The domestic canary, commonly known as the canary bird or just canary, is a small passerine bird in the finch family. It is native to the Canary Islands and North Africa but has become well-established as a cagebird in many countries around the world, and feral populations have also become established in Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
Serinus canaria domestica is one of the most popular pet birds in the world, though it was originally bred in cages to be used as an alarm system for miners and to detect noxious gases in mines.
Today, you can find the domestic canary in all sorts of colors and patterns, from yellow with red spots and gray wings to gray with white spots.
Origin and History
The domestic canary is a medium-sized finch that is native to Madeira, the Azores, and the Canary Islands in the Macaronesian region. After the conquest of the Macaronesian islands by Spanish sailors, the bird has been bred in captivity since the 17th century.
In comparison to their wild ancestors, pet store canaries now have completely different genetics.
Breeding between canaries and other finch species is easy. Unique canaries result from this hybridization. In the case of red canaries, for instance, they were produced by breeding domestic canaries with South American finches, red siskins.
The scientific name of the domestic canary bird is Serinus canaria domestica.
Range and habitat
Domestic canary birds are predominantly found in the Canary Islands, Madeira, and the Azores. In spite of their widespread distribution, the birds are rare on Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. This species has also been introduced to the Hawaiian Islands on the Midway Atoll by humans.
Domestic canary size and weight
The average size of a domestic canary bird is 12 to 20 cm (4.8 to 8.0 inches) in length and they weigh around 12 to 30 g (0.4 to 1 oz) and has a wingspan of around 20.3 to 25.4 cm (8 to 10 inches). The male is usually a little bit bigger than the female.
Domestic canary colors
There is a greenish-yellow color over most of the wild canary’s body, with a yellow underpart. Because domestic canaries are selectively bred, many colors are available, such as white, orange, yellow, and red. Domestic canaries are most commonly yellow in color.
When a canary bird molts, it’s simply losing its old feathers and growing new ones. Molting is a natural process and necessary for the bird’s survival. A bird will molt to replace the old feathers that have been worn out over time with newer, better-quality ones.
Molts are usually regulated by the season: in the summer, birds need lighter feathers to help regulate their body temperature; in winter they need thicker, heavier feathers to insulate them from cold air and snow. It takes between two weeks and four months for a full molt.
After molting, a bird will go through what is called a critical period, which lasts between one week and six months as it grows new feathers and gets used to its feel. During this time the bird may seem listless or dull, but this is normal behavior during this adjustment period.
As or before the building begins, the female domestic canary selects the nest site. During the days leading up to the laying of the first egg and shortly before copulation, building activity peaks. It is highly variable between individuals when it comes to the time frame between egg-laying and building.
Female canaries build their nest out of twigs, grasses, leaves, hair and feathers. They usually use a base that is already in place. Then they line the nest with soft materials such as feathers, fur, or wool to create a comfortable environment for their eggs.
Domestic canary diet and foraging
Domestic canary birds are omnivores that eat seeds, insects, crustaceans, and plants. They will also peck at the ground for food. To keep their beaks trimmed and to provide them with a source of minerals like calcium, cuttlebone is often given to them.
Additionally, it is important to provide canaries with a variety of plants in order to keep their diets varied. The seed mix should contain sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, linseed, and rapeseed.
Additionally, leafy vegetables like kale, collard greens, and spinach should be included as well. It’s best not to give your canary too many fruits because they’re high in sugar which can lead to health problems over time. Keep an eye out for signs of dehydration such as reduced thirst or excessive urination.
Sounds and vocal behavior
Song canaries are among the most popular species of canaries. Specifically, male song canaries are bred to sing. These include the German Roller, Waterslager, Spanish Timbrado, Russian Singer, and American Singer. Male canaries are able to create elaborate songs, while females mostly chirp. During the molting period, these birds do not sing at all.
You should ensure that your canaries are well-fed, healthy, and of adult age before breeding them. You should also make sure that the cage, which is their new home, is clean.
Allow time for the infants to get used to each other and their surroundings.
In North America, canaries tend to breed between March and July, but they can breed at one year of age if they have adapted to their environment.
The length, height, and width of a breeding cage are typically 24 inches, 14 inches, and 10 inches, respectively. Males and females should be separated in breeding cages by a slidable partition. Getting a nesting box is simple; just visit a local bird shop. Typically, a small birdhouse will do the trick for a canary.
Eggs are laid by the hen within a few days of mating. Egg clutches typically contain four to six eggs.
It is common for older and younger chicks in a nest to have a large difference in size. Some chicks may be lost if they are too small to compete. Therefore, some breeders replace eggs with artificial ones immediately after laying them.
Once she has laid all of her eggs, the breeder will then put them all back into the nest for incubation, which takes 13 days before hatching.
Domestic canary lifespan
The lifespan of a domestic canary bird is approximately 10 to 12 years. Common causes of death include starvation, dehydration, poisoning, and predators.
Movements and migration
The domestic canary birds are migratory birds, so they will travel from North Africa to Southern Europe and back again each year. They tend to migrate in September or October, but they may also stay in their nesting area if food is abundant.
The migration patterns of the Serinus canaria domestica are not well-known because they are only seen during this time of year and not at any other time throughout the year. Their movements are controlled by different factors such as weather conditions, population numbers, and availability of food sources.
These factors change from year to year which affects how many Serinus canaria domestica there are on a particular day; for example, on a warm autumn day, there might be many more than on a cold November day.
Diseases and threats
Poor diet, dirty cages, and drafts are the most common causes of health problems for canaries. A veterinarian should be consulted if the bird begins to lose its hair, develop scaly legs, or suffer from diarrhea, constipation, or lethargy. Avoid smoking around canaries or keeping them in rooms with fumes from cooking or solvents, since they are sensitive to air quality.
The canaries are susceptible to certain viruses, fungi, and bacteria. There are multiple infections that can affect them, such as avian gastric yeast infection, candidiasis, and chlamydia, which are all easily treatable.
Domestic canary can also contract bumblefoot, which causes swelling of the feet and lesions, and mycoplasma, which causes discharge from the nose and eyes, like tuberculosis, a very lethal respiratory disease.
There are a number of viruses that can kill canaries, including avian pox and polyomavirus. There are times when antifungal treatments can save Aspergillus, but they are not always successful.
Domestic canary population status
This species is classified as Least Concern because it has a large range and no major threats. It is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which allows for some trade in the species.
It is believed that these birds will be exploited to extinction if the trade continues at current rates. Many conservationists are advocating against this use of domestic canaries, but they are still being sold across the world.
The European Union banned the importation of all wild-caught serins in 2009, but illegal imports still occur from Asia and Africa into Europe.