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The Best Finch and Canary Foods – Commercial Seed and Pellet Diets

Double-barred FinchAlthough we are fortunate to have available a wide variety of commercial finch and canary diets, choosing one can be a difficult task.  Once a decision is made as to the basic type – seed or pellet – we must then consider the ingredients, which vary from brand to brand.  Today I’ll examine some well-known foods and a few often-neglected dietary supplements.

Basic Guidelines

It’s important to remember that finch species vary in their nutritional needs.  While many will thrive on the basic diets described below, to achieve optimal health and color the addition of insects, sprouts, fruit, greens and other supplementary foods will be necessary.  Depending upon the species, some of these foods can also be used to bring birds into breeding condition.  Please post your questions concerning diets for specific finches below, and I’ll provide some suggestions.

Pellet Diets

Pellet-based diets have achieved popularity among parrot keepers and in zoos, but are less commonly used for finches.  Their main advantage lies in the fact that birds are prevented from selecting favorite items, as can be done when a variety of seeds is offered.  Assuming the product is well-made, birds on pellet diets may consume a more complete diet than those relying upon seeds.  Unfortunately, finches are often slow to take pellets.  Fruit flavors are commonly used to encourage acceptance.

ZuPreem Fruit Blend Canary and Finch Food

This well-researched pellet offers excellent nutrition and is enriched with 21 vitamins and minerals.  Grapes, bananas and oranges, which are favored by many finches, are used to flavor the pellets.

Kaytee Exact Rainbow for Canaries and Finches

Kaytee pellets include dried beet pulp, which may enhance certain feather colors, along with whole eggs for additional protein.

Zoo Vital Canary and Finch Food

Wedge-tailed Grass FinchThis product is unique in that it contains 5 strains of probiotic bacteria, which may increase digestibility.  Bananas, pineapple and papaya add additional nutrients and flavor.

Seed Diets

Seed-based diets have been in use for hundreds of years, and are still the most common foods for captive finches and canaries.  While individual species’ needs differ, a wide variety of ingredients (in addition to the basics – i.e. various millets, canary grass seed) should be included.

L&M Bonanza Canary and Finch Gourmet Diet

Fifteen different seeds, grains and dried fruits and vegetables assure birds a variety of beneficial nutrients.  Extra vitamins and minerals are also included, so check the ingredients against any supplements you might use to avoid overlap.

Pretty Bird Premium Food for Canaries and Finches

This diet includes 10 seed varieties and was formulated to meet the high energy demands and fiber requirements of most finches.  Dried fruits and vegetables are not included.

Vitakraft’s Sunseed Vita for Finches

Nigerthistle and 9 other seeds, along with dried pineapple, carrot, papaya, coconut and apples, ensure good basic nutrition for most species.

Supplementary Foods

Millet Sprays

Millet sprays are 8-10 inch long stems with seeds attached, which can be hung from cage bars, perches and toys.  All finches and canaries enjoy millet, but the real value of sprays is the exercise and enrichment they provide.  Birds typically become very excited when presented with sprays, much more so than when feeding from a bowl.

Higgins Egg Food

Hooded SiskinEgg Food (whole dried eggs, vegetable protein, and oats) is an ideal way of meeting your birds’ protein requirements.  Protein is not given much attention in finch diets, but is especially important at molting time and during the breeding season.

Pretty Bird Softbill Select

This food is intended as a staple diet for toucans, mynas,Pekinrobins and other softbills, but serves well as a supplementary food for finches and canaries.  I used softbill pellets as an “insurance item” in the diets of a great many seed-eating birds under my care at the Bronx Zoo.  Softbill Select is a soft pellet that contains 12 fruits and vegetables, including spinach, broccoli, dates, sweet potatoes and others that are not commonly included in finch diets.



Further Reading

Avicultural Journal: Lesser-known seeds for finches

Balanced Diets for FinchesInteresting perspective from a breeder

Feeding Finches: Tips and Special Considerations

Double-barred Finch image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by DickDaniels
Wedge-tailed Grass Finch and Hooded Siskin images referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Dario Sanchez


  1. avatar

    Hello Frank, and thank you for the reply.
    I decided to post my question here since there’s no other comments.

    So, continuing the topic of plant choices, have you any experience with pothos ivy (scindapsus)? Many websites have said they are safe for birds, I just want to be sure…

    Also, I agreed with you, perhaps I should seek or make a shelter with windbreak… For them to sleep in peace.
    Oh yeah, I live in the warm tropics.

    Thanks so much Frank!

  2. avatar

    HI Raymond,

    Thanks. Pothos is safe, and a good choice. Leaves and stems are tough on large, well-established plants; will grow in vine form, can use form windbreaks and such near your shelter; doesn’t need bright sun although it will grow faster if well-lit. Very hardy also, I grow it right in water in some exhibits.

    Best, Frank

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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