A Canary is a small bird that is descended from the wild Atlantic Canary. Part of the Finch family; Atlantic Canaries are primarily found in the places they originated: The Canary Islands, Azores, and Madeira. However some were brought by man-kind in the mid 1900’s to the northwest Hawaiian Islands and Bermuda, where they can be found as well.
A look into the history of the Canary Islands lends a great deal of information as to how these birds became their own “domesticated” breed.
When Roman sailors discovered the islands, there were a tremendous number of wild dogs roaming about a particular island. Therefore, the Romans named the entire chain of islands Canaria. With Canis meaning dog, Canaria means the Great Island of Dogs.
In the 1400’s Spain began their expansion efforts and very soon after they conquered the small Canary and Madeira Islands, (around 1500’s) They began to import it’s small, delightful and bright signing birds.
The little birds of Las Islas Canarias were quickly passed all over Europe. Noblemen and Monks began to extensively breed their song birds and quickly gave rise to 29 different types of domestic Canaries.
Current day Canaries are typically divided into three groups.
Color birds are known for their varying degrees of color. For example, one of the earliest forms of this selective breeding is the Yellow Canary, which dates back to 1670, and is the most common. Colors range from red, white, and orange.
The Type Category is comprised of birds such as the Yorkshire and Raza Esponala. These birds are bred for particular shape and sizes.
And finally, Song canaries are bred for their singing abilities. These birds are the most sought after in all of the canary groups. The Harz Roller (German Roller,) The Waterslager (bred in Belgium from Harz Roller lines,) and The American Singer (circa 1930’s) are among the top performing canaries in this category. The Spanish Timbrado is reported to be able to sing a song containing up to 12 notes.
Which leads to a forgotten history of the Canary. I’ll need the help of world-renowned musician Sting from his former band The Police to help me exemplify this next topic. “You live your life like a Canary in a Coalmine.”
What Sting is referring to in this song dates back to point in our worlds history when Canaries were used in coal mining. Canaries were used primarily in the UK to aid coal miners during their workday. Having a considerably smaller size and higher metabolic rate than their human counterparts, Canaries were placed in mines alongside working men. If any toxic gases had been unknowingly released via the digging process of mining, such as carbon monoxide or methane; the Canary would presumably stop singing and succumb to the toxic gases before the larger-bodied workers. Thus giving coal miners the ability to know of the impending danger and provide time for the men to safely exit the mine.
A canary can live 15 years or more. They are very friendly, social birds and perfer warmer climates. As with other birds in this variety they enjoy fruit, veggies, and high-protein diets.
A canary is able to contract Cholera, Diphtheria, lice, and eye diseases. So be sure to take your canary to the vet if they tend to keep their head low or seem lethargic.
Canaries are timorous. They can easily become nervous so be weary when letting them fly around the house since they are more apt to bump their heads off of objects. Also, their timorous nature makes them more sensitive to changes made in the household (moving furniture, new smells, etc.)
For a listen to a Canary’s song, click here for a link to YouTube.