Canaries come from the Canary Islands? Are the islands named after the birds,
or the other way around?
we first meet up with the Canary bird in the Canary Islands, off the coast of
Africa, in a line with Spain. The birds are named after the islands, not the other
way around. Curiously, the Romans named them the "Dog" Islands, for the inhabitants
bred an extremely large type of dog. As might be expected, the ever pragmatic
Romans were more interested in fierce, guard dogs, than in little singing birds!
"Canary" is a corruption of "canis", Latin for dog.
What does the
wild Canary look like?
Wild Canary is very similar in appearance to the common green canary - rather
like a starved, runt English House Sparrow! One might venture to say that Nature's
original version of the Canary did not seem to offer much in the way of a very
there pure breeds of Canaries, like in other domestic animals? Do only certain
the early sixteenth Century, Canaries were prized as pets in the European World.
Over a span of five hundred years, through selective breeding, many distinct varieties
of canaries have been developed.
all adult male Canaries sing, some were bred purely for vocal ability, of which
the Roller Canary is the best example. The "looks" of a Roller are given very
little consideration. Most of these feathered Carusos could easily be mistaken
for one of the wild birds.
sing with a closed beak. Common singers perform with an open beak and are called
Singers are a special breed, produced from a cross of Roller and Border canaries,
and are very popular in the United States. These birds maintain both Rolled and
Chopped notes in their musical repertoire. Judges also score them on the basis
of physical conformation.
canaries, but particularly American Singers and Rollers, are capable to a degree
of mimicry. It is possible to teach them simple musical scores, instrument tones,
wild bird calls, and even a word or two of human speech. Don't think that ANY
Canary is going to give an African Gray or a Mynah bird any sort of competition!
digression, up until the Industrial Revolution, and the advent of loud machinery,
it was common for craftsmen to keep canaries in their shops for entertainment.
The "Canary in the coal mine" was an extension of this practice of work place
bird keeping. The Canary would die from gas fumes, alerting the men to the danger.
people of Great Britain delighted in experimenting with the possibilities inherent
in the size and form of the Canary. The results were The Norwich, The Yorkshire,
the Gloster, and the Border. The Norwich and Yorkshire are two of the giants of
the Canary kingdom. Either might be twice the size of a common Canary. The Norwich
concentrates on bulk, with a broad head and chest. The Yorkshire expresses height,
being a tall, thin bird. The Gloster is a miniature Canary breed, with the broad
head and chest of the Norwich, but only three-quarters of the size of the more
usual Canaries. The Gloster is best know for its "cap" or crest (corona) of feathers
on the head, rather reminiscent of the old Beatles hair-do! The Border, first
kept along the border of England and Scotland possesses refined and pleasing proportions.
French and Italians took special delight in "Birds of Position" and in Frilled
Breeds, both among the most strange and striking examples of the breeder's art.
Birds of Position, like the Belgian Hunchback, show what looks like a curvature
of the spine. The bird's posture is that of an inverted half moon. The Scotch
Fancy Canary and the scantily feathered Italian Gibber Italicus are other examples
of this category. The feathers of the Frilled Canaries are long and twisted. The
first impression that one gets is that a feather duster has sprung to life! The
Parisian Frill is one of the larger varieties. The combination of size and bushy
feathers produces an illusion of a bird the size of a dove.
breeds have been developed in the United States. Every fair sized town of Italy
can be counted on to have its own breed of Canary. These will nearly all be derived
from combinations of the breeds described above, or will be refined versions of
is a "Type" Canary?
variety of canary that is raised for novel appearance as opposed to song or color
is called a "Type" Canary.
HYBRIDS AND MULES
are hybrids and mules?
Europe it is very popular to cross Canaries with other finches. The Goldfinch,
the European Siskin and the European Green Finch are most often used. The overwhelming
majority of these crosses are infertile, hence the term "mule." Mules are produced
for their singing ability and are also exhibited at shows.
any of these crosses been used in the development of the modern Canary?
is possible, over the last half a millennium, that some fertile crosses were achieved
and subsequently bred back to Canary stock. This means that the Domestic Canary
is not identical, as a species, to the Wild Canary.
What is the
Venezuelan Red-Hooded Siskin?
most important hybrid is the Venezuelan Red Siskin (Spinus cuculatus) male crossed
with the Canary (Serinus canarius canarius) hen. This breeding scheme produces
some fertile males in the first generation. These hybrids are the foundation for
the Red Factor Canary.
Venezuelan Red Siskin is an endangered species. Now, with the Red Factor well
established, the production of further Red Siskin X Canary hybrids is a somewhat
COLOR AND GENETICS
canary colors are based upon genes that control the melanin and the lipochrome.
The melanin is the black in the original wild canary. The lipochrome is the ground
color, yellow in the original bird. The combination of black and yellow gives
the appearance of a green bird. The gene that removes melanin is partially dominant.
One factor gives a variegated (a patchwork mix of light and dark colors) bird,
two a "clear" canary. A clear canary only shows the ground (lipochrome) color.
Lipochrome colors are Dominant White, Recessive White, Yellow, and Red. There
are a large number of factors that affect the melanin color.
Lizard, one of the original British breeds, is actually based upon a gene that
restricts the deposition of melanin in the plumage. The result is a scale pattern,
giving rise to the Lizard name.
is hard and soft feather? What are feather lumps?
are two categories of feather quality: Hard and Soft. Hard feathered birds have
tight plumage and bright colors. Soft feathered canaries have downier plumage
and the colors are subdued. In general, a Soft feathered bird should always be
mated to a Hard feathered bird. If Soft feathered birds are bred together for
a number of generations, feather lumps will begin to appear. Feather lumps are
unsightly masses of ingrown feathers. The Gloster canary, the best examples of
which are all Soft feathered, is especially prone to this malady of genetic origin.
are lethal traits?
Corona (cap) and the Dominant White are two lethal traits. Incomplete Dominant
Lethal genes can't exist in a homozygous state. As both members of a chromosome
pair, Lethal factors cause the death of the individual. Crossing two Dominant
Whites or two Crests gives an expectation of 25% fertile eggs failing to hatch.
Always breed a capped bird to a normal (consort) Canary. Always pair a Dominant
White to a Yellow ground bird. Keep in mind that a "Blue" Canary is a combination
of melanin and White Lipochrome. If the White is the Dominant White, two Blues
can not be crossed. Dominant White can be told from Recessive White by visual
examination. A Dominant White Canary will always show some trace of yellow in
the flight feathers. The Recessive White is pure white.
Feather is often listed as a lethal trait. In any event, it's not a good idea
to mate Hard feathered birds together.
any color bird be shown?
exhibition, type birds can be any color. The clears tend to win. With Glosters,
mostly clear variegated birds with dark caps make for very striking specimens.
For the Color-Bred birds, the Melanins and the Lipochromes are shown in different
classes, which are further broken down into Hard and Soft feather. Clear birds
are always more popular as pets, since most people consider these light colored
Canaries more attractive.
is the basic Canary diet?
"white bread" of Canary nutrition is a seed mix consisting of 70% Canary Seed
and 30% Rape. This is often called "Black and White."
foods are required?
DAY the birds must get a high protein food. Most breeders use chopped hard-boiled
chicken egg, a special "nestling" food, or a mixture of the two. During the breeding
and moulting seasons, the Canaries should get as much of this as they will eat.
At other times, a half-teaspoon per bird (a treat cup full), per bird, per day
will do. The hard-boiled egg spoils quickly. Care must be taken in warm weather.
Any fruit, vegetable, or green that is used for human consumption, with the exception
of avocado, can be offered to Canaries. Canned corn is an especially loved and
is soaked seed? Are sprouts the same thing?
cracked corn, wheat, safflower, oil sunflower, and buckwheat can be put in jar
with water in the refrigerator and allowed to soak overnight. This softens the
hull and breaks complex carbohydrates into sugars. This soaked seed is very valuable
when the birds are feeding their nestlings.
beans and many other seeds can be fed as sprouts. Soak the seed in water for 24
hours. Drain completely and then rinse in a strainer under running cold tap water.
Rinse in the strainer every day, until the seed sprouts. If any mold develops,
discard the batch and drain it better next time. The container that the sprouting
seed is in must have some air flow. A paper towel held in place by a rubber band
other items should be fed?
pieces of whole wheat bread or corn bread are greatly relished by Canaries.
should always have Cuttlebone and mineral grit.
do you give Canaries vitamins?
can be mixed with the water. Follow the directions precisely. ALWAYS change at
the water at least once a day.
Liver Oil and Wheat Germ Oil can be mixed with the seed to fortify it with vitamins
A, D, and E. One teaspoon of each is mixed with ten pounds of seed. DON'T USE
ANY MORE THAN THAT! If you have only a few birds, make smaller batches, for the
treated seed quickly becomes rancid in warm weather. Some of the major seed companies
produce good brands of vitamin fortified seed. There are a lot of hucksters selling
"colored" bird seed. The colors are nothing but food coloring! Some mix a vitamin
powder with the seed. This all gets lost when the birds hull the seed.
variety of pellets and other processed foods are now sold for Canaries. If you
wish to try these new dietary items out on your birds, go right ahead. I suggest
that pellets be only one facet of canary nutrition. Pellets can serve as a dietary
supplement. Always offer a variety of foods to your birds. If your flock refuses
to consume the pellets, this is not a cause for alarm!
bird food be kept in the refrigerator?
refrigerator is a good place to store bird feed. Use a Zip Lock bag, or a Tupperware
style container, to keep out moisture. In the cooler, all bird food, even pellets
and vitamin enriched seeds, will last a long time.
I notice grubs
and moths in the seed. Is this dangerous?
storage also prevents the development of feed moths. The moths and larvae are
themselves harmless. Don't worry about a few of these insects in the seed or bird
room. Under warm conditions, the moths will quickly spread. If large numbers are
present, discard the feed.
fountain feeders a good idea?
dishes should be used for canaries. The "fountain" style dispensers are useless
for the birds will constantly spill all the seed out, wasting it.
other seeds do Canaries eat?
seeds can be fed to Canaries. Thistle, Oat Groats, shelled sunflower and Hemp
are great favorites These oily seeds must be rationed as they are very fattening.
seeds can be gathered and fed to canaries. The green, ripe, "milky" seeds are
very nutritious. Wild Thistle and Sunflowers with small seeds are Canary favorites.
(If you find a source of budding Hemp in the great outdoors, best to keep quiet
sure that the wild plants are not contaminated with toxic or noxious substances
and are not naturally poisonous.
often do Canaries require food and water?
seed and water before the Canaries at all times. Small birds can starve to death
or dehydrate in very few hours.
is color feeding?
canary can develop a shade of orange by adding paprika, cayenne, or red pepper
to its food. The Norwich, Yorkshire, and Lizard are color fed for shows. The Red
Factor Canary requires a carotenoid concentrate to exploit its full color potential.
The best formula is a mix of half pure Canthaxanthin and half pure Beta-Carotene.
Both chemicals are manufactured by Hoffman-LaRoche. Mix one teaspoon of the blend
with one gallon of water. It helps to start off with a little hot, but not boiling
water. This makes it easier to dissolve the powder. Keep the unused portion in
the fridge. It lasts a week. The bird's portion must be changed daily. Hoffman-LaRoche
does not sell to individuals, but a club could arrange for a pharmacist to order
the chemicals. Store the dry powders in a dry, cool, dark location. Flim Flammers
sell diluted products at exorbitant prices. Don't get ripped off! This caveat
especially applies to imported products in fancy packaging.
you expect to show your birds, carefully check the rules governing color feeding.
Exhibition Glosters can never be color fed. Some breed organizations and clubs
only allow the use of plant substances in the natural form. These venues prohibit
the entry of Canaries that have been fed concentrates.
kind of cage is good for a pet Canary?
you are keeping a canary as a pet for it's singing ability, just buy any cage
that you like. It must be constructed of metal and at least 18" long and 10" high
and 10" wide. Canaries exercise by flying back and forth, not up and down.
are very attractive and economical. Are they a good idea?
use a bamboo or wicker cage. Impossible to clean, these enclosures are not sanitary.
should be kept in mind if a number of Canaries are being kept?
you have a number of cages, don't bother with shelves. Put two or three screws
into the wall and hang the cage from the screws. A shelf is just another thing
birds Like to be out in the open. With a solid wall behind them, birds don't have
to worry about a predator sneaking up on them. If you must put a column of cages
in the center of a room, cover the backs with sheet metal. This will preserve
a feeling of security.
are not social birds. One bird kept as a pet will be perfectly happy. Two males
will always fight, as will a male and female, except during the nesting season.
breeding, it's best to buy all metal breeding cages. For economy, cages can be
constructed from «" X «" wire mesh, or, preferably, «" X 1" welded wire. The wooden
breeding cages with wire fronts are obsolete and a waste of time and money. Wood
can never be really sterilized. These old fashioned units need to be scraped,
scrubbed, and repainted every year.
cages are not needed. Canaries do much better and get much more exercise with
just one bird to the cage.
material is best for perches?
best perches are made of half-inch by half-inch, SQUARE, "baluster" board, available
at any good lumberyard. If you must use round dowel stick, scrape it with a hack
saw blade, to make the surface rough. The smooth, polished surface is very exhausting
for the birds. Make sure that the perch is clean. At least once a month, either
replace the perch, or clean it with hot water, bleach, and pine oil. Make sure
that it is dry before you put it back in the cage. The sandpaper that fits over
the perch is not a good idea. Most don't fit properly and constantly slip, putting
the bird off balance. Standing in sand paper can't be very comfortable.
What is the
possible range for temperature and humidity?
year round temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit and low humidity is best. Canaries,
properly acclimated, can withstand temperatures of just above freezing to nearly
100 Fahrenheit. These extremes don't do them any good and should be avoided. Only
subject your birds to such heat or cold if those are the conditions under which
you live yourself! During a heat wave, if air conditioning is not available, mist
the birds often with cool tap water. Never use a strong fan around any bird. The
ensuing drafts can lead to sickness and death even in warm weather.
How does a
Canary take a bath?
like to take baths. The bird will splash around a dish of clean water in the cage
. You DON'T restrain the bird and try to scrub it like you would a dog!
How is the
cage kept clean?
newspaper is fine on the cage bottom. NEVER USE CAT LITTER! Canaries will eat
it and die! Corn Cob Bedding must be changed every day. Damp Corn Cob quickly
becomes moldy. The cage-liner paper sold in pet shops is fine, but most breeders
use newspaper. As often as possible, disinfect the cage. Gently take the bird
out and place it in a temporary cage. Then scrub the original cage with hot water
and a disinfectant.
neighbor says that birds should be let out to fly around the house for exercise.
Is this so?
cage is your bird's home. To them the cage is not a prison, but a safeguard from
a terrible world. Letting your bird out for some exercise is like throwing people
off of a cruise ship for a little swim - sure to be a terrifying experience.
Does a hectic
schedule bother Canaries?
need a regular schedule. They must wake up and go to sleep with the Sun. Keep
the cage in a room that is quiet when it is dark out. It's a good idea to cover
the cage at night with a heavy cloth. Loud noises and bright lights can startle
and disturb canaries. This is certainly a cruel form of stress and can instantly
cause the bird's death.
is the breeding season? How is light involved?
the use of artificial lights, in the Northern Hemisphere, Canaries start to breed
around April. The male and female should be kept in separate cages. By late February,
the hens will be frantically tearing up paper and the cocks will be singing in
a vigorous manner. Wait a week before you put them together, for the male develops
the urge to breed before sperm production is peaking. If the hen is not trying
to build a nest, she will not mate!
breeders setup full-spectrum fluorescent lights, in order to keep their birds
in a basement or other poorly lit area. Using a timer it is possible to increase
the length of "daylight" during the normally dark hours of November and December.
The market for pet canaries is in the Spring, right around Easter. By breeding
early, the commercial operation supplies its markets most efficiently. It is not
a good idea for the hobby breeder, particularly the novice. The Fall and Winter
months are the busiest times for most people's work and social schedule. Taking
care of a Canary breeding colony can be an oppressive burden during the Winter
clever use of electric lights is to start the bird's day earlier or later than
the Sun normally allows. This gives the working hobbyist the opportunity to care
for the Canaries either before or after work hours.
does a Canary build a nest?
a plastic canary nest. The wire nests are useless, for the birds get their nails
caught in them. This can result in a lost leg and other tragedies. Fine dry, grass
makes the best nest material, but shredded paper or burlap is OK. DON'T use the
fine threads sold as nesting material. This garbage wraps itself about the bird's
toes and legs, cutting off the circulation. If not discovered quickly, gangrene
will set in resulting in the loss of the limbs and digits, if not death.
the male and female Canaries be introduced? Is
it normal for the male to beat the hen?
the birds are in condition, place the male and females cages along side each other.
The male should immediately start to sing and the hen should reflexively squat.
If this is observed, the birds can be placed together right away. If not, wait
until you see the birds "kissing" through the cage bars.
allow the male to beat the hen! This IS NOT a natural or required step, despite
what a few morons have written!
mating has been observed, the cock can be removed and placed with another hen,
to repeat the process. Canaries are naturally polygamous. Out of thousands of
canary nests, I've only observed one case of a monogamous pairing. There is no
reason not to leave the male and female together. Though the hen alone incubates
the eggs, the cock will help with the feeding of the nestlings.
How many eggs
are produced? How long does it take for the eggs to hatch? Do the eggs require
any sort of special handling?
average number of eggs is five, though any number from one to ten is not unusual.
I've observed clutches of eight, where all eggs hatched. The eggs hatch about
fourteen days after the hen starts to sit. Some hens start to incubate right after
laying the first egg. Others will wait until the entire clutch is produced.
breeders remove the eggs and replace them with plastic eggs. The real eggs are
stored in rolled oats, corn meal, or sawdust, at about 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
The actual eggs have to be turned every day, to prevent the contents from settling.
When five eggs are collected, they will be returned to the nest. The idea of this
procedure is for all the eggs to hatch on the same day, and thus prevent the youngest
from being a runt. I've never bothered with this and don't know anybody that actually
does. Though all the books write about it, the procedure is more trouble than
it's worth. More young will be lost from improperly handled or broken eggs, than
by the hen's inability to handle a range of sizes of young.
Can the hen
become ill from producing eggs? What should be done if it happens? Can it be prevented?
you expect the hen to lay an egg and you see her on the bottom of the cage in
obvious distress or exhaustion, she probably has egg binding. The bird will die
within a few hours without help. The best course of action is to seek a veterinarian's
help. I've gently felt the outside of the afflicted hens abdomen and been able
to propel the lodged egg through the vent. But I have no medical training, so
can not tell you to do the same thing. DO NOT HOLD THE HEN OVER A POT OF BOILING
WATER! DO NOT ATTEMPT AN OLIVE OIL ENEMA! I've seen both of these idiocies offered
as serious advice in published works.
binding can be caused by a lack of calcium, so be sure that a mineral grit and
cuttlebone is available at all times. Vitamins are needed for calcium to be used,
so be sure that all aspects of nutrition are correct.
hen be given a bath when sitting on eggs?
long as it is not cold, let the hen bathe every day while incubating. This will
aid in the embryo's development and eventual hatching.
How can I tell
if the eggs are fertile?
the hen has been sitting three days or more, the egg can be carefully held up
to a light. A newly laid or infertile egg will be clear, allow the light to shine
directly through. A fertile egg will display the embryo and the network of veins
supporting it. Eventually, even when held to a light, a fertile egg will become
the mother destroy the eggs if she smells a human odor on them?
overly disturb the sitting hen. She will not destroy the eggs because of a foreign
odor, like small mammals. Constantly pulling the eggs away can distress her enough
to abandon the nest.
Canaries need any sort of special care when breeding?
birds should be getting a high protein food every day, all year round. Once the
first egg hatches, make sure that you increase the amount offered. For the first
couple of weeks, this is all that the hen will feed her young. A lot of food is
required to fuel the nestling's explosive growth.
hens take extremely good care of their young. Others refuse to even sit on the
eggs. I've had birds that lovingly cared for their young for a week or two. At
that point the mother would mutilate the baby birds. If, after a couple of tries,
a hen does not make a good mother, either just keep her as a pet, or give her
away to a good home.
one canary hen raise another's chicks?
rare breeds, it is possible to "foster" the eggs under other Canaries. The Canary
hen can not distinguish eggs. Just be sure that the eggs are about the same age.
closed bands for your infants. When the babies get pin feathers, the main group
of toes can be pointed forward, and the last one pointed back. Then the closed
band can be slipped onto the leg. Once the bones of the toes harden, a band can
not be slipped on or off. This gives a permanent identifying mark.
Will the hen
go to nest again the same year?
the first group of young is about three weeks old, the hen will desire to breed
again. Simply put in another nest. When the first group of young is eating on
their own, put them in a different cage. For a day or two their cage can be left
next to the mother's. This way she can feed them through the bars.
PURCHASING A CANARY
should I look for when buying a canary?
you want a singer as a pet, any breeder or pet shop can sell you a good bird.
Make sure that the bird is closed banded, and that it is only a couple of years
old. With proper care, a male canary easily lives for ten years or more. It's
best to hear the bird singing in the store, so that you know that you like the
style. At any rate, make sure that singing is guaranteed.
you want to start breeding, the best idea is to buy a number of young birds of
undetermined gender during the Summer. These birds will be reasonably priced.
You and the birds have six months to get to know one another. Don't bother trying
to buy Canaries, particularly hens during the breeding season. Most people will
simply refuse to sell and get annoyed at you for bothering them during a busy
time. Low life will sell you worn out or defective birds. Even an honest Fancier
will put a very high price on every bird in the breeding room once nesting has
breeders will take unfair advantage of a beginner's enthusiasm and lack of sophistication.
Shop around and ask around. People will be happy to tell you if they were conned.
The novice can also get an idea of quality and market prices.
do canaries cost?
have seen Canaries fairly priced from nothing to $350 US.
AND DISEASE PREVENTION AND CONTROL
insecticide is safe to use around birds?
birds, the cages, and the whole bird room should be sprayed with a .05% Pyrethrin
solution. Do this once a month in the warm months, once a month in the cooler
months. This insecticide will control mites, lice, flies, and roaches.
causes the feet of Canaries to become scaly?
conditions of the feet are caused by mites. This can be controlled by rubbing
SCALEX on the birds feet. All mites, including those of the air sacs, are eliminated
by the application of OVERMATCHING. This should be done under the supervision
of a veterinarian.
are air sac mites?
sac mites infest the birds respiratory system. Spraying the entire aviary with
a pyrethrin solution (as described in 10.1) will control these pests. Air sac
mites can be eliminated by treating the birds with Ivermectin. This should be
done under the supervision of a veterinarian.
mosquitoes a concern?
are persecuted by mosquitoes. Make sure that the windows are all screened. Mosquitoes
also carry CANARY POX. A colony that contracts POX will probably be wiped out.
If your birds develop lesions on the face, a symptom of the Pox, IMMEDIATELY consult
of the danger of Pox being transmitted by mosquitoes, Canaries are NOT safe in
outdoor flights or cages.
canaries need to be treated for worms?
kept indoors rarely need to be treated for worms. If kept outdoors, at least once
year have the droppings examined by a veterinarian.
problems do mice cause?
can be a real problem in the bird room. Poison is generally a waste of time, for
bird seed tastes better than poison! Use traps baited with pieces of salami to
eliminate mice. Cheese, despite what you see in cartoons, does not work. Mice
are no joke. The rodents waste seed, upset the birds, and are a real hazard to
avian and human health.
should I do for a bird that just does not look right?
a bird looks out of sorts, separate it from the rest of the colony. Put it in
a small, warm cage with food and water in easy reach. Only give any sort of medicine
on a veterinarian's specific prescription. Many birds, perhaps just listless or
suffering from a slight indigestion are killed by well-intentioned, but misguided
owners inappropriately giving drugs.
is the molt?
a year, regularly at the end of the breeding season, canaries replace all their
plumage. This is a natural condition, not a illness. Give an adequate supply of
nesting (protein) food and perhaps a little bit of the oily, treat seeds.
is soft molt?
moult is when a canary constantly sheds feathers all year round. This is caused
by constantly changing hours of light and/or temperature. Canaries need a stable
environment. The soft moult signifies that the Canary's metabolism is stressed.
Soft molt in Canaries has nothing to do with PBFD or French molt in the parrot
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