Canaries

Yellow and white canary
Canary on a red perch with a bird house in the background. Dave Lewis / Getty Images

Canaries

  • Name: Serinus canaria, canary, domestic canary
  • Lifespan: up to 10 years

Canaries are actually members of the finch family and are native to the Canary, Azores, and Madeira Islands (Macaronesia). The wild canary is greenish yellow over most of their body with yellow underparts while the domestic canary comes in an array of bright colors including orange, white, red, and yellow. They've been bred as pets since the 17th century where they became popular in Europe.

Canaries are often purchased as pets for their singing abilities. Therefore, anyone looking for a pet canary for this reason must remember that males sing better than females and molting canaries may not sing much at all.

Cages for Canaries

When looking for a cage for a canay, get a large one with bars that aren't spaced too far apart (no more than 1/2" spaces) but that still allows your canary to fly (a pet canary should never have their wings clipped and should be able to fly in their cage for exercise). Remember that a long cage (one that is at least 24 inches long) is better than a tall narrow one (the height is not all that important) and wire cages are easier to clean than wood cages.

Wood perches of varying diameters (3/8 to 3/4 inches) should be placed around the cage to provide places for your canary to rest and exercise their feet. Some canary keepers alter smooth round perches by scraping them with a saw blade or utility knife, just enough make the surface slightly irregular (this makes them easier to grip and the variety may make the perches more comfortable for the canary's feet).

Do not use sandpaper perch covers as they can cause harm to your canary's feet.

Canaries are pretty hardy and can be kept at room temperature but be sure to keep the cage away from drafts, air conditioners, and windows that receive direct sunlight (the cage and canary can get overheated). Cover the cage at night at the time the sun goes down (unless you live in an area with extremely long nights or days such as the far north).

Canaries need their rest and will do best if given a light/dark cycle that approximates natural changes. Keeping them up late with artificial light is not healthy for them and will cause them to be stressed.

Provide toys but place them in the cage in such a way so they do not obstruct the flight space. Your canary might enjoy swings, mirrors, bells, and hanging wooden or acrylic toys.

Fresh water should be available at all times. In addition to their regular water supply, a shallow dish of water or a special bath bought at the pet store should be provided at least three to four times a week for bathing.

Feeding Canaries

A good quality seed mixture suitable for canaries can be the mainstay of your canary's diet. Make sure you are daily blowing off or dumping out the seed shaft (or hulls) off the uneaten seeds so that your canary has access to their food. Pelleted diets suitable for a canary can be offered as well but these are not as palatable as seeds so many owners keep a dish of pellets in the cage along with a dish of seeds.

Fresh foods and leafy greens should also be offered to your canary daily. Good choices include apples, oranges, bananas, green peppers, canned corn, fresh corn on the cob, cooked broccoli, raw spinach, raw dandelions, raw collard greens, raw Swiss chard, pears, peaches, sprouted seeds, strawberries, cucumbers, herbs, squash, etc.

Bits of hard boiled egg can also be offered occasionally.

Edited by Adrienne Kruzer, RVT