Bird Food for Your Canary
Birdseed is not enough to keep your canary in its prime. A nutritious canary diet is made simple with Lafeber Premium Daily Diet Pellets. We have taken the guesswork out of feeding canaries with our scientifically developed pellets that should make up the base of your canary’s daily meals. For a treat, try Popcorn Nutri-Berries for your canary and watch the fun begin!
The canary (Serinus canaria) as a companion has deep roots in the American psyche, perhaps due to its contribution as a noxious gas detector in the coalmines of the 1800′s and early 1900′s or its use as the model for the feisty yellow cartoon character, Tweety Bird. Whatever the case, the canary has been a favorite among bird keepers for hundreds of years, and has been bred into over 200 breeds, much like dogs have, each breed prized for a particular skill or appearance.
But the canary is connected to the dog in name only. This bird was named for its place of origin, the Canary Islands; the islands were named after the dogs kept by the islands’ residents, more specifically after the Latin designation for dog, canis. The original canary was nothing more than a greenish-colored finch, nothing out of the ordinary – except for its song. Europeans fell in love with the canary’s song, and began importing them in the late 1500′s. Eventually, the Europeans began breeding these birds and capitalizing on small mutations, developing canary breeds that hardly resemble each other today, and certainly don’t resemble their wild ancestor.
But for all its popularity over the centuries, the canary seems to have been pushed aside by the parrot, a relatively new companion animal to the average home. The parrot is known as a hands-on bird; the canary isn’t. Perhaps this is why some canary enthusiasts call them the “forgotten bird.”
Canary enthusiasts are among the most passionate of the bird keepers – they need more than a little zeal to master the hundreds of canary types, each with its own special traits. Canaries are bred for three basic characteristics: song, color, or type (appearance), though the male bird in each of these types will sing.
The song canaries are bred to perform skilled concertos, and many are bred to have a specific song, which they often show off at canary song competitions; popular song canaries include the American singer, the German roller, the Spanish timbrado, and the waterslagger. Color-bred canaries are bred for their color, and can be fed manufactured and naturally pigmented food to enhance color; the red factor and the yellow (clear) canary are the most popular in this category.
The type canaries are bred to have certain physical characteristics, such as a mop of “hair” or frills; popular type canary breeds include the border canary, the crested, the fife, the Gloster, the lizard, and the Norwich. Of course, these lists represent only a few of the many canaries available today.
Most canary novices will want a canary that sings well, rather than a ravishing beauty with a mediocre song. Finding a good singer is tricky business, and takes skill and experience. The longest and sweetest songs come from the male canary when he has reached maturity at six months of age or more. Experts suggest hearing a bird sing before buying it, or consulting a respected breeder. Hens are also capable of singing, but not as well nor as often.
Though it is primarily a solitary species, a canary in the midst of breeding season will want to mate, and though some canaries will show little interest in anything but breeding, some do become fiercely attached to a mate. As for breeding behavior, canaries are like clocks that use the sun to show them when it’s time to nest. This natural behavior can be disadvantageous for the house canary, whose life is filled with artificial lighting.
Housing for any bird is an important factor for keeping it healthy, but proper housing for the canary is essential for keeping it happy and singing. Also, each canary should have its own cage, or the result could be deadly. Canaries are territorial and do not like to be housed together. Canaries can live more than 14 years with proper care.
Red Factor Canaries
The Red Factor Canary (Serinus canarius) is an example of a color-bred canary, or a canary that is bred and prized for its color, rather than its song. These birds’ body-types appear to be just like the other canaries, but with one special trait – the owner can influence the color of their bird. You may have heard that Flamingoes are white unless they are fed brine shrimp or other pigmented foods – this is true, and the same holds for the Red Factor Canary.
When the Red Factor Canary is hatched it is a pale peach or orange. It owes this original color to the Red Siskin, which was introduced to the canary line in the late 1920s. Most of the Red Factors, however, are color-fed, meaning that the owner feeds a special diet to create a bird that is a deep orange or red, much like those Flamingoes. You can recognize a Red Factor canary by this color.
All Canary males will sing, but the Red Factor is not known and bred for its singing – you may want to invest in a song canary if you want your house filled with beautiful song. Even though this canary is not “formally” trained to sing, it does have a pleasant song, and is not a noisy bird, like many companion birds can be. Canaries are quite happy in pairs, and you may want to consider a male and a female you make your selection. You can try your hand at breeding if you have a very compatible pair!
Canaries are gentle birds, and will not bite when you handle them. However, unlike most companion birds, they will not enjoy your close contact – this bird is best for the person who wants to add a bit of singing and beauty to their home. Even though your canary will not want you to hold him, he will recognize you as his owner, and may become quite fond of your company.
Your Red Factor Canary, unlike other canaries, will need to be color-fed in order to achieve the deep red or orange pigment that is specific to this type. You can find specially formulated color-food, or you can try your hand at creating a natural color-diet on your own: carrots, paprika, cherries, cayenne pepper, beets, yams, and any other orange and red natural food will help to change your bird’s color. This natural way of color-feeding is purportedly better for the canary’s overall health. Color-feeding should begin around molting time, when the canary is producing new feathers – the color will not appear in feathers that are already on the bird’s body. If cared-for properly, Red Factor Canaries are reported to live for more than 10-12 years.
Expect to pay around $60.00 to $90.00 for a Red Factory Canary. Your best bet in finding a Red Factor that you really like is to go to a breeder or a bird exposition or show – that way you can get the pick of the clutch.
Your canary will probably not get a lot of free time out of the cage, so it’s important that you buy him as large a cage as your space and budget can afford, and be sure that the bar spacing on the cage is right for canaries. You will also need to take the time out to chop and grate fruits and vegetables for your canary, who will relish a fresh diet which will keep him healthy for many years. Remember that color feeding can become quite messy, so be sure to place the cage away from light-colored carpeting, and try to clean your canary’s cage daily. Canaries also love to have music played for them, so make sure to turn on the radio before you leave the house.
The Song Canary
Most people buy a canary for its attractive, melodic song. That’s what the canary is most famous for, after all, and that’s probably what you will want in this beautiful little bird. There are several types of song canaries, including the American Singer, the German Roller, the Spanish Timbrado, and the Belgium Waterslagger. These canaries are wonderful singers, but it takes good breeding practices to produce a canary worthy of its name. Not all canaries are created equal, nor are all canary breeders.
Song Canaries come in a variety of colors, from bright yellow, like the famous Tweety Bird, to brown, grey, white, and variegated. They are originally from the Canary Islands, and have been a popular pet in Europe since the 16th century, perhaps even earlier. The canary today is perhaps the most domesticated of the companion birds. It does not exist in its captive form in the wild, and never has. The wild canary is a small, greenish finch-like bird, ordinary with the exception of its song. The colors, shapes, and songs that are common with canaries today are wholly a result of careful selective breeding for desirable traits, much how the many breeds of dogs were produced.
The males are the singers of the species, and will generally begin singing “properly” after six months of age, when they reach maturity. Before then, it’s hard to tell which canaries are the real singers and which should stay in the audience. The hens can make great pets too, but won’t sing as well as the males. Don’t underestimate the appeal of the hens, however; you will need one if you want to breed your pair (which is a lot more difficult than you might think!). The only true way to tell a male canary from a female is to hear the mature song, though the occasional female can hold her own with the males, at least until the boys mature and become better singers.
The canary’s song depends largely on the type of canary. Some canaries will sing a variety of songs, while others are trained only to sing in a certain manner. Yes, canaries have to be trained to sing, which is why finding a good breeder is so important. Many breeders will keep an “expert” singer, a canary with a particularly masterful song, in a cage along side of his young males. The youngsters learn from this maestro, and will hopefully pick up the essentials of beautiful singing. Many breeders show their canaries, and will keep the best singers for show purposes, selling the others to pet shops. This does not mean that you will only be able to buy “inferior” singers. On the contrary, these birds may know more about singing than a canary without similar training.
When choosing your canary, take a moment to listen carefully to the young birds before you buy them. The only true way to know if a canary is a good singer is to hear him yourself, though young canaries will only sing a “baby song,” so you might have to buy your canaries when they’re a little older. Don’t take the breeders word on the quality of the singing unless you trust the breeder and have dealt with him or her in the past. You can also buy canary training CDs or tapes to play for your young singer.
The quality of song depends on the type of canary. The Hartz Mountain Roller’s song is like soft, classical music, and, in general, he sings with his beak closed; the Spanish Timbrado is louder and has a more high-pitched, sharp tone; the Belgium Waterslagger has the lowest and highest range of notes of all the song canaries, and is noted for its water notes: water drops, rolling water, boiling, and bubbling water – he sings with his beak closed, but will open it for louder notes; finally, the American Singer, is noted for its large size and diverse, sweet tone. Red factor canaries are not song-type canaries (they are of the color-bred type), but some individuals also sing well and many people buy them for song as well as attractiveness.
Canaries may cease singing during a molt, usually for a period of a few months during the year. This is normal. Boost the bird’s nutritional intake at this time and reduce the amount of light it receives per day. A canary might also stop singing due to poor health or the presence of a dominant canary in the same cage making his life miserable.
Canaries are easy to care for and do not require the time commitment that many companion birds do, though this sensitive bird does need a few minutes of daily care to remain healthy. Most people do not keep the canary as a hands-on pet, though hand-raised canaries are quite friendly and are able to be handled. It’s unlikely, however, that you’ll find a breeder that’s exclusively hand raising these birds, though you might be able to special order one.
Canaries aren’t fragile birds, and can be acclimated to cold weather in an outdoor aviary, though they are more appreciative of a temperature of about 75 degrees (aren’t we all?). They are, however, sensitive to changes in the household, fumes, and temperature changes, if not acclimated properly.
Song canaries do well on a good canary seed mix and lots of fruits, veggies, a high-protein source, and egg food. They especially like greens of any kind. They are not color-bred, so they don’t need special color food. When properly cared for, a canary can live 15 years or more.