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Weaning Canaries – Encouraging Fledglings to Accept the Adult Diet

Canary NestingWhether they are hand or parent-reared, young Canaries usually need some encouragement to switch from the nestling to adult diet.  This change-over period can be quite stressful, but there are a number of steps you can take to ease the transition.

The Transition Period

Pet Canaries feed their chicks largely upon sprouts, soaked seeds and Egg Food or hard boiled eggs.  Once the young fledge, which usually occurs at age 16-20 days, they will be fed by their parents for an additional 2 -3 weeks.  During this time, they will also begin to pick at food and eventually learn to eat on their own.  Fledglings benefit from watching their parents and siblings…chicks that are hand-reared are at a disadvantage in this respect, but will also respond to the ideas and foods mentioned below.

Hard seeds are a novel food for young Canaries, and acquiring the skill needed to open them takes practice.  A high protein diet remains important right through the first molt (which usually begins within 2 months of fledging), but eventually seeds should replace egg-based foods as their staple.  Read More »

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. Read More »

Breeding Canaries, Waxbills and Other Finches – The Importance of Insects

Red-billed FirefinchWild finches of almost every species consume beetles, spiders, caterpillars and other invertebrates throughout the year, and in large quantities both before and during the breeding season.  While those we keep as pets may thrive on seed-based diets, providing them with a variety of insects will improve their health and encourage breeding.  A reader’s note concerning his success with Bronze-Winged Mannikins and the onset of the spring breeding season here in the Northern Hemisphere have sparked me to take another look at this important topic. Read More »

Canary Chicks Learn “What to Expect” from their Mother…Before Hatching!

A recent study at the University of Cambridge has shocked ornithologists and bird hobbyists alike.  Writing in the March 12, 2010 edition of Science, researchers revealed that female Canaries (Serinus canaria) influence the behavior of chicks that are still developing in the egg.

Chemical “messages” deposited in the egg somehow communicate what type of environment, in terms of food availability, the chicks should “expect” upon hatching.  By switching eggs among the nests of parents with access to differing amounts of food, the researchers established that the chicks’ begging behavior was established prior to hatching.

Food Rich vs. Food-Poor Habitats

CanaryWell-fed and malnourished female Canaries provided different information to their chicks.

Chicks that will be raised in a food-rich environment are primed to beg vigorously, so as to get the most food possible and grow quickly (the loudest, most aggressive “begger” will get more food from its parents than quieter siblings).

Chicks whose parents will be unable to provide food in abundance are more subdued in their efforts.  In theory, by conserving energy that would be wasted on “pointless” begging, the chicks can put more of their limited resources into growth.

In each situation, rapid growth and quick fledging are encouraged by the chicks’ behavior.

It has been known for quite some time that birds can influence the development of egg-bound chicks.  However, it was always assumed that messages provided by the mother would be for the purpose of assisting her survival…this is the first evidence that chicks can also benefit.

Take-Home Message for Bird Owners

This newly discovered information reinforces the importance of providing your Canaries and other birds with nutritious foods in generous proportions, especially as the breeding season approaches.

Useful foods for pre-conditioning potential Canary parents include fresh sprouts (our Sprout Pot is an excellent source) and greens, egg food and small live and Canned Insects.

Further Reading

The background research that eventually led to this interesting discovery can be found in this National Academy of Sciences article.

You can see a video of a pair of Canaries feeding their chicks Here.


Feeding Your Canary – Beyond the Seed Only Diet

Canaries (Serinus canarius) have been captive bred for hundreds of years and in that time have come to thrive upon the rather simple seed-based diets that many owners provide to them.  However, for optimum health, vibrant color, enhanced singing abilities and successful reproduction, your birds will require additional dietary variety.  Today I’d like to highlight some often over-looked Canary foods.  The diet described here is also suitable for the Canary’s close relative, the Green Singing Finch (C. mozambicus). Read More »

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