Little Tweets: Canaries

Canaries must be the spice of the avian world if diversity is the spice of life. Despite the fact that all canaries belong to the same genus (Serinus), there are several types to pick from. First, there are three primary breeds: color canaries, type canaries, and song canaries. There are also several variants within each breed. To make things even more complicated, there are several mixed breeds of canaries to pick from. It’s tough to believe that all of these species sprang from a single progenitor, the Canary Islands’ wild canary (Serinus canaria).


Canaries were initially developed only for their beautiful singing. Canaries were so vigorously grown after being brought to Europe by the Spaniards (who invaded the Canary Islands in the late 15th century) that 29 unique types existed by the beginning of the 18th century. Today’s bird breeders are adding to the mix by attempting to generate even more colors and varieties of canaries.

With so many canaries to pick from, one may assume that the granddaddy of all canaries must have been a spectacular bird. Take a look at the natural equivalent to the pet canary, and you’ll notice a little, grayish-green and yellow bird that strikes a stance more like to a sparrow than the bright yellow “Tweety Bird” usually seen in pet shops.

The Color Canary

According to J.M. Nelson’s 1989 Introduction to the Color Canary, innumerable selected couplings of wild canaries generated the usual clear yellow bird (one without melanin pigmentation as opposed to the fully-pigmented, grayish-green wild canary). The advent of the agate canary, a green and cinnamon colored bird, later marked the start of color breeding as a pastime. White, blue, and fawn were shortly to follow. Then, in the early 1900s, a male black-hooded red siskin (Spinus cucullatus) mated with a female yellow German roller canary, adding red to the canary’s vibrant palette.

Canary color is obtained genetically from two main elements: lipochrome color (which is yellow in the wild canary and also comprises dominant white, recessive white, and red) and melanin color (the dark hues of black and brown of the wild canary). When the lipochrome and melanin hues are overlaid on one other, they combine to form colors like as green, blue, bronze, cinnamon, fawn, and brown.

For example, if you couple a canary with a yellow base color (lipochrome color) with a bird with black melanin in its genetic make-up, you can get a green-looking child.

Green (bronze or blue), brown (cinnamon), ino (canaries with red eyes), pastel, red factor, dominant white, recessive white, ivory, as well as agate (also known as dilute green), Isabel factor, and lizard canaries are examples of colored canaries (that have feather markings similar to the scales of a reptile).

Certain foods and/or chemicals are provided to certain canaries in order to improve the color attributes of the bird’s plumage. Color-feeding must begin before the canary begins to molt, which happens about 6 to 8 weeks of age. (Imagine applying lemon juice to your hair to bring out the blonde highlights, only the canary is fed the food rather than wearing it.)

Cayenne pepper was one among the first items given to red factor canaries to obtain a more striking hue. However, feeding a canary red peppers will not make it yellow. The bird’s natural basic color (ground color) must be consistent with the color enhancement. Thus, the red canary’s orange colour can be enhanced by feeding it red peppers or synthetic canthaxanthin. If not done correctly, color feeding and/or the use of chemicals to increase color may be hazardous to the bird’s health. Before beginning a color-feeding program, consult with an experienced canary breeder or your avian veterinarian.

Song Canaries

Canaries all sing, but like people, some are greater vocalists than others. Male canaries are genuine troubadours (always attempting to impress the lady birds), thus if singing quality is important to you, a male canary kept alone is your best choice.

Canaries are nature’s “original recording artists,” since they learn their songs by mimicking other birds’ songs, combining bits into their own song, and/or listening to exciting music.

The most well-known song canary is the roller, often known as the Hartz roller canary after the German mountain range of the same name. The roller sings with its bill almost closed, emitting a gentle tone deep inside its throat. In terms of song quality, the Belgian waterslager is a close second to the roller canary, singing notes that sound like a babbling stream.

The American vocalist, who emerged in the 1930s, is possibly the most attractive songster. It is a hybrid between a roller canary (thus its wonderful singing) and a border canary (admired for its good looks). Spanish timbrados, on the other hand, are the most audible. They make a more audible, metallic call.

Type Canaries

Canaries come in a variety of forms and sizes. There are tall and slim, short and plump variants, as well as smooth and frilled feathered kinds. Some are crested, such as the Gloster canary, which has a “shag hairstyle” and seems like it came straight from Liverpool, England (and home to the Fab Four, otherwise known as the Beatles).

Border, fife, York, Norwich, and Gloster canaries are the most frequent. In contrast to the robust Norwich and gangly York canaries (at 6 1/2 and 6 3/4 inches apiece), the fife and border are dainty (at 412 and 512 inches). Other types have been produced for extreme characteristics. Northern Dutch frills and Parisian frills feature long, swooping feather designs (as if carried up by a whirlwind), but Scotch fancys and Gibber Italicus have an excessively bent posture.


What happens when you cross a canary with a finch? A mule. It’s not a joke! A mule, like a horse, is symptomatic of infertile progeny (i.e. the mating of male donkey with a female mare creates a mule). In the case of the canary, the mule is the result of a female canary mating with a male finch, with the resultant progeny typically being sterile (except for the black-hooded red sisken, which was mated to a canary, resulting in the red factor canary). Mules include the goldfinch mule, the siskin mule, and the greenfinch mule. There’s also the bull… as in male bullfinch. The male bullfinch is the result of the mating of a female bullfinch with a male canary.

Lifespan And Lifestyle

A pet canary can live for up to 20 years if properly cared for. Proper care involves appropriate caging and accessories, as well as a balanced food. The cage should have enough space for the canary to jump from perch to perch. Because canaries fly back and forth rather than up and down, cage length is more significant than height. The aviary is another housing option that allows for unrestricted flying and the habitation of several canaries. Keep in mind that if more than one bird is kept together, additional food and water dishes are required. A well-equipped cage and/or aviary should feature 1/2 to 5/8 inch thick wood perches, separate food dishes for seed, fruit, and treats, water dishes, and bathing bowls.


Canary grass seed, rape, hemp, niger, linseed, and rolled oats should all be included in a well-balanced mixed seed diet. Greenfood (mustard, cress, and watercress lettuce, endive, grasses, and turnip tops), fruit (apples, bananas, pears, kiwi, watermelon, grapes, and berries), and vegetables should be included in the diet (cucumbers, soybean sprouts, broccoli and grated carrots). Cuttlebone and grit are additional options.


Feather cysts, canary pox (which is spread from bird to bird or by mosquitoes), air sac and tracheal mites (which infest the bird’s respiratory system), obesity, cataracts, and dry gangrene of the limbs are all prevalent diseases in canaries. Puffed feathers, closed eyelids, and a decreased appetite are common symptoms of a sick canary.

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