OUR COVER BIRD this week is the guira cuckoo (Guira guira), a batty-looking softbill that might have stepped straight out of a Quentin Blake cartoon. This is a cheery, companionable cuckoo, not like our furtive loner, and it lives in happy-go-lucky gangs in South America, never failing to lift the spirits whenever encountered.    

But getting to know the guira any closer than, say, Uruguay is tricky, since it is sadly little known in aviculture. It was, however, one of two species that made their debut at this autumn’s Dutch Softbill Society show at Oirschot, in southern Holland. Regular exhibitor Rick van Groningen introduces this remarkable show on page 14, and his preview makes stimulating reading. For Oirschot is a show in a purer sense, perhaps, than ours: not a contest, more a celebration of the art of presenting exotic birds in beautiful settings. No winners or losers (feathered or otherwise), simply a club of enthusiasts working together – and how they work! – to create the finest possible showcase for all their birds; to help each other, and the world, enjoy those birds at their absolute best.

It sounds amazing, more carnival than tournament. Is it the kind of thing that would catch on in Britain? Well, Oirschot’s variety of species does reflect the richer choice in general available to the softbill fan on the Continent. But in any case I think it presents a shining example of how we can enjoy our birds together – our club-mates’ just as much as our own – even if they aren’t guira cuckoos.

Oh my goodness, look at the date! By the time you open your next Cage & Aviary Birds, Christmas will be over. So here goes: all of us at Cage & Aviary Birds would like to wish a happy and peaceful Christmas to every single reader; to our loyal advertisers; to our splendid contributors; to our friends at the numerous clubs and societies; and to everyone who helps, in any way, to fly the flag for birdkeeping. We wish you great happiness “in the fancy”.

What will be your highlights of 2017? Mine will certainly include welcoming some new and enterprising contributors to this paper. That has been a great pleasure. And then there are the bird highlights, which is when it gets really interesting. Something to mull over during Christmas.

See you next week – the last issue of 2017!