Canaries are native and get their name from the Canary Islands. These birds are members of the Finch family, which is a very large family of birds. While a wild Canary’s color is more greenish-yellow on its top feathers, domestic Canaries can be found in many bright colors including the familiar yellow. 

They are beautiful, soft-feathered, and can sing a range of notes from the deepest of bass to the highest of soprano. They are intelligent birds that connect with humans better than most other pets and can be trained to do tricks. Because they are gregarious by nature, they enjoy living with other canaries and love being around their humans. They are a great companion birds.

Canaries are small, beautiful birds that are great for older children because they are low maintenance and easy to care for. They are often kept in small cages, called “pallets,” that have a special tray at the bottom for food and water. Canaries are easy to train, and learn to respond to whistles and bells. They are also a good option for people who live in apartments or homes with little outdoor space for pets.

an orange canary posing for the camera

Information about Canaries

  • Average Length: 4.5 to 8 inches
  • Colors: Yellow, Red, Orange, Pink and Brown
  • Grooming Needs: Low
  • Good Pet: Yes
  • Safe with young Children: No
  • Good with Other Canaries: No, two male canaries housed together will fight but a pair of male and female Canaries can be housed together.
  • Good with Other Pets: No
  • Suitable to live in an Apartment: Yes because they aren’t as noisy as other birds
  • Suitable for First-Time Pet Owners: Yes
  • Training: With patience and commitment it is easy to train
  • Exercise Needs: Low
  • Weight Gain: Normal
  • Health Concerns: Diarrhea, Candidiasis, Canary Pox Virus (CNPV), Conjunctivitis, Mycoplasma, Bumblefoot and Aspergillus
  • Allergies: None
  • Average Life Span: 5 to 15 years
a yellow canary perched in a tree

Physical Appearance of Canaries

The Canaries found in the wild have green and yellow feathers. The Domestic Canaries, those who are kept as pets have been bred extensively which has resulted in several varieties. They are available in colors like orange, yellow, red, brown, pink and brown.  

There are close to 200 Canary types present now. Depending on their traits the bird keepers have put the Domestic Canary into one of three groups.

  • Song Canary – Canaries who are bred for their song and different sounds they produce. The American Singer and German Roller are the most popular Song Canaries in the United States.
  • Color Bred Canaries – bred to produce different colors. Red Factor is one of the most popular varieties of Color Canaries.
  • Type Canary – they are bred for their unique size, feather, and special characteristics like the Belgian Bult and Border Fancy.

Depending on the specific Canary breeds they can have different physical appearances but most Canary breeds have a small and compact body. Lancashire Canary is the largest breed available today having a length of 7 to 8 inches.

Temperament of Canaries

Canaries are shy, timid and solitude birds. They are not companion birds and mostly like to stay alone. A single Canary can be kept in a bird cage without feeling lonely, making them a great choice for a first pet. You can also house them in an aviary with other birds. They tend to be somewhat territorial, especially with other male Canaries. Two male Canaries should not be housed together in a cage as they will fight. You can keep a male and a female Canary together. 

The Canaries like to mate in the breeding season which usually starts at the beginning of spring. Some owners keep the male and female Canary in separate cages. So if you want them to mate then you should keep them together during the breeding season.

The Canaries are musical and like to sing. It is one of the reasons why they are widely kept as pets in homes. Male Canaries are better singers than females. The female Canaries will mostly chirp and not sing. The Canaries may sing less or not at all during their molting period.

a yellow canary on the ground looking around
a yellow canary perched in a branch

Training Canaries

The Canaries are easy to train. Start by first building trust with them. When you first get them home, spend the first few days sitting in the room in which they are kept. Whistle or make a distinct sound while entering the room every time. It will help the bird to know that you are there.

Have their cage placed at your eye level and try not to make any sudden movements around them. Avoid making direct eye contact in the beginning as it may make them feel intimidated. Gradually start talking to your bird after a few days. Sit near the cage and whistle or hum to the bird. It will help you to establish a relationship with the Canary. With time they will recognize your voice.

After a few days when you feel that they have opened up to you, you can try placing your hand inside the cage by offering them treats. The bird may not take it right away but have patience. Once they start taking treats you can try to handle them and take them into your hands. 

To get them out of the cage use a long perch and place it inside the cage. Let the Canary sit on the perch and then unlock the door. You may have to give them treats in the beginning but eventually, the bird will start coming out on its own. Make sure the windows and doors are closed to prevent them from flying away.

Practice calling them to your perch or your fingers by making the distinctive sound. Reward them with treats whenever they come and sit on your call. With some practice the Canary will learn to sit on your head or hand when you call them. Keep the training sessions short – 10 to 15 minutes twice daily. Anything longer can stress them.

Their Compatibility with Children

The small size of the bird may make them look like a perfect bird for kids but this is not true at all. The Canaries are delicate and small which can result in them getting hurt easily by children. The Canaries also tend to get frightened easily. They are not recommended for homes that have young children. 

We have already said that the Canaries do not like to be handled frequently. So if you have older children, encourage them to watch the Canary sing and play rather than handling them. Make sure there is an adult around when the bird is being handled by children.

Best Habitat for Canary

Since they are territorial it is recommended to house each Canary in its own cage. All the Canary breeds are small birds but they need a large bird cage to move around. It will give them the room that they need for exercise and keep them healthy. 

The length of the cage is more important than the height or width. A 24” long and 20” wide bird cage with bar spacing of less than ½ inch is best for them. Wire cages will be better as they will be easier to maintain than wood or bamboo cages. If you decide to keep more than one Canary in a single cage, then the size of the cage needs to be a little larger.

The good thing about the Canaries is that they can adjust to different environments. Avoid keeping the cage close to the air conditioner and windows that receive direct sunlight. Extreme temperatures can be harmful to the Canaries.

Several perches should be available for them in the cage. The perches need to be irregular but smooth as this will make it easier for the bird to grip them. The diameter of the perches should be between ⅜ to ¾ inches. Wooden perches are the best option. Do not use perches made of sandpaper as it can hurt the feet of Canaries.

For substrate aspen makes a good choice, as does wood-pellet or corn cob. The substrate should not be more than 1 inch deep. 

To keep the birds entertained you can also add swings, bells and acrylic or wooden toys in the cage. It is recommended to keep only one toy as they do not like to play a lot with toys. Place all the habitat parts in a way so that they do not prevent the bird from moving around inside the cage. 

A shallow dish of water also needs to be kept inside the cage. It is very important that the birds always have clean water available. The water should be refilled or be replaced daily. It is very important as the Canaries can die if left without water even for a single day!

a yellow canary perched in a tree

Habitat Maintenance

The Canaries need natural day and night cycles, so the cage should be covered at night. It will allow them to rest at night. Avoid keeping them up late in the night using artificial lights as it will stress them out.

Droppings need to be removed from the cage regularly. A deep clean should be performed every month. The substrate needs to be spot cleaned every week and replaced if it is too dirty. Disinfect the perches, toys and other habitat parts with a natural cleaning solution. Using chemical solutions can cause harm to the birds.

Remove any broken parts of the perches, toys or any other habitat parts from the cage to prevent the bird from getting hurt. Rotate or change the toys regularly to prevent them from getting bored. Replace the water and clean the water bowl daily.

The Attention a Canary Needs

The Canaries do not require a lot of attention and are happy to stay alone in the cage. These birds prefer to watch their owners from the cage and do not like being handled frequently. You can handle them sometimes but unless your bird enjoys being handled, not more than 3 to 4 times a week. The Canaries are best for pet owners who like watching birds rather than those who want to give a lot of attention to their birds or cuddle them.

an orange canary near a bird bath

Health Issues

A healthy Canary should be active and chirping or making sounds most of the time. If you notice anything unusual in their behavior or appearance you should get them checked early on. Here are some visible signs of an unhealthy Canary –

  • Puffed up or sitting still
  • Watery or red/inflamed eyes 
  • Shivering or sneezing – having watery discharge from the beak
  • Having droppings that are white and watery
  • Sudden loss of weight

The most common diseases in the Canaries are mentioned below.


The Canaries can develop diarrhea which can result in dehydration and malnutrition. It can become serious if not treated early on. In most cases making modifications in their diet can help to deal with diarrhea. Giving them cooked brown rice or dry uncooked oatmeal can help to firm their stool. Avoid giving them fruits and vegetables for a few weeks. Sometimes diarrhea may be caused by tap water and switching to bottled water can help to deal with it. You should consult the vet to get it diagnosed. 

Canary Pox Virus (CNPV)

The Canary Pox Virus is a serious disease that is transmitted between birds by mosquitoes or mites. Canaries that are housed outdoors are more likely to have this disease when compared to those housed indoors. Common symptoms of the virus are:  

  • Wet throat
  • Dry Skin, blisters or lesions
  • Fast breathing
  • Weight loss
  • Fluffed up feathers

Sadly, there are no effective treatments available once a bird has become infected. If you plan to have your bird outside it is recommended that you have them vaccinated against the Canary Pox Virus. It will minimize the chances that your birds catch this disease which in 80% of the cases are fatal. 

The possible treatments include giving them antibiotics, probiotics and treatment of the bird’s lesions. Housing your bird indoors is the best way to prevent the Canaries from contracting the virus. Giving them probiotics can also help to improve their immune system.


It is a common disease in the Canaries which results in a thick discharge around the eyes. The causes can be many like bacteria, fungi, worm infection or injury. Sometimes it may cover the entire eyes making it look swollen. Conjunctivitis can lead to respiratory conditions and in severe cases even death. Consult your vet to get them treated when you see an infection in the eyes.

a yellow canary looking at something


Mycoplasma results in sore and watery eyes which is accompanied by nasal discharge. The feathers around the eyes will also become matted and dirty. The bird may develop shortness of breath. It is treated with antibiotics. 


Bumblefoot causes the feet of the birds to become swollen. It is usually caused by a dirty substrate and perches. A high-fat diet or lack of exercise can also cause this disease. An ointment prescribed by your vet can help to cure this condition. To prevent this condition from occurring it is recommended to regularly clean the cage.


Aspergillus is a fungal infection that is caused by damp living conditions. The birds who are infected will rapidly lose weight and become short of breath. The condition is not that common but can be fatal for birds who have been infected. Your vet will give medication to kill the fungus. The cage where the birds live should be cleaned regularly and made sure to not be too humid to prevent them from having this disease.


Candidiasis is a fungal infection that is caused by a yeast (fungus) called Candida. This is quite similar to a yeast infection that a person might get. The common symptoms of the disease are lack of concentration, vomiting and loose droppings. The vomit will smell awful and the bird’s crop will swell up because of the yeast gases. 

Drugs can be given to cure the condition. It can take a week for the bird to get cured. While the bird is being treated, fruits should be temporarily excluded from the diet. Fruits contain sugar that the yeast can feed on which can cause the medication to fail to kill the fungus.

Bathing and Cleaning

The Canary likes to bathe on their own. A shallow water dish with lukewarm water should be placed inside the cage 3-4 times a week. Place them on the substrate away from the perches. Remove the water after they are done. You can also mist them with spray if you want to.

The nails of the bird should be trimmed two to three times a year. The nails contain veins and it may seem intimidating cutting them yourself. Fortunately we live in a time when YouTube tutorials are a thing and you can watch and learn from others.

Feeding Canaries

In the wild, Canaries feed on seeds and sometimes insects. In a captive environment a Canary diet should consist of fortified pellets or Canary seeds. Pellets are a preferred option as they do not produce a mess like seeds. Seed hulls will litter the cage and will need to be cleaned up regularly. The pellets are also designed to contain more vitamins and proteins. 

The pellets should make up for 75% of the Canary’s diet. A good way to make sure that they eat the pellets is to put the seeds under the pellets.  Put the seeds in the bowl first, then fill the bowl with pellets. The Canaries tend to graze on the top layer of the food, this way you make sure they eat the most nutritious foods before they fill up..

Give them one teaspoon of food every day. The Canaries do not tend to overeat so if you think your bird needs more, you can give them a little more food. 

About 15% of their diet should include vegetables like leafy green kale, zucchini and broccoli. They can also be fed shredded carrots. Feed them vegetables daily and anything left uneaten must be removed after 4 hours. Another 5% of the Canary’s diet should consist of fruits that can contain banana, melon or papaya once a week. You can also give them apples, pineapple, oranges, pumpkin or raspberry. Avocado fruit must not be given to them as it is poisonous for birds. The vegetables and fruits need to be washed and cut into small pieces before feeding them. 

Canaries can also be given weekly treats like boiled eggs, beans, or peas. It should not be more than 5% of the Canary’s full diet. Keep a mineral block inside the cage at all times. 

Having a mineral block in their cage will help to maintain their beak. It helps to trim their beaks while they chew it and it’s a great source of digestible calcium.  It’s also something for them to chew on that is different from the cage or one of their perches.

a pile of bird seed

Related Questions:

Where did the Canaries originate?

The Canaries are a native of the Macaronesia islands of Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands. They have been domesticated for more than 300 years and have been extensively bred to many different varieties. The pet Canaries available in the market are very different from their wild Canary ancestors. The Spanish sailors brought them to Europe in the 1700s. They soon became fashionable and European bird keepers started producing different varieties of the bird. 

How to help the Canaries start singing?

In the wild, Canaries learn singing by hearing other Canaries sing. The domesticated Canaries will start singing properly only after turning 6 months old. To help them start singing , you can play the recording of a Canary singing. There are many videos available on YouTube. Mostly it is only the male Canaries who will sing. Make sure you do not have a female Canary in the same room or cage because the male Canary sings to attract a female. American Singer is a popular Song Canary known for its singing.

Can Canaries be bred with other types of birds?

Canaries can breed with various species of finches. This is something to be aware of if you have only male of one species and only females of another. You might think you are safe from them breeding, but in some cases like this you could find a small nest with eggs one day.

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