History of AWS

The American Waterslager Society (AWS) was organized for the purpose of promoting the best interest of the Belgian Waterslager Song Canary. Virtually unknown in the United States, it had become the most popular song canary throughout much of the rest of the world. Founders Lou Popejoy and Tom Trujillo gained appreciation of what an excellent waterslager sounded like during the Euro Bird Show ll. in Roeselare, Belgium in December of 1990. Lou and Tom had been strongly encouraged to pursue their attempts by the third Founding Member, Phil Colibraro. Phil had written an article on waterslagers in the fall of 1990 edition of Birds of Distinction and received numerous inquiries. Lou, was a military Colonel and doctor, Phil, is a Catholic priest and Tom a pre law major. The trio united their diverse backgrounds and founded a friendship. They gathered to enjoy the melodious repertoire of the Waterslager. Fascinated by the captivating sounds of water, these pioneers were soon joined by a sustained enthusiastic membership from throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and Belgium. The American Waterslager Society today has over 120 members. In 1999, our members ordered close to 6,000 closed bands. A sign that the Belgian Waterslager has taken its place in the hearts of song canary fanciers on the American Continent.

It should be noted at this time that it is very important for those considering waterslagers that there are two distinct variations of the song, the Belgian and the Dutch. Though geographically Belgium and Holland share a common Border, the song of their respective waterslagers vary tremendously in sound and the way the are scored. The founders of AWS unanimously and without hesitation agreed that the song of the Belgian Waterslager was much more sophisticated and would be the specialty of the organization.
Lou Popejoy designed the AWS symbol. In the center is the long, thin waterslager with his throat swollen as he sings. In the background are the waves, which represent the water in his song and the Atlantic Ocean, which he crossed to come to the Americas from Belgium. Rising over the water is either the moon, which symbolizes the nightingale notes of its song often heard at night or the sun, which represents the start of a new day for the waterslager in the Americas. The colors are canary yellow, the official color standard of the waterslager feathering and royal blue to accentuate the water associated with its song. (Please do not use the AWS symbol without written permission)

The waterslager is known by two names waterslager and malinois. This song canary evolved from breeders in the small town of Mechelen, Belgium, which is located between Brussels and Antwerp. Mechelen in French is Malinois and thus in French, Spanish and Latin the bird was named after its town of origin. In Belgium, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States the bird's name waterslager is derived from the characteristic quality of its song to have a water beat as translated from the Flemish term waterslag.

Regardless of which name one associates with this breed of song canary, A waterslager (malinois) must sing water notes or it is not a waterslager (malinois).

The waterslager is a well-established song breed of canary with the earliest known reference being in a French travelogue written in 1713. The entry states that while traveling through Belgium the author had stopped in the town of Malinois (Mechelen). He discovered many refugees living there that had been force to flee during the Spanish occupation of Holland. He makes note of his initial surprise to see that these refugees had included these long thin yellow canaries as part of their prized possessions they took with them when they fled. He than writes in his journal that after listening to their unusual song, which included the sound of water, he could now understand why they were not left behind.

The love and enchantment in hearing this song canary imitate the sounds of water has resulted in the continued existence of the oldest song canary club in the world founded in 1872, De Koninklijke Verenigde Vrienden. One of its Presidents during the early years of the century, Mr. B. Peleman wrote a book about the waterslager song, which has become the "Bible" for apprentice judges.

The physical standards for the breed are quite simple. It is approximately 6.5 inches in length and is yellow in color. There is considerable leniency to the physical standard provide the bird sings "water". The bird can be slightly smaller or larger and can have ticking as long as it does not cover over 25% of its body. Ticking is distinguished from variegation in that ticking results in a clear feather like a smudge (loosely can be compared to a mole or birthmark in people) and is not a sign of melanin pigment in the bloodline that could produce a dark color bird.

White waterslagers are accepted with reservations in Belgium and other parts of the world. This because the traditional conservative breeders can not and will not accept that suddenly in the past 20 years or so a white mutation evolved after such an extensive history of nothing but yellow waterslagers. The white waterslager to them resulted from an out cross to possibly a roller. Forming a separate division for whites and excluding them from the overall awards in contests compromised the controversy in European countries. The AWS refused to discriminate against the white waterslager for over all awards. However, it too had to form two divisions at song contests it sponsors, based on color, as waterslager judges will not accept teams composed of both colors.

Waterslagers in the years prior to World War l were judged in open cages hung individually. There was no system of defined tours or points. It was a judge's general impression that produced the winners. Observations written of the events, as did Mr. Peleman, reflect this caused many misunderstandings and quarrels. A short time after WWI waterslager fanciers adopted several methods from the Hartz Roller show standards. Among these were close banding, covering of cages and a point system. Probably one of the most important to the preservation of the song was the introduction of team entries. Team entries in open cages were later also adopted requiring that the birds be bred, raised, trained and exhibited by the same person, encouraged breeders to start developing strains instead of the practice of out crossing to produce the high scoring flukes. Though many realized the positive results from having open team entries versus individual closed cage scoring the controversy has yet to be settled. In Belgium today there are two main organizations, the K.N.B.B., which hold open cage team contests and the K.B.F., which still hangs entries in individually covered cages.

Both Belgian organizations today have breeders of international distinction. Fanciers throughout the world seek Waterslagers from these well-known strains. Lou Popejoy invested in importing top scoring birds from some of these breeders in 1991 giving AWS members acquiring these birds an advantage over many waterslager fanciers in the world. Unfortunately the importance of song conditioning or refusal to bother, resulted in the deterioration of song quality in the offspring. It happens everywhere and this is why it is so important that the newcomer always acquire scored birds. An unscored waterslager is not worth investing in unless one personally hears it and knows what one is hearing.

One can, without having heard a waterslager, imagine the variety in its repertoire just by looking at a scoresheet with the large number of tours listed. This is even more impressive when one realizes that some of the tours named actually represent "families" of tours and not just a single sound. Waterslagers are expected to sing all the tours listed, except woeten, which has disappeared from the modern waterslager. It is not eliminated from the list as devoted breeders have not lost hope of recovering the tour. Having such a range of tours in their repertoire waterslagers are NOT expected to have as pure or deeply refined a song as rollers. The emphasis is placed on the versatility and accentuation of their voice. Versatility is measured by clarity of the note or tour and accentuation can best be noted in the deep tone birds that seem to prolong a note or tour. A single note when enlaced together at varying speed and inflection produce a distinct sound called a tour.

Revised 10/2001

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© AWS 2001