Canaries as Pets
by Ginger Wolnik
Published in Winged Wisdom, October 1998.
American Singer Canary (yellow variegated)
photo by Ginger Wolnik
Canaries can be the easiest pet birds tohave. Even the smallest apartment has room for one. They are simpleto care for and do not require much attention. Canaries are solitaryin nature, so a lone male is perfectly content by himself and willsing whether you are there or not. It can be your only pet, or partof a household menagerie.
These birds are a type of finch that is native to the CanaryIslands, after which they are named. The wild canary, which stillexists, is brownish green and looks like a sparrow. Captive bred for500 years, the yellow mutation has long been the most popular.Today, canaries are available in many colors and a range of sizes,shapes, and patterns.
Like dogs, many breeds of canaries have been developed. Thesebreeds are classified as either song, type, or color canaries. TheGerman (or Hartz Mountain) Roller is the classic song canary and wasthe most popular breed in the world for many years. The AmericanSinger is a newer song breed that was developed in the United States.The Waterslager is a song breed from Belgium that is now spreadingworld-wide. Type breeds are less common as pets, but are popular withhobbyists who exhibit them at shows. Some of these birds are largeor unusually shaped, although many do not sing much. Type canariesinclude crested and frilled breeds. Colorbred canaries are becomingpopular since they include a striking red-orange.
Canaries were the most common cage birds in the world for manyyears. Although not difficult to breed, they require a special dietand lighting to reproduce and are not as prolific as budgies or somefinches. For that reason, they tend to be more expensive. Usuallysomewhat aloof in nature, most do not typically bond to people,although some people have tamed their pet canaries. However, thischaracteristic makes a canary more suitable for someone who does notwant to spend a lot of quality time with their bird.
As with any pet, it is best to buy a canary directly from abreeder. For referrals, contact a local bird club, veterinarian, orpet shop that only sells supplies. A good breeder should band theirbirds in order to identify them and prevent inbreeding. They shouldalso provide you with care instructions and a food sample. It is agood idea to get your own book on canary care for reference.
It is difficult to determine the sex of a canary, especially ifless than a year old. Even experienced breeders get fooled. Adultmale canaries usually sing, but some hens sing and so do young birdsof either gender. Canaries usually hatch in the spring and becomemature in the fall or winter, but are not old enough to breed untilthe following spring.
If a songbird is what you want, get a mature male and ask for aguarantee that he will sing within two weeks. Do not put any otherbird in the same cage, not even a female canary. Never clip theirwings, they need to fly for exercise. The normal untamed canaryshould not be let out, so get as large a cage as you can. A dailycheck of food and water is best, although they can be left alone foran occasional weekend trip. Let your canary sleep after sunset,either move him to a dark room in the evening or cover the cage witha blackout sheet. In the summer when the days are long, it isnatural for them to molt (replace all their feathers) and they do notsing for a few weeks during this process.
A well cared for pet canary may live for 10 years or longer.Their song and beauty can provide a bit of cheerful nature in ourhomes. As our lives become increasingly urban, a canary can be asoothing pet for anyone!
To learn more about canaries, visit the Canary List Homepage.
If you would like to hear what show-quality canary songs soundlike, visit Ralph Howland'ssite where you can hear the song of the Waterslager Canary or Kim Kubasek'spage for a sample of the Roller Canary song.
Winged Wisdom Note: Ginger Wolnikbreeds and exhibits American Singer canaries as a hobby. She isactive in the national AmericanSingers Club as well as local bird clubs.
Return to PAS article index