The Canary (Serinus canaria) is the world’s most popularly-kept song bird. However, certain basic questions still commonly arise, especially as spring approaches and Canaries begin to show breeding behavior. Unfortunately, both sound and unsound information has made its way onto the internet. Today I’ll cover some questions that usually come up as winter ends and avian fancies turn to reproduction.
Why won’t my male Canary sing?
Males that are not in the peak of good health will usually forgo singing. A singing male is advertising his vigor, suitability as a mate and ability to defend his territory – instinct will compel a sick male remain silent.
Males that are molting rarely sing. As with all birds, molting individuals cannot fly as well as usual, and are using energy and calories to grow new feathers…it is not in their best interest to attract the attention of predators or competing males.
The presence of a dominant male in the same room, or sometimes even within hearing distance, may inhibit other males from singing. Sometimes, however, the presence of another male may spark competitive singing; much depends upon the individual birds.
A female housed in another cage, and Canary Training CD’s, can be very useful in encouraging reluctant males.
Why won’t my female Canary build a nest?
Young female Canaries and first time breeders often practice nest building before actually getting down to a serious try. Provide her with ample nesting material and a cup nest and let nature take its course. The nesting cup should be located high up in the cage, but at least 6 inches below the top, and positioned in a well-lit, draft-free area.
Some male Canaries may also attempt to “help” the female to build her nest, although more often than not their clumsy efforts do little good!
How can I tell if I have a pair of Canaries?
Determining the sex of Canaries is surprisingly difficult, and impossible before age 8-10 months. Behavior (other than egg-laying, of course!) is not always a reliable guide, as both sexes may practice singing and nest-building. Same-sex pairs may form, so mutual feeding does not always a mated pair.
Genetic feather testing is reliable, and quicker and less expensive than in years past…please write in if you would like to learn more about this option.
I have a male and female Canary, but they fight when put together; what can I do?
If you wish to breed Canaries, the sexes are best housed separately and introduced at the start of the spring breeding season. However, if one is suddenly thrust into another’s cage, fighting will almost always ensue.
Even if they have been kept in the same room, a potential pair should be slowly introduced by moving their cages closer to one another over a period of several days. Eventually, align the cages so that they are side by side (or invest in a breeding cage with a removable divider) and observe their behavior.
If they are compatible, the male will feed the female and she may begin building a nest, or at least carrying bits of material about. His singing should increase as well. At this point you can open the doors between the cages, or remove the divider, and allow them access to one another.
Always introduce your birds early in the day and when you will be home to observe them carefully, so that you can split them should a “domestic disturbance” arise. If at all unsure, separate them and try again in a day or so.