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Canaries: Diet, Cages, and Care
Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith
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Small when compared to other birds kept in captivity, canaries are very hardy birds for their size and have been favorites with bird fanciers for years. Canaries are members of the finch family of songbirds, and belong to the Passeriformes Order which includes birds that perch (over half of all the world's birds). With a distinctive foot structure of three toes forward and one toe pointing backward, they have a natural perching foot position. Interestingly, while perching, the muscles of their feet are relaxed and must be contracted to release the perch for flight.

Social and colorful birds, canaries differ markedly by variety in song and coloration and are thus considered to be either song type or color type. There are at least 98 varieties of color type alone. Singing is generally a behavior limited to cocks.

Cocks ordinarily do not get along well together and should be housed separately. The practice of providing a mirror in lieu of a companion for a male canary will only be stressful - his image will be perceived as a threat. Take care in sexing and housing males and females together. Canaries are prolific breeders. Attentive parents, both the males and females participate in raising the chicks.

The cost for a canary can range from $65 to over $400, and will vary depending upon variety and sex.

Quick Stats:   Canary
Family: Fringillidae
Origin: Azores, Madeira and Canary Islands
Size: 3½-9 inches, depending on variety
Coloration: Enormous variation; beak is pale pink to pinkish-grey
Diet: Pelleted food and a small amount of high quality seed mix. An assortment of fruits and vegetables. Vitamin supplement, mineral supplement, e.g.; mineral block, oyster shells, or mineral mix. Sprouted seeds may be offered.
Cage Size: Minimum for one canary: 18" H x 24" L x 12" W; 16" between perches for proper flight distance. Round cages are unsuitable.
Grooming: Trim toenails; beak may need periodic trimming; trim flight feathers as necessary
Compatibility/Disposition: Can do well in groups, however, males are generally not compatible with each other. When mixing varieties, keep only females together. Friendly and gregarious. Generally do not want to be handled, but will bond with owner.
Vocalization: Many varieties and tones; usually, the cock will sing; hens have a vocalization more like a chirp
Playfulness: Much less likely to play with toys compared to other species of pet birds
Life Span: 10-15 years
Age at Maturity: 2 years
Nesting Sites in the Wild: Generally in trees, 3-9 feet off the ground
Breeding Season: Spring and summer
Sexing: Unreliable without DNA testing; singing generally limited to cocks
Special: Love to bathe
Click here for a pdf version of this article.  See related products at Pet Supplies  
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