Why do breeders say: "The Female Carries the Song"?
By Bryan Chin (Pacific American Singers chapter)

First published in the American Singer Club newsletter, July 1997.

American Singer Canary breeders who make the statement that "The female carries the song", often have spoken from their own personal experiences. A beginner may understand this statement to mean that it doesn't matter what male is used because the female has all the influence. The male canary definitely has equal part in a successful breeding program. If a male canary sings great notes and song he definitely carries the right genetics and will affect the results of the breeding. So why are the results not always good when we use our best males? It must be the females that carry the song.

The concept to grasp is that the female canary contributes equal amounts of genes that influences the song, If she carries bad song genes it will show up in her male prodigy. The female is a mystery to us because we always use our best males and wonder why the results are not always what we think. The only real sure way is to hear what kind of song she carries, but unfortunately a hen's hormonal makeup does not allow her to develop the ability to sing like the male. Some try to use the hen's call note to give a hint. The call note can give you indication of it's tone and possible range, though the variety and quality of song is not evident.

Choosing a sister of a desirable male is the most common method but there are no guarantees. Let's take an example, if a hen had two broods and was bred to the same male, and the total results was 4 males and 4 females, and only one male out of the four males was good. The odds are that only one out of the 4 females will carry the right genetics to produce a large percentage of good males. The other 3 females may produce some good males since their father was a good singer, but the odds are less. The female that produces a high percentage of good males will more than likely produce quality females for breeding. That's why it is so dangerous to only use one female from a brood. It is better to use all the sisters of a male that produces good song, unless your strain is so pure it doesn't matter.

The above is a simplified way to explain what goes on from a genetic point of view. There are so many factors that effect song, for example, throat structure, intelligence to learn song, and instinct for freedom. Let's take for an example a male that carries all of the 3 factors mentioned, and assume that there is one recessive gene for each trait and each of these genes are carried on different chromosomes. These recessive genes are the traits you desire and make this male a best in show champion. (These genes are recessive to the genes of you line or can be co-dominant.) You purchase this male and cross it to your line that does not carry these traits. The first cross results in an improvement in your line, but they are not as good as the male you bought. You breed brother to sister from this cross. Statistically your odds will be 8 squared to one or 64 to 1 that you will get a male close to the one you bought. For further explaination, please see my article on 'Basic Genetic Inheritance'. From a realistic point of view there are probably many more genes that effect song, making the odds even worse. If you think about the diversity within your family it is easy to understand the complexities. Human eggs or sperm each have 23 chromosome pairs (each chromosome carries hundreds of genes) and the canary is not to far behind, having 21 chromosomes pairs. That is why it is smart to breed the father you bought back to the daughters which carry half of his genes. This would reduce the odds from 64 to 1, to 8 to 1.

With odds such as 64 to 1, it may explain why a hen may produce great males one year and produce poor males the next year. The odds are sometimes with her or against her or somewhere in-between. Your odds will improve though as you continue to only breed quality males into your line and using the resulting females born each year. As you breed towards the song you desire, the gene pool gets smaller and smaller, giving you better odds. Some of us already have a quality line of birds, but purchase a bird to insert some of it's traits with our present line of birds which is an easier goal to obtain.

Copyright © 1997 Bryan Chin. All rights reserved.

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