Canaries were first
bred in captivity in the 17th century. They were brought
over by Spanish sailors to Europe. This bird became
expensive and fashionable to breeding in courts of Spanish
and English kings.
Monks started breeding them and only sold the males (which
sing). This kept the birds in short supply and drove the
price up. Eventually Italians obtained hens and were able to
breed the birds themselves. This made them very popular and
resulted in many breeds arising and the birds being bred all
The same occurred in
England. First the birds were only owned by the rich but
eventually the local citizens started to breed them and,
again, they became very popular. Many breeds arose through
selective breeding, and they are still very popular today
for their voice.
The Belgian is a bird that is bred for its type, body and hump. They
are known as birds of position. The Belgian is a bird that when it
stands on a perch shows what some would cal a humped back. This bird
comes in buff, yellow (hard feather for purposes pertaining to type
birds is yellow), white and green. A Belgian is to show no red factor in
its wing and/or overall feathers. This bird was established in the
middle of the 19th Century. It has had a very difficult time
reestablishing itself as a breed because of the war in Europe much of
the breeding stock.
The Border is probably one of the most popular breeds in the United
States and Europe. The ideal bird should be no larger than 5 1/2" in
length. For many years, judges have awarded the best Border to birds
that were far in excess of the standard. The Border's head should look
almost like a marble placed on its shoulder. The bird should have a
definite "nape" in the neck. The back should be rounded rather than on a
45 degree angle as in colorbreed birds. The chest should be full and
rounded. Borders come in buff, yellow, green, cinnamon, white and
combinations of variegations. The stress should be placed on type rather
than clearness or selfness of the bird. No Borders should be shown that
has tendencies to red ground, as they will be disqualified from the show
This is a very old variety that encompasses several breeds. The most
noted characteristics of the Frill are the curling of the feathers in a
First, the Parisian Frill which is the largest of the breed with a size
of 7 3/4" to 8 1/4" in length. The Parisian is very robust in appearance
and vigorous in action and showing a great deal of bounce and vitality.
The Dutch Frill is a smaller counterpart of the Parisian. The Dutch
Frill is approximately 6 1/2 " long. This bird also has smaller curls
that the Parisian.
The Fife is a smaller version of the Border Canary. The standard calls
for the birds not to exceed 4 1/2" in length. These birds have been
shown by our members and are starting to become more readily available.
This bird first came into the bird rooms in the early 1980's. The cost
would probable be comparable to the Border canary or slightly less.
Glosters come in two varieties, the Consort and the Corona. The Consort
is the plainhead the Corona is the crested variety.
The Gloster is to be small and cobby in size. A Consort should carry a
broad head and a Corona should have a nice circular crest with the eyes
still being visible. Glosters are bred Consort to Corona. They come in
yellow, buff, green, white, cinnamon and any variegation thereof.
This is a very old variety that is again reaching new heights of
popularity. The wars in Europe almost wiped out this breed. Serious
breeders however only sold birds to other breeders until the breed was
reestablished. Now Lizards are again easier to buy; however, good birds
are still hard to find.
Lizards come in three ground colors, yellow (gold), white (silver) and
red. Lizards are bred for a cap and spangle or rowing on their backs.
These birds come with full caps, broken caps and no caps. A breeder
normally breeds a full cap to a broken cap.
A Lizard breeder is an individual that accepts the reality that only a
few good birds are raised each year. If a bird has a fowl tail feather
or wind, it is discarded for the purpose of showing or breeding.
Lizards should be colorfeed at one-half strength to show excellent
color. These birds will cost in the neighborhood of $50 to $100 each and
may be available in trios.
The Norwich is a large canary similar to the Gloster in cobbiness. The
Norwich breed is over 100 years old and is sometimes called the "John
Bull Canary" because of its bullish size. The Norwich has very heavy
eyebrows and sometimes you can barely see their eyes.
The Norwich is not a real dependable feeder so some breeders foster
their eggs to colorbred or American Singer canaries. On the thickly
feathered birds, I would trim their vents to be more successful in the
I have bred some Norwich in the past and because of the cost I have
fostered out their eggs to other birds. These birds seem to come into
breeding season later that the colorbred birds.
This bred being a rarity today is starting to make a comeback. The
Scotch Fancy is a bird of position and stands on the perch in the form
of a C whereas the Belgian stands more in the shape of a backward 7.
Most Scotch are in the yellow and buff series. California seems to be
the best place to find these.
The Yorkshire is the largest canary that type breeders work with today.
This bird's average length is 6 3/4" in length and is bred in yellow,
buff, green, cinnamon and white series. Yorkshire canaries are color
feed at one-half strength.
Care and feeding:
The bird food in a canary diet consisting of a good seed mixture
(vitamin coated) supplemented with sprouted seed, various fruits, green
foods, and commercial pellets are generally regarded suitable.
food and water must be provided daily.
canary seed is their everyday food and vitamin coated seed mixes are
readily available at a pet store. A single canary will eat about one
teaspoon of seed a day and canaries will rarely overeat, though they may
need to eat a bit more when the weather is cold or during their moult.
Pelleted diets are also available and contain vitamins and more protein
than seed, making additional supplementation unnecessary. However birds
not raised on a pelleted diet may not recognize it as food, so may not
Supplements are very important and can be put in an extra dish and
rotated for variety.
Fruits and Vegetables:
Daily supplements that canaries like to eat include greens such as kale,
broccoli, dandelions, spinach, celery, peas, and watercress. Small
amounts of fruits such as apples, oranges, grapes, bananas, and melons
can also be offered. Canary treats of seed with honey, fruits and
vegetables are fun for your bird too, as well as nutritious. However
there are some that feel these treats will contribute to a lethargic or
lazy bird that may be less inclined to sing.
About once a week offer an additional protein supplement such as egg
Canary Song Food:
Every few days you can also provide some song food to help develop vocal
Most canary seed mixes have vitamin coated seeds. However, if their
canary seed is not vitamin enriched, vitamins can be added to the
drinking water or the food.
a cuttlebone or a mineral block. The calcium they provide will give your
bird a firm beak, strong eggshells when breeding, and will prevent egg
binding. The lime in the cuttlebone also aids in digestion.
in the United State the use of grit is being discourage as being
unnecessary for canaries because they shell their seed. However in the
past, and still in most other countries today, it is considered an
important ingredient for the canary diet. It is said to be essential in
providing necessary minerals and elements as well as an aid in
digestion. Possibly this change is a result of commercially developed
A canary cannot live for 24 hour period without water! Provide
fresh water daily.
your canary a bath at least once a week and daily during the summer by
placing a dish on the bottom of the cage. A bath with an enclosure will
help to keep the water splashing to a minimum. Bathing is very important
to canaries during molting and breeding.
Their nails will occasionally need to be trimmed, but be careful never
to clip into the vein as the bird can quickly bleed to death. Bird nail
trimmers and styptic powder to stop the bleeding are available at pet
Canaries like wide open spaces so provide your pet with a roomy canary
cage. Also provide dishes for food, water, and treats as well as an area
for a bath.
Good size canary cages are:
Single canary: For a single bird, canary cages should be at least
16" (40 cm)
Pair of canaries: For a canary pair, canary cages should be at
least 20" (50 cm)
Provide two or three good softwood perches about 3/8" to 3/4" in
diameter. Tree branches of a similar size also make good perches and
will help to wear the claws down naturally.
Where to Place the Cages:
Place the cage on a stand or hang it from a wall bracket at eye level or
at about 6 feet off the floor. Be sure the spot you pick has good light
and is well ventilated, though free from drafts. It should be away from
doors and windows where direct exposure to sunlight can make it overly
warm, but placed close to at least one wall to enhance a feeling of
Average daytime temperatures can range from between 60 degrees to 70
degrees Fahrenheit with nighttime temperatures down to 40 degrees
The cage should be covered at night to prevent drafts and disturbances.
A roomy indoor aviary, a bird room, or an outdoor aviary (depending on
your area) are all good choices. The aviary needs plenty of light and
fresh air. The outdoor aviary needs to have a protected shelter that can
be heated and cooled where necessary and a canary flight cage made with
about a 3/8" wire mesh, anything larger will let in mice.
Although canaries require very little time, a clean environment as well
as fresh food and water daily is a must to prevent disease and illness.
The basic cage care includes daily cleaning of the water and food
dishes. Every two to three days change the paper on the bottom of the
cage. Weekly wash and dry the entire cage, including the perches.
Canaries are very social with good personalities. They will not harm
children, visitors, or other pets. They are, however, timid birds and
should not be housed with parakeets, lovebirds, or other hookbills that
tend to be more aggressive birds by nature. Pairing up with two male
canaries in a cage can cause fights, but canaries can easily be housed
in a spacious cage with other canaries, finches, and other hardbills.
Keep canaries separated until time to breed.
Unless actively breeding, canaries must be kept in their own
cages. Males will fight and a male might kill the female if she
is not ready to breed. Their cages can, however, be kept in the
chose ready male and female for breeding
Male canaries will usually come into condition before the
female. Signs that they're in condition include dropping their
wings when they sing, their song becomes harsher and louder,
they may dance around on their perch and they may appear to be
more territorial when other males are nearby.
Females will most often begin to tear paper, as if readying a
nest, when they come into condition. The most certain sign of
their readiness, however, is when their vent appears red and
swollen. They may also raise their tails and appear to squat
when males are nearby.
Introduce the male and female canary.
Diet and food.