some shows entries may be shown in any suitable and acceptable cage that is in proportion to the size of the bird. Standard flat topped show cages are required at most shows. The regulations usually permit cage bottoms to be covered with the bird's regular seed mix. All are strict in prohibiting any identification, signs, or display on or about any cage in the judging area. Rules governing the freedom or requirements for caging of birds in the show hall are detailed. Do not arrive with your pet perched on your shoulder until you ascertain if this is permissible.

Regulations pertaining to the exhibitors and spectators are equally important and should be carefully reviewed by the novice. Any kind of disruptive conversation or confrontation with a judge is strictly prohibited while the judging is in process. The exhibitor may approach the judge with questions only after all judging is completed. Violations of these rules can result in disqualification of entries or awards.

The primary purpose of the several pages of rules and regulations you will find in most catalogues is to provide safety for the birds, their correct classification, and to insure impartial judging.

There will also be a section giving complete instructions on the registration of birds at the show. Many contain reproductions of the show tags, with line by line specifics on just how they are to be completed.

You will often find interesting biographical notes on the judges selected for the show. Knowing a little about the judge's background and interests helps you to view this person performing the all important task of deciding on the merits of your special bird as an individual. It helps the exhibitor in what soon becomes an inevitable part of participation - judging the judges.

You will find that the many advertisements which help the clubs defray the cost of the show well worth scanning. Interesting new products are often offered. You may find the names of other breeders in your area or listings of local bird clubs which may be of interest.

Just prior to the segment devoted to an individual species, there is usually a informative section detailing the standards being used. An outline drawing of the bird with points of reference clearly identified helps to clarify the accompanying text. Study of these standards and the number of points allotted to each characteristic is in itself an education for the breeder. If you are at all serious in your efforts to breed better and better examples of a species, it is here that you learn the specifics of what constitutes a "good bird." This information, and relating it to the discussion by the judge of his reasons for his decisions gives you the capability of objectively evaluating your own birds.

If, for example, you are breeding Cockatiels, you need to be aware that the color of the bird's plumage and its markings, no matter how outstanding, rates only ten points in the judging process. Conformation, which consists of size, crest, body substance, proportion, and wing carriage, by contrast accounts for sixty points. Even the bird's condition accounts for fifteen points. Your catalogue, giving this information in detail, and the experience you gain in observation at shows, thus becomes a means for learning to differentiate between a pretty bird and a show quality bird.

Birds are divided into groups called divisions for judging. You will find a complete section in your catalogue headed by each of these groups - Budgerigars, Cockatiels, Canaries, Finches and Soft Bills, etc. The number of divisions will depend on the size of the show and the number of entries that are expected. There are many shows restricted to one division only - all Cockatiel shows, all Canary shows, etc. whose catalogues will contain only information on the particular species.

These divisions are broken down into sub-divisions or groups, then into sections and classes. The portion of your catalogue outlining these classifications may at first be somewhat confusing, but with a little study it becomes "crystal clear."

As an example, I will use the A.C.S. (American Cockatiel Society) portion taken from the catalogue of a show held last year. Cockatiels are divided into Advanced and Novice Divisions. Each of these is further divided into six sections. These sections are listed as Normals, Pieds, Lutinos, Pearls, Cinnamons, and Rare Varieties. Additional sections just for Champions and Grand Champions are found in the Advanced Division.

Each section is further broken down into classes: Lutinos into Lutinos and Lutino Pearls, etc. Under the Rare Varieties section are listed classes for Whiteface, Albino, Fallow, Silver, and a section called A.O.V. which stands for Any Other Variety. Each class is further divided by sex and age. The Novice Division is subdivided into the same sections and classes.

The numbers you will find listed with the varieties in each section are for use on your cage tag to give the show stewards the information they need to correctly place your bird in competition. If, at this particular show, you are entering an adult normal grey cock in the Novice Division, the number to indicate this would be 101. Thus your adult normal grey cock would be judged initially only in Novice competition with other adult normal grey cocks.

Concluding this portion of your catalogue is a complete list of the awards being given. It will specify plaques, rosettes, trophies, or what ever has been decided on by the show committee. There is usually a full page of winning categories listed; you have many opportunities to return home a winner.

I make a practice of keeping my show catalogues on file for several years. They are often full of notations which are helpful to me in making decisions the next year. With some practice, these catalogues are as simple to decipher as your telephone book, and well worth the effort involved.



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