It took Dave Nicholson more than 50 years before he bred show winners.
Yet there hasn’t been a day he hasn’t enjoyed their splendid colours, bird song and relaxing companionship after a hard day at work.
President of the Auckland Metro Bird Club for the last 10 years, the bird-keeper and judge of German Roller canaries is excited about the oldest bird club in New Zealand and Australia hosting the 108th show at Ormiston Senior College on Saturday and Sunday, July 1- 2.
More than 500 of North Island’s best canaries, budgies, finches, parrots and parakeets will be on display by 60 exhibitors.
Breeding birds from the age of eight, he says: “We are trying to dispel the myth that bird keeping is an old man’s hobby. We want more young families to get involved.”
There will also be a pet bird section on Sunday from 10am-12noon where local families are invited to bring along their pet bird-be it a canary, budgie, parrot or even a rescued sparrow- for a chance to win a prize.
Currently, there is a local school colouring competition and the winning entries will be on display at the show.
Mr Nicholson, the proud breeder of a champion Lizard canary and Gloster canary as well as exotic finches, will be entering around 25 birds at the show.
They’re not excluding older patrons. The bird club has one of its keen members visiting retirement villages in the area and talking to seniors about the fun hobby.
“He even helped a 105-year-old to get rid of her fear of birds,” he says.
Bucklands Beach resident Chris Agius, who has been breeding canaries for 15 years, says that bird-keeping is “like raising little ones and the peaceful hobby is a family affair which can be done in small spaces”.
Breeding show birds involves good maintenance and diet. “In the months of June-July, I start looking for traits to start putting pairs together,” he says.
By late September the pairs are in breeding cages.
“After 14-16 days, the first hatching starts and that is an experience in itself,” he says.
“Then it’s a go-go feeling as feeding of bird baby formula has to be done two to three times a day.
“For the next 24-47 hours it is like walking on eggshells hoping they get through. Some of them fall off their nest, or could get squashed. As they grow you ask if you got the result you hoped for.”
Mr Agius says that while the hobby was very popular at one time, many people involved are retiring.
He hopes that more young people develop a passion for their feathered friends.