What is Canary?

Canary which is often known as a domestic canary with a biological identification as Serinus canaria species is a domesticated form of the wild canary bird. They are also famously known as island canary, common canary or just canary that are the birds of order Passeriformes and genus Serinus of the finch canary family known as Fringillidae. They are originated from Macaronesian Island that includes canary island, Madeira and Azores that are the native places of the canary bird. 


The Spanish sailors brought the first canaries to Europe and in the 17th century, the canaries were first bred in captivity. Soon the birds became very famous and expensive that was only captivated and bred in the court of Spanish and English kings. Eventually, the monks started breeding the birds but only sold the males and that caused a shortage in their availability and the price of it went up. Soon the Italians obtained the female canary called hen and able to breed them and therefore they become very popular over the whole of Europe. 


In the 17th and 18th century a species of canary bird is specially bred in order to detect carbon monoxide in the coal mine industries especially in United States, Canada and United Kingdoms. Today the canaries are known for their huge range of colouration that developed due to the reason of their selective breeding by humans for almost 400 years. The image of a red factory is illustrated below.

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Type of Canary Birds

The canaries apart from their varied colouration they are also famous for their breeding songs but the breeders who keep the canaries are more interested in their shape, size and structure more than their colour of bred songs. Thus all kinds of canaries are broadly classified into three categories, that are, those bred on shape and size, those bred on colour and those bred on songs. Though the canaries are originated from Macaronesian Island they have spread all over the world and the canary bird habitat in many parts of the world. The native wild canary bird of canary island, Madeira and Azores are mostly greenish-brown with streaked back. Among all the member of the genus Serinus the species that are very popular as pets are the serin and the brimstone in Europe or the bully seedeater of Africa. The goldfinch is the songbirds of the genus Carduelis and belongs to the family Fringillidae that are often found in the United States and warblers that are mostly found in Australia are also a species of songbirds that belongs to the family of Peucedramidae and of subcategory Sylviidae that is of order Passeriformes. The roller species have loud shrill distinctive notes and the famous and well-known breeds of the canary family are Hartz mountain, Norwich and Yorkshire. The life span of the canaries in captivity increases to 12-15 years on average while few of them have lived for almost 20 years. Thus few kinds of well-known canaries are described below.

  1. Belgium or Belgian Bult: These are the first variety that was developed at the end of the 17th century and is the breed kind that is based on the shape and the structure rather than the song. They are very odd-shaped with a thin body and rounded head and stooped beak just like a vulture. The length of the original vulture was around 155mm but with the selective breeding over years the modern form is few millimetres smaller in length. Though they were very popular among the Belgium breeders and they slowly became uncommon after the second world war and they started breeding other varieties such as Muenchener from Munich, Rehinlander from Germany and Japanese Hoso.

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  1. Atlantic Canary: They are the most popular species that are very similar to serine and belongs to family Fringillidae and are quite common pet. The bird is native to the canary island. They are distinguished from other canary species due to their melodious tone that is known as “liquid notes”. They are very easy to identify by their physician appearances as their body measures around 10 cm to 12 cm in range and the wingspan is about 20 to 23.7cm in length. The male Atlantic canary has a large yellowish-green under the part that can also be seen on their head. Though their supercilium, face and forehead are quite yellowish in colour and their underpart is whitish with dark brown to black stripes seen on both the sides of the body. The females look quite similar to their male counterparts but their head and breasts are greyish with very few yellow tone underparts. The juvenile canaries are brown with very few dark streaks. The adult Atlantic canaries feed on seeds as well as insects but the young Atlantic canaries mostly feed on insects. 

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  1. Blue Factory Canary: The canary of this category have a very distinctive feature where they have a predominant blue in colour but have a base that is yellow or white that is tinted with light. Because of the tinted light reflection, it plays the trick to attract attention towards its yellowish base. The light reflection phenomenon happens most often when the hooklets of the bird’s feather reflect some wavelength that gives an illusion of several colours on their body. In starlings and magpies, the colour is more of a green or purple tint. In most of the canaries with a yellow base, the tint of colour appears to be green but in white canaries, the colour tin is more bluish grey and are therefore named blue factory canary.  

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  1. Border Fancy Canaries: The native of this particular canary is from the regions from north  England and south Scotlands and hence known as border fancy canary. They are usually of length 14 cm and are small and compact. They are considered the most popular pet because of their distinctive voice as they are capable of producing a variety of songs. Few of the selective breeds of canaries that belongs to England and Scotland stands at 60 degrees. They have a round body and the collective feathers on their body are glossy and smooth in the display. They are of varied colours like buff green, white or cinnamon that is either single toned or of multicolour.  

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  1. Crested Canary: Crested canaries are the most famous pets and in high demands among the breeders due to their unique appearance, attractive colour and melodious tonal quality. This is the only variant among the entire canary species that possess a tuft of the feather as a crown on their head which is rare and distinctive among canaries. Just because of these qualities they were highly popular among the riches as their price was beyond affordable for the common people but as their demands increased among the wealthy population their supplies decreased. Today due to selective breeding they are found in various colours and fun looks with a body length of 17cm and they have a maximum standing height of 16cm. They have generally short to broadheads with projecting forehead and long neck of moderate size and a long, narrow tail that is aligned with their body perfectly.

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  1. Cinnamon Canary: The cinnamon canary breed is originated in England but then in the early 1700s, they were crossbred with various other breeds of canaries such as border canary, Yorkshire and Norwich to bring out the real cinnamon colour. Before the very selective cross-breeding, the colour was not so prominent in this breed. But today they are also found in various other colours like buff or yellow with cinnamon tone. But their real colours vary from dark red-brown and glowing plumage to pink and soft tones of brown. They are very famous among the breeders for the texture of the plumage and it is believed that this breed out of all the other canary species has the softest feather texture. 

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  1. Fife Fancy Canary: It originated in Fife, Scotland and it is the smallest bird among all other canary birds and because of its physical attribute and colour it is considered very fancy and is very popular among bird pet owners worldwide. Thus its name derived as Fife fancy canary. The length of its entire body measures around 11.5 cm and it was first bred in the mid 20th century for its physical attributes.

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  1. Gloster Canary: Initially this bird was spelt as Gloucester and the variety of this particular canary was first bred in the 19th century and was originated in Gloucestershire, England. Since then because of its unique physical attribute, it is very popular among canary pet enthusiasts. Due to the special arrangements of its feather on the top of its head, it was a very highly demanded canary in the 1960s. It is a small and squat bird with a body length equals to 12.1 cm. It is a mixture of crested canary, hertz and border. It has a feather wig like structure on the top of its head that makes it unique in physical attributions. Because of the feather wig, it belongs to one of the famous bird group known as coronas. But due to their genetic complexities and inbreeding, they cannot be kept together in one cage.

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  1. Green Canary: Usually the green canaries are basically the show birds with a predominant green colouration they possess the yellow base colour with lots of melanin in their feathers. Due to the presence of melanin in the feathers, they either appear green or black. The wild canaries of this variety have the same colour attribution. 

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  1. Red Factory Canary: As they are highly attractive due to their colouration, they are mostly known as show birds. They are the red version of the yellow melanin. Only the colour of the canary is red with some traces of dark pigmentation rather than being yellow in tone. 

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  1. Yellow Canary: The yellow canary has both males and females that look different from each other and have variation in their colouration. While the males of the family have a bright yellow colour with yellow or greenish-yellow underparts and have a face pattern that is very well marked. Unlike their male counterparts, the females of this canary family are brownish-grey in colour. With their streaky underparts, they have yellow tints on their rumps, edges as well as on winged feathers. The juvenile yellow canary looks similar to that of the female canary but with more dense and more numbers of streaks. Though from the same order but they do not resemble yellow-frowned canary as they lack the black marks on their faces. They are also not that heavy as the bills that are found in the African continent. They usually have a body length of 12 cm.

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  1. Scots Fancy Canary: They originated in Scotland and therefore also known as Scottish canary. Their primitive habitat belongs to a place called Glasgow, Scotland where they were first developed in the early 1800s. They are mostly identified by the long tapering body that creates a curve that looks like that of a semi-circle. They almost got extinct in the 1900s but some of the dedicated bird breeders have revived their species and they are now well known for their tonal quality as they produce melodious tunes. They can grow upto18 cm or slightly more. Their diet comprises millet spray, dried egg, canary, oregano and chopped fresh greens.

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  1. Swiss Frill Canary: This kind of canary can grow up to 17 to 18 cm long and not beyond that with a body structure that resembles a half-moon which is complemented by a long sleek tail that actually enhances the half moon-like structure of the swiss frill canary. Unlike the other canaries it does not possess any frills but they are generally small with an oval-shaped face and a long slim neck. Instead, they have long straight feathers that are present in their mantle that extend and cover two-third of their entire back. The feathers form a basket shape around their crop area but are well separated on the sides that give them a unique look. As the birds had their origin in Switzerland, they are famously known as the Swiss frill canary.

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Lifespan of Canary 

The life span of each individual canary varies a lot though the average lifespan of a male and a female differs a lot. While the male canary tends to live longer than the female canary that underwent breeding as the breeding process takes away a lot of the birds in captivity. The female canaries that did not go through any breeding process or selective mating it can live as long as a male canary do. Generally, the canaries that are set free in the wild can live up to six years but under captivity and with good care and optimal conditions they survive as long as 15 years and few of the species even for 20 years. As they are very gentle birds they cannot sare the cage with other voluptuous birds as they can get quite aggressive on sharing the cage space with other species. Thus the physical stress on the canary also reduces their lifespan. 


Reproduction of Canaries

The most favourable breeding season for the canaries is the spring season. They usually mate and become sexually active during this period of time but do not breed the rest of the year. Most males and females have a single opening for their digestive excreta, urination and reproduction which is known as cloaca from where the females lay their eggs as well. During the time of mating as the females become sexually active, the cloaca swells up and becomes prominent and visible while during the rest of the year they are hidden and are not visible at all. 


When both males and female are ready to breed their testis and ovary swells where the sperm produced in the male body is stored in the cloaca and when the female receives the sperms from the male while mating through the cloaca, they travel deeper into the body where they fertilize the ova and the eggs are formed. The courtship between the male and the female canary lasts longer than the act of copulation. The courtship acts include the display of the plumage, speculating flight or melody songs to attract the female canary for mating. When the female canary is ready to mate they generally raise their tail and squat in front of the male canary. They even start collecting straws, branches and papers to start nesting for lasting eggs. 


Usually, the female canary can lay up to 6 eggs at a point in time. They usually lay one egg a day mostly during the morning. It takes about 14days for the canary chicks to hatch without much assistance. Initially, the mother canary stays with the newborns while tier father fetches the food. As they grow a little older the fathers stay with the chicks to ensure they are well fed. Once they are completely grown up and as their feathers and wings come in proper size and shape to take a flight they leave the nest to be on their own.   

FAQs on Canary

Q1. Are Canary Birds Friendly?

Ans. They are very friendly and sensitive in nature. Thus they require a little bit of time each day for their grooming and care to stay healthy. They do not demand much attention or time commitment like other pet birds. Thus they are considered a hands-on pet.

Q2. What are Canary Birds Known For?

Ans. According to their study and canary information produced by their breeders, they are mostly known and recognized for their intrinsic colouration, their melodious tonal quality and their varied shape size structure and the patterns of their feathers. 

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