Canary Care: Species Overview
- Common Names: Canary, domestic canary
- Scientific Name: Serinus canaria domestica
- Adult Size: 4 3/4 to 8 inches, weighing less than 1 ounce
- Life Expectancy: 5 to 15 years
A canary is an excellent choice for a bird. These birds are relatively inexpensive and great for beginners. They love to sing and don’t require a ton of work. A clean-cage, and fresh food, and water makes them one of the easiest of pet birds.
The canary is carefully bred for their colors and comes in an array of bright colors, including orange, white, red, and yellow. Yellow is the most common color for the domestic canary.
Canary Care: Cage Set-Up
- A single canary needs a cage that is at least 20 inches wide and 24 inches long. These birds like to fly, so if possible, give them a cage that is longer than it is wide to provide the flying space they need.
- If you have more than one canary, for example, an aviary environment with other small birds, you’ll need a bigger enclosure.
- Wood perches of varying diameters (3/8 to 3/4 inch) should be placed around the cage to provide places for your canary to rest and exercise its feet. Perch width variety helps keep your bird’s feet limber, and for best results, place the perches at different heights.
- Do not put perches over food or water dishes. The birds’ droppings will contaminate the food and water.
- The canary is a hardy bird that needs a room temperature environment. Still, the cage needs to be away from drafts, air conditioners, and windows that receive direct sunlight (the canary can get overheated).
- Cover the cage at night — your canary needs their rest.
- Most canaries do best on a light/dark cycle. This cycle helps to approximate their natural conditions.
- It is not healthy to keep canaries up late at night with artificial light; this stresses them out.
- Provide a shallow dish of water or a unique bath at least three or four times a week for the bird to soak in or flit around in the water.
- Cushion the floor of the cage with a corncob layer, or aspen, wood-pellet, or recycled-paper bedding or use a liner.
- You’ll need to remove droppings frequently.
- Spot-clean the bottom liner or bedding weekly, and replace it entirely once a month.
About the Canary
Canary birds enjoy being around people but do not like being handled. Many owners can train their canaries. They are intelligent birds. Training consists of getting the birds to sit on your hands, move to a perch, or direct the bird to fly around the room. Young birds are more comfortable to train, but you can tame and train most canaries with enough patience and consistent practice.
The canary is a relatively solitary bird — it will not get lonely if housed alone in a cage. It can also coexist in an aviary environment with other small birds. The only no-no is housing two male canaries together in a single cage; they will likely fight.
Origin and History
The wild canary is a small finch that is native to the Macaronesian islands of the Azores, Madeira, and the Canary Islands. Bred in captivity since the 17th century, the bird arrived in Europe by way of Spanish sailors after the conquest of the Macaronesian islands in 1478. The canaries sold in pet stores are now genetically quite different from their wild canary ancestors.
Speech and Vocalizations
The song canary is one of the most popular kinds of canary. Song canaries, especially males, are bred to sing. The most popular types are the Waterslager, the German Roller, the Russian Singer, the Spanish Timbrado, and the American Singer. Female canaries vocalize mostly with chirps, while males can develop elaborate songs. A Canary will not sing at all during their molting period.
Canary Care: Diet and Nutrition
- Feed your domestic canaries, a good quality seed mixture designed explicitly for canaries.
- Remove the seed hulls of the eaten seeds that litter the top layer of bird feeder daily; your canary needs easy access to its food.
- You can offer a canary pellet food too, but they prefer seeds. If you want to provide them with food options, leave a dish of pellets in the cage along with a bowl of seeds.
- Give your Canary daily supplements of vegetable greens such as kale, broccoli, dandelions, spinach, celery, peas, and watercress and small amounts of apples, oranges, grapes, bananas, or melons.
- Your canary must have fresh water at all times. Even one day without water can kill a canary.
Your canary needs room to move around, be sure to minimize the clutter in its cage. They need room to move about from perch to perch. Another essential item is a toy. A canary needs only one single gadget, mirror, or branch in its cage. If your bird uses the birdbath, that splashing about counts as exercise. Offer a swing, bells, or hanging wooden or acrylic toys as a special treat.
Rare health issues that affect canaries are usually due to poor diet, a dirty cage, or drafts. If you notice any of these signs of illness or distress, contact a veterinarian who treats birds:
- Decreased appetite or weight loss.
- Decreased activity or grooming.
- Feathers fluffed up for a long time.
- Long periods sitting at the bottom of the enclosure.
- Discharge from nose or mouth.
- Change in droppings for more than two days.
- Use caution when handling pets and remember they may bite or scratch (especially when stressed).
- Supervise children around pets.
- ALL ANIMALS can potentially carry viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic diseases contagious to humans.
- Thoroughly wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after contact with any pet or its habitat.
- Adults should assist children with handwashing after contact with a pet, its habitat, or aquarium water.
- Inexpensive, good beginner bird
- Melodious songster
- Can be trained to fly to you
- Not naturally a hands-on bird
- One of the least needy of pet birds
- Small-sized needs a smaller cage.