Long a popular cage bird, the domestic canary was developed from a wild ancestor, Serinus canaria, of the Canary Islands, Madeira, and the Azores. It belongs to the family Fringillidae, order Passeriformes, suborder Passeres. The wild bird is about 12 cm (5 in) long and mainly a streaky olive green. The brightly colored domestic varieties were developed by selective breeding to enhance chance variations in color as well as for unusual size or for the sweetness of the song. The average Canary lives about 5 to 8 years. Female canaries have been known to become off-balance with older age and look almost drunk moving around and have trouble keeping themselves upright.

Canaries do well in captivity if kept in cages with perches and with clean sand on the bottom. They are fed a mixture of small seeds augmented by fresh green food. Larger cages are required for breeding. Pairs will breed readily during early spring if provided with a nest container, nesting material, and food supplements. The female builds the nest and incubates the eggs, while the male feeds her. The chicks hatch after about 13 days, are fed by both parents, and leave the nest after about 3 weeks.

Most canary breeders agree that the American Singer Canary is the choice bird for song quality. Breeders are now taking an active interest in breeding this prized bird. A larger number of these birds are gracing the show bench. They are judged mostly on their capability to render a song that is pleasing to the ear. Out of 100 points 70 are allotted to song quality. An ideal song is one that has no choppy notes. A song that combines rolls and tours without chops is highly regarded, especially when sung with a smooth, soft and slow delivery. Bell rolls, water rolls with a variety of pitches, bell tours, water tours, and notes resembling the sound of a flute should all be present in a master singer. I am beginning to see a fair number of American Singers whose songs resemble the song of the Waterslager.

The American Singer being two-thirds roller and one-third border has the genetic propensity to sing a song that blends the qualities of the roller and border sounds, with the roller characteristics being more dominant. Naturally, it sings much softer than a border and delivers a variety of renditions that exceed those of a roller.

One has to be careful in buying this breed, because many birds sold under the name American Singer are not true breed. Buy from a reputable breeder. Nearly 60 years have elapsed since this breed made its name and you can well imagine the number of times a faulty breeding has taken place.

The creation of the American Singer breed was a great calculated effort and a major accomplishment. The result is as perfect a bird as you could hope for. The overall size is ideal for a cage bird, it is approximately 5 1/2 inches in length with a full but rounded head, strong shoulders, and a well proportioned body from head to tail. The feathers are short, and closely tight to the body. Like most canaries, the American Singer mimics sounds. To produce a nearly perfect song, a breeder needs careful planning in accomplishing his goal. It is of utmost importance that a high-quality singer should be used as a tutor during the first six months in the life of juvenile singers.

Even though the song quality is basically determined by heredity, it is also affected by the desire for pantomiming sound. Both parents pass on their genes to their offspring, thus the song is a product of both parents. Selecting studs of top quality with appealing songs helps in producing good singers. The presence of the master tutor ensures a strain of fine songsters. A tape can be made and played frequently in the bird room to enhance song quality, especially during the moult, a time when your tutor goes silent. It is a priority to breed a strain of birds that meets show standards. The price may be a little higher, but it is worth it. A very meticulous breeding program with top quality stock ensures super singers.

Hard work is a price that one pays for the production of quality birds, and much pride goes in the achievement of perfection. Shortly after each breeding season is over, a breeder should carefully select the best birds with the highest potential for improving the song and feather quality, others may be culled. Only those that show promise should be bred. Look for body size, shape, and proportion. Feather texture is very important. Pay attention to the posture. If you are satisfied with what you see, then chances are that it is good. But, most important, begin spending much time in your bird room, put on a radio to stimulate the birds and listen to them sing, soon you begin to identify those with a superior song. Place an open plastic ring around their legs for identification purposes. Then, separate them from the others into a large flight cage so that they can exercise and develop.

Once you have identified the excellent singers, you can begin the next stage of eliminating those singers that either are timid or possess undesirable traits, such as squatting or spending too much time on the cage bottom. Also those individuals that are preoccupied with their leg bands and are seen picking on them constantly must be culled. Birds that are too aggressive or pick their feathers are not recommended for a well-controlled breeding program. It is more rewarding, but perhaps less profitable to breed 20 pairs of high quality than 60 pairs of poor to average quality. As with breeding all types of canaries, the following factors must be observed to ensure success.

  1. Periods of light, whether natural or artificial, should be lengthened to 13 hours a day.
  2. Temperature should be maintained at a range between 70 and 80 degrees.
  3. Cereals or flours rich in protein mixed with sieved hard-boiled eggs should become a part of the birds daily menu.
  4. Vitamins, especially vitamin B12, B-C complex, and zinc mixed in the nesting food increases their desire for breeding.
  5. A good song-seed mixture should also be offered on a daily basis. This practice should lead to a very successful outcome.

Now comes the question: What is a song? How can you distinguish a good song from a bad one? To shed light on this let us classify all the sounds of a canary's song in terms of the vowels a, e, i, o, and u. When a canary sounds out a roll or a tour, it actually makes sounds resembling these vowels. Each individual tour is a vibration of one of the vowels with a certain frequency and pitch. If you were listening to two different canaries delivering the same tour at the same time you would be able to distinguish some differences in their tone, pitch, and frequency. One might be more pleasing to your ear than the other. A vowel sound repeated 50 to 60 times per second for 2 to 4 seconds constitutes a tour or a roll depending on the delivery.

A canary's song is a rendition of arrangements of tours, rolls, and chops. Most tours and rolls are harmonious and enjoyable to listen to. A chop is very offensive to the ear, especially when placed at the beginning of a song and repeated at different intervals throughout the song. Some birds chop more loudly and more frequently than others. A prized singer is one that eliminates all chops. The arrangement of the vibrations of the vowels is the reason why some singers sound better than others. Some canaries master the art of arranging the vowels like a master musician. They know just the right pitch and frequency. They start and end each song with the proper sounds.

Remember that all canaries sing a basic and common canary song. The difference can be a few added sounds beyond the basic song. Also, they differ in pitch, frequency, tone, and arrangement.

Note: Singer information was taken from American-Cage Bird Magazine--1992.

E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca



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