The Canary

When you think of the Canary, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Most people would say their ability to make beautiful music. These birds are absolutely wonderful song birds. The males are the ones with the talent for song, using their “singing” skills to attract females. This bird is high on the list of the most popular birds in captivity. They were first used by miners many years ago as a way to detect if there were poisonous gases present in the mines deep down below the earth’s surface. Sadly, the way the miners knew if there were gases, was if the canary they carried with them died. This works because canaries are very small creatures with very rapid respiration and very sensitive little bodies. The gases would be inhaled by the bird at a quicker rate and would affect the tiny bird much faster than they would affect the humans working down in the mines. A bird fell over was a sign for the miners to quickly get to the surface! Luckily for the canary, there are new much more effective ways to detect gases down in mines that do not include the death of any creature.

The canary has been in captivity for a very long time. This bird originated in the Canary Islands, Madeira, and the Azores. The color of the wild canaries is a greenish yellow on the top of the bird with bright yellow underneath. Domestic canary colors can vary widely from yellow to red. Selective breeding is the cause of this. I, personally, had a yellow canary as a child. He had a small brown patch of feathers on his head.

This bird is not a particularly touch-oriented bird, like a Cockatoo or Amazon. The canary does not like to be picked up or handled. Canary owners usually keep a canary for their beauty and their delightful twittering. Wings are not to be clipped and cages are generally large compared to the size of the bird so that there is ample space for the bird to fly and play. Toys should be given so as to keep the bird entertained. Many people give special bird-toy bells and ladders. A good amount of different width branches are a good idea, as long as they do not take up too much flying space. Cuddlebones are a Canary favorite as well. Mirrors are a fun toy, but keep in mind that male birds that sing may stop singing if they see their reflection and believe it to be another bird. The reason for this is males are singing to attract a mate and if they think they have a mate, they will cease to sing. It’s a good idea to have a variety of toys and to switch them out every few months so your bird does not get bored.

These birds will take baths when they feel the need. It’s quite the spectacle! You can keep a fresh bowl of water in the cage that is large enough for the bird to bathe in. Pet stores sell special bowls just for Canary bathing, but any bowl that you can fit into the cage will suffice. Just fill it shallowly (about 1 inch of water) and leave in the cage for a few hours. If you bird wishes, he or she will splash around and get nice and clean.


Canaries can live an average of 10 to 15 years in captivity, with some birds exceeding that by a few years. A well balanced diet and lots of exercise ensure a long life, generally.

Dietary Needs:

A Canary diet consists of seed and, if the bird will eat it, nutrition-packed pellet. Many Canaries are not raised on pellet, so they may not like it as much as the seed, but it doesn’t hurt to offer the pellet. Be sure to offer delectable fresh fruits and veggies as a treat. Fresh greens, such as spinach and sprouts should also be offered for their nutritive properties. Just as you wouldn’t like to eat the same thing every day, neither does your bird. Mix it up here and there. Just be sure not to feed junk, such as sugar or chocolate. In addition to all the wonderful food you provide, be sure to keep fresh water available to your bird at all times.

Common Canary Diseases:

  • Conjunctivitis
  • Bacterial infections
  • Pneumonia
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Feather cysts
  • Mites
  • Scaly legs

Cage Size:

Canaries need lots of flying room. So a cage that is wider is better for this bird. 1/2 inch bar spacing is recommended