A Great Pet - The Canary
By Charles Hopkins
Published 10/23/2007 | Pets and Animals
The canary originated in the Canary Islands, which were not named for
the bird, but for the large fierce dogs kept by the local people.
"Insula canaria" is Latin for "island of the dogs" and over time the
name became Anglicized to its current name, The Canary Islands. A small
local grayish green finch with a touch of yellow on its breast was
given the name Canary after these islands. The males of this breed of
finch had a wonderful song, prompting some of the locals to capture
them and put them in cages in their homes.
European travelers visiting these islands heard the songs of these
birds and demanded that the local people catch them and sell them as
cage birds. From the early fifteen hundreds onward, hundreds of
thousands of these birds were exported to Europe. Because of the
popularity of these birds, European entrepreneurs began breeding them
locally. Through selective breeding and cross breeding them with local
and imported finches, this drab finch was slowly changed into the
canaries of today. For many years canaries were bred as either song
canaries or type canaries (bred for appearance).
"Type" canaries were primarily developed in Great Britain that went
in for exhibiting their birds in national expositions. The London
Fancy, the Norwich, the Yorkshire, the Lizard and the Manchester Coppy
are a few of these "type" canaries that were developed in Great
Meanwhile, in Germany canaries were bred for song. If you have ever
heard a German Roller canary sing, it is a truly magnificent sound. Not
only did the Germans keep the best singers for breeding stock, but they
also trained the offspring how to sing by placing the young birds in a
room with a great singer. In this way, the youngsters would try and
imitate the song and voice of the great singer. This resulted in a
breed of bird that probably has the greatest song of any bird in the
The pet canary sold in pet stores today is a mixed breed with an
unknown bloodline. Usually it has some Roller or American Singer genes
mixed with a colorful "type" bloodline. The resulting bird is and
average to good singer with a colorful appearance. Frequently these
birds come from a local "backyard" aviary. In this way, they do not
suffer from the stress of a long journey from the breeder to the
seller. In addition, the birds are more acclimatized to the area where
they are purchased.
Some of these birds have smooth feathered heads like that of the
Roller canary or the "traditional" canary and some have the Gloster
Corona or crested head which makes them look like Moe of the comedy
troupe "The Three Stooges."
While canary clubs and competitions still exist in various parts of
the world, they are not as popular as they were fifty to one hundred
years ago when nearly every city had one or more clubs and yearly
competitions. In spite of this, the canary is still a popular pet. It
is relatively inexpensive to purchase, quite easy to care for and, if
you pick a good singer, it will give you hours of daily song.
If you want a pretty bird that will sing its heart out for you then
you cannot find a better pet than a male canary. The females are nice,
but they cannot sing, as their voice consists of cheeps and chirps.
There is one note of caution to keep in mind. Canaries are very vain
birds and if you put a mirror in their cage, they will sit and look at
themselves for hours. The males usually will not sing if a mirror is
placed in their cage and there have been numerous incidents of canaries
starving to death because they would not leave the bird in the mirror
alone long enough to find the food in their cage.
So, if you want an attractive bird that sings, is easy to keep and
is relatively inexpensive, then get yourself a male canary and put it
in a cage with no mirror. Make sure your vain virtuoso has a birdbath,
as canaries love to bathe. Place the cage in an area where there are no
drafts and where at least part of the cage is shaded from the sun. Then
sit back and let your new pet serenade you.