What is a canary
Canaries (Scientific name: Serinus canaria) are small songbirds of the finch family originating from the Canary Islands, Madeira, and the Azores. Originally called the Atlantic canary, they have been kept and bred in captivity since the 17th century. There are quite a few color varieties of the wild canary, achieved by feeding them a specific diet that influences the color of the plumage.
Canaries can be seen in a variety of habitats, including dunes, laurel forests, and pine forests from the sea level to an elevation of at least 5,000 ft. Apart from gardens and parks, semi open spots scattered with small trees are where you are most likely to find a canary.
Types of canaries
There is just one wild species, the Atlantic canary, otherwise known as the wild canary. They have been domesticated by man over centuries, leading to the domestic canary. The rest of the varieties have been bred from this domesticated species:
List of canaries
[bred for their striking colors]
- Green canary
- Yellow melanin canary
- Yellow lipochrome canary
- Red factor canary
- Red-factor lipochrome
- Blue factor canary
- Dominant white canary
- Recessive white canary
- Silver factor canary
- Pastel factor canary
- Ivory factor canary
- Dimorphic factor canary
- Opal factor canary
- Cinnamon canary
- Fawn canary
- Agate canary
- Isabel canary
- Satinette canary
- Ino canary
- Phaeo canary
- Albino canary
- Onyx canary
- Eumo canary
- Mosaic canary
[bred for their sweet singing ability]
- German roller (Harz roller)
- Spanish timbrado
- Waterslager canary (Malinois canary)
- Persian singer canary
- American singer
- Russian singer
[bred for some unique physical features]
- Fife fancy canary
- Border fancy canary
- Belgian fancy canary
- Crested canary
- Gloster canary
- Northern Dutch frilled canary
- South Dutch frilled canary
- Swiss frill canary
- Melado Tinerfeno canary
- Gibber Italicus canary
- Giboso Espanol canary
- Makige frill canary
- Paduan canary
- Mehringer canary
- Fiorino canary
- Parisian frill canary
- North frilled canary
- Italian gigant frill canary
- Scots fancy canary
- Muenchener canary
- Japanese hoso canary
- Rheinlaender canary
- Norwich canary
- Yorkshire canary
- Lancashire canary
- Bernois canary
- Spanish Llarguet
- Spanish raza canary
- Lizard canary
- Stafford Canary
- Australian plainhead
Mating & breeding
The breeding season for canaries begins with the onset of spring, with the females laying 2-3 broods, each having a clutch of 3-4 eggs. The incubation period lasts for around 13 to 14 days, while hatchlings leave the nest after about 14-21 days.
Lifespan: How long do canaries live
Canaries usually live for around 9-10 years in captivity, and tend to live longer by up to 6 years in the wild.
Canaries have been kept as pets since time immemorial. They are popular both for their singing abilities and attractive colors.
The cage and its setup
Canaries have a general liking for large areas in which to fly around, so get them a roomy cage. That won’t be much of a pocket pinch as a medium-sized cage for a parrot will be big enough for these small birds. Place the cage in an area free from drafts, with temperatures ranging from 60°-70°F during the day and no lower than 40°F in night. Breeding canaries will also require a nest, preferably made out of sticks, bamboo, plastic or metal.
Place some softwood perches in the cage, at least 2-3, as those will help keep their nails from growing too long. Food and water dishes should be put in the cage with sufficient supplies and refills.
Do canaries need toys: It is a good idea to provide enough toys for the birds to play with so they can have proper enrichment and a happy temperament.
Should you keep them in pairs
A male and female canary can be housed together, but two canaries of the same sex should not be kept in the same cage as they are rather territorial and may become aggressive towards each other, leading to one or both them being stressed out.
Canaries, by and large, are social birds with a proven track record of having a soothing personality in captivity. They are shy and do not like being handled too much but are charismatic little birds who love to entertain, mostly from a distance.
Keeping canaries and taking care of them
- Provide a clean environment; refill the food and water dishes within the cage every day after removing any leftovers.
- Clean the floor of the cage every 3-4 days. You may use newspapers and cardboard to line the cage floor.
- Disinfect the cage at least thrice a year.
- Canaries love to bathe; so provide a shallow pan with water no deeper than the size of the bird, and it will do the rest itself. Take the pan away once it is done, and clean up the water it has splashed around.
- Clip the wings of your canary regularly.
Diet and feeding: What do canaries eat
In the wild, canaries feed on seeds of figs, grasses, weed, as well as small insects. In captivity, you can give it a good-quality seed mix every day. You may also choose pellets, but they are not particularly liked by canaries. Fruits and leafy vegetables can also be offered daily; oranges, canned corn, green peppers, cooked broccoli, raw dandelions, peaches, pears, cucumbers, strawberries are all healthy and safe choices.
Can canaries eat bread: It can be given from time to time, but not regularly, as eating too much bread will make the bird fat.
Hand-feeding newly hatched chicks can be a good idea, especially for the one that hatched last as it may get neglected by the parents who may be busy with the chicks hatched earlier. This exercise can also help your bird to grow closer to you as it gets older.
As mentioned, canaries are usually timid, and it will take a lot of patience on the owner’s part to get it trained. Training from a young age is more likely to yield desired results so make sure you are getting as young a canary as possible. When you need to handle it, do so by placing your palm on the back of your bird and wrapping the index finger and the thumb on either side of its head.
How to get them to sing
Canaries usually do not need any training as far as singing goes as they are natural singers, and do so in the wild to assert their dominance over a territory. Once your bird is comfortable with its captive environment, it will start to sing. They usually stop singing during their molt, which occurs during mid-to-late summer. There is nothing to get alarmed about as they go back to singing themselves after some time.
Canaries are hardy birds and do not suffer from too many health-related problems. Most of the health issues occur because of improper or insufficient care, inadequate diet, drafts, and unhygienic cages. The common problems that can plague a canary are overgrown nails and beaks, broken wings and legs, ingrown feathers, false molt because of mishandling or poor diet, heat stroke, weight loss, egg-binding, scaly legs, diarrhea, tumors, and mites.
Price: How much do canaries cost
The cost depends on the type of canary being bought, ranging from USD 99 up to 250.
- Male canaries are the ones that sing the most, starting singing at around 4-6 weeks of age. Females sing too, but nowhere near as often as the males do.
- Before the year 1986, coal miners used to take canaries into the mines with them, and any toxic gas like methane or carbon monoxide, would kill the bird, thus alerting the miners to evacuate the area immediately. This is where the adage ‘canary in a coal mine’ comes from.
- The famous Warner Bros animated character Tweety is a canary.
- The Australian plainhead is the only canary mutation bred in Australia.