2019 was a great year for Saviour Camilleri, with his Norwich canaries winning top honours at specialist shows around the country. These included best in show at Hinckley, a mecca for Norwich fanciers, making it the third year in a row that Saviour has taken top spot at the famous event. The Camilleri team also dominated at the Southern Norwich in Tilbury, taking best, second and third best in show, proving there is quality throughout the stud. The Midlands Norwich show saw one of Saviour’s exhibits take second best in show, among fierce competition. In the first of a series of regular bulletins, Saviour keeps readers updated with his life with Norwich.

I WAS born and raised in Malta, which has a strong birdkeeping tradition. I followed in my father’s footsteps and bred colour canaries over there. When I first moved to the UK, I lived without canaries for about eight years. My assumption at the time was that canaries simply couldn’t exist over here with the harsh British climate!
I was proved wrong after all those years when I saw an advert in a local pub offering canaries for sale. When I visited the breeder, I came away with a job lot for 50p each. Some time after that, I discovered my local cage bird show and was amazed by the different type of breeds to be seen. Here it was that I discovered Norwich and thus began my involvement with breeding and showing them. Show outings included exhibiting at Alexandra Palace back in the 1970s.

Away from the birds

I had a short break from birds when I went back to Malta. I thought it would be for good, but I couldn’t settle and, on my return, I was keen to get back into the Norwich. The great Gerry Wolfendale was a great help in finding some good stock for me. He approached the famous Wright brothers and, after a three-year wait, Fred Wright managed to fulfil the order! You have to be prepared to wait for the right stock.

12-month pleasure

From that point onwards, I have never tired of the breed and each year I enjoy every aspect of the birdkeeping year, whether it is in the birdroom or show hall. I very much enjoy showing at home and abroad and I participate regularly at the World Show. I have been fortunate to have been invited to judge in Germany, Italy and Turkey. Although there are good birds around the world, particularly in Belgium, I think the best birds are still here in the UK. I also get involved with helping to run clubs and shows and have had various jobs including show secretary and section manager for the Norwich canaries at Stafford.

A familiar routine

As February approaches I will start to prepare my birds for the forthcoming breeding season. I am sure my approach will not differ from the tried and tested methods of many other canary fanciers. So, from this point, I will start to build up the amount of softfood I offer, and also introduce some condition seed.

Keep it natural

Light is a big element in getting canaries into breeding condition and my birdroom design includes plenty of windows and a skylight to allow lots of natural light into the birds. I don’t use electric light to bring the birds on early. There’s no point being in a rush to pair Norwich as you’ll only end up with clear eggs. In an average year, Norwich, being such a large breed, may not get going until the middle of April. Other jobs I will do at this time of the year are to take precautions against mite and to dose each bird with a spot-on treatment.

● We’ll hear more from Saviour in future issues.