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Canaries in the Spring – Frequently Asked Questions on Breeding and Nesting

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. Read More »

When Your Canary Molts – Care and Diet Tips

Domestic CanaryMolting season is a trying time for Canaries – after all, they are shedding and replacing over 2,000 feathers!  Following are some steps you can take to lessen the stress of your pet’s annual molt.

Timing of the Molt

Canaries molt once each year, usually in late summer or early fall.  The process seems partially controlled by an “internal clock”, and usually occurs at the proper time, but external factors do have an influence.  Molting out-of-season can negatively affect a bird’s health.

If your Canary is molting in winter or spring, try limiting its day to 8-10 hours of light, and keep the temperature at 68-70F.  Full spectrum light (please see article below) is also helpful in establishing normal cycles and supports immune system functioning.<!–more–>

Stressful situations can cause partial or complete out-of-season molts.  Fear (noise, another pet, moving), overly-warm temperatures, and too much light during the fall and winter are common causes of stress-induced molting.

Molting Behavior

Your Canary should complete its molt in 6-12 weeks.  During that time, the feathers will appear loose and disheveled (please see photo) and it may become listless and less active than usual; males often cease singing.  This is a normal response to the physical drain of growing so many new feathers; molting birds are also less capable of escaping predators, and so instinctively maintain a low profile.

Diet and Care

Despite being less active, your Canary’s need for protein and fat will soar during the molting season (feathers are 88-85% protein).  Egg Food, oil-rich seeds such as niger, flax and hemp and small live or canned crickets and mealworms are important additions to the diet throughout the molting period.

A bath should always be available and will get frequent use during molting; specially formulated feather-sprays are useful in dry homes or for Canaries that appear to be slow in finishing their molts.

Further Reading

Feather-related ailments can mimic bad molts and need to be addressed by a veterinarian.  Please see this article for info on French Molt.

Full Spectrum Lighting for Pet Birds


Domestic Canary image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by L.E. MacDonald

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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