Before iPods there were boomboxes. Before boomboxes, there were stereo radios. Precursors to phonographs were Victrolas.
But the way to get tunes in your home long before there was electricity was the natural sound of bird songs.
For years people would place a Canary or other singing finches in a small cage on either side of the room and whoever did that first can take credit for inventing stereo sound.
Canaries are small songbirds coming from the Finch family and were initially found in places like the Azores and believe it or not the Canary Islands.
The Spanish sailors brought canaries to Europe in the 1600s and (the canaries) became a mark of high fashion. Spanish and English kings had reading courts that they liked to have the birds perform at.
Those intrapreneurial monks bred them and sold only the males (the ones that sing) which kept supply down and prices up.
In England originally only rich people owned canaries but they were so easy to breed they became a popular commoner’s pet. They’ve been known to live for from 10 to 15 years.
In our post about birds that work for money, canaries were popular with coal miners. They were the original first responders and would give their lives to warn the miners that noxious gas was escaping.
Generally, male Canaries are the singers. That said, female Canaries are capable of singing very well, and even though females are not able to make the unique chirping sounds of the males they will on occasion learn to mimic the males and it’s sometimes hard to distinguish between the two.
About once a year (usually summer months) Canaries molt which can last anywhere from four to eight weeks and during this time a Canary won’t be singing.
The Canaries’ energy level will probably be below at this time and may require a bit more nutrition. It is also important during this molting period that you speak to your Canary regularly because animals who produce sound are very sensitive to other sounds.
Remember just like larger birds, noises are important and silence can indicate a predator is near. Gentle conversation with your Canary will go along way to promote hissinging career. They also like to listen to music and can become better singers if Canary songs on CD or tape are played for them.
One of our newest customers bird after a bath
To have a good singer make sure just like any other bird, that the cage is the right kind and accessories inside are appropriate. Lastly, the bird must be being fed properly. I don’t think the Canaries are given enough credit as to their intelligence. In the wild, they have to fend for themselves, avoid predators and know where to get nutrition and water.
In captivity, a Canary will sing more in a small cage. Male Canaries like to announce their presence to the world.
Because he doesn’t have to deal with the issue of challengers to his “thrown” in captivity he is still driven to dominate whatever territory he has. His song lets the world know that he’s ready to take on any and all comers and guard his territory.
That’s why you’ll see solid dividers in double canary cages. The divider allows the bird to think there are no “challengers” nearby which causes the Canary to pronounce his ownership of the territory.
In spite of their cute appearance, two male canaries can be quite vicious when battling for the affections of a mate so it’s best not to house two males together for long. If you have a large aviary, you can introduce “cover areas” with small bushy-type toys or even plastic plants and fake vines, so they can get some privacy.
FYI: Canaries won’t sing if they’re feeling a draft, be it warm or cool regardless of the time of year.
The cage should be at a height where you could look directly at the bird while standing.
They like their food and water cups uncovered and visible (no opaque covered or hooded cups). They enjoy sunlight but also must be able to retreat to the shade. Sometimes a little cloth or some fiber material is woven into a corner of the cage is all that’s necessary to provide the shade.
For the best health and exercise long rectangular cages are best for canaries which enable them to fly side to side, 24″ to 30″ or longer.
Stay away from round cages because they don’t serve canaries’ needs well emotionally nor most birds. Round cages may restrict your bird’s movement which could cause panic attacks or possibly even make them cage bound.
(Round cages are a topic we will cover at a later date.) Canaries like swings, just make sure the swing doesn’t interfere with their flight in the cage. Swings are important for Canaries because they mimic the movement of light branches swaying in the trees.
Unlike parakeets you should never introduce a mirror to a Canary because they are so territorial they believe that the “other” Canary in the cage is a threat and they can actually forget to eat or move about because of the “other” Canary in the mirror.
Nutritionally Canaries appreciate fresh fruits and vegetables, everything from apples to carrots to corn on the cob all of which help satisfy their desire for vegetables. Greens are also very important especially if you have a Red Factor Canary. Kale, romaine lettuce and endive are important to a Canaries’ diet as well.
You should keep a good Canary mix available in the dishes all the time. A good Canary seed blend will have canary seed, perhaps some millet, sunflower chips, and flaxseed. Because Canaries have softbills they cannot crack open the larger seeds that parrots (Hookbills) easily can.
Don’t underestimate Canaries need to play with bird toys. Simple toys with beads and fibers they can poke their beak at will be embraced by these smart little birds. Small bell toys are enjoyable.
What do you recommend as the best feeding program for Canaries? I have an American Singer.
We have to admit that we are not experts on canaries even though I did raise a few many, many years ago.
I looked and found this site that offers all the information you could ever need on canaries.
We offer a few canary seed mixes that are very nice. This one is quite popular. Volkman Canary.
Higgins Egg food is very much appreciated by canaries.
Dried greens also help when fresh is not easy – Higgins Leafy Greens and Higgins Song Food mixture is nice for singing canaries too.
Supplying a bit of Mineral Grit in a treat dish can also help aid in digestion and calcium supplementation. If you have egg-laying Canaries it is extremely important to provide calcium sources like cuttlebone and liquid or powdered calcium products.
I hope this is helpful.
Written by Mitch Rezman Approved by Catherine Tobsing
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To learn about canaries & other birds that assist humans at work – click here