Domesticated centuries ago, canaries were popular in the courts of Spanish and English royalty in the 17th and 18th centuries because of their beautiful singing. Over the years selective breeding has focused on creating a variety of colors and shapes, but one of the most desired traits of canaries remains their ability to enthrall their audience, and hopefully a mate, with a repertoire of sounds and songs that are very pleasing to the human ear. Wild canaries are generally yellowish green in color, but domesticated canaries are available in a range of colors, including yellow, orange, black, brown, white and red, as well as mottled blends of these various colors.
Prospective owners of pet canaries need to be aware that they are not generally companion birds, as one would consider a parrot, budgerigar or cockatiel to be. Nonetheless, their cheerful disposition and amazing singing abilities make canaries a popular choice as pets. It should also be noted that only male canaries sing as this is how they attract a mate (although some owners have reported their female canaries can sing). Also, they tend not to sing when molting in summer. So, if you are considering getting a canary specifically for its singing, you’ll need to get a male and he would have to remain a bachelor. However, as they are territorial and not particularly social birds, canaries apparently do not need feathered companions to be happy.
As they like flying horizontally from perch to perch, canaries need a cage that is at least 20 inches or longer, by about 10 inches high and 10 inches wide, for them to get enough exercise. Place a perch on both ends of the cage, and maybe one midway. This will encourage your canary to keep fit and healthy. Tall or small cages are not at all suitable for canaries. They don’t need a lot of accessories in their cages, and may see their reflection in a mirror as an intruder or threat. Position the cage in a room where there is some activity and preferably some morning sun, but not in a kitchen and not in a draft.
Pet shops generally stock seed mixes specifically for canaries, as well as soft food in dehydrated form. Ensure that you canary has fresh seed every day and a teaspoon of moistened soft food, as well as some fresh green food such as carrot tops, parsley or spinach. You can offer your canary a slice of fresh apple or pear twice a week as a treat. Fresh water for drinking and splashing around in should be provided each day. Canaries also require grit, obtainable from the pet shop, and enjoy a cuttlebone. For your canary’s good health, ensure that his food and water bowls are cleaned every day. A healthy, happy canary will reward you with cheerful, chirpy activity, and hopefully hours of beautiful singing.
In the territorial world of nature, it’s not uncommon for older males to give way to the younger generation, albeit with a fight. Researchers have recently discovered that this is not necessarily the case with mature white-crowned sparrow males. In fact older males don’t even bother to get involved in any altercation, verbal or physical, and this is seen as evidence that they don’t view younger males as a threat.
In the study, which was carried out by Angelika Poesel and Douglas Nelson of the Ohio State University and funded by the National Science Foundation, it was noted that the older male would, however, become agitated and aggressive upon hearing a rival bird of the same age in his territory. It appears that the males of this species assess the fighting ability of their opponents based on age, and younger males simply don’t scare them.
The study observed a migratory population of white-crowned sparrows nesting in Bandon, Oregon, from 2008 to 2011. While plumage is an important indicator of maturity, the results of the study reveal that some birds use each other’s songs to determine age and threat level. As is the case with many bird species, male white-crowned sparrows use their songs to establish nesting territory and court a potential mate. Should a male sing in another’s territory, he can expect to be attacked and driven off if perceived to be a threat. With this particular bird species, second-year males do have plumage differences, but they also sing two or more versions of their species unique song before they choose one, and abandon the rest. This multiple version singing indicates to more mature males that the bird singing in his territory is a second-year male, and not a threat worth getting ruffled feathers about.
The research was carried out by playing various songs through loudspeakers within the established territories of mature males, and careful observation of the birds’ behavior. It was noted that second-year males that have established territory, did not tolerate other second-year males invading their space. It is thought that female birds are naturally more attracted to mature birds than to younger ones, and the older birds know this. Also, younger birds are disinclined to push their luck with a mature male which is likely to be stronger and more experienced.
Lead author of the study, Angelika Poesel, is curator of the Borrer Laboratory of Bioacoustics. Douglas Nelson is associate professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology, and director of the University’s Borrer Laboratory.
The Rose-breasted grosbeak or as it is scientifically called, Pheucticus ludovicianus, is about 7.25 inches long and has a large, cone shaped, pale colored bill. The female grosbeak looks similar to the female-plumaged Black-headed grosbeak but has an orange-brown breast with streaks only on the side of its body. The Grosbeak lives near open woodlands that are near to water. It also likes thick brush or small trees, large trees, marsh borders, gardens, parks and overgrown pastures.
The adult male Rose-breasted Grosbeak has a rose red, triangular shape patch on its white breast. The upper parts of its body and head are all black and the under parts are white. The wings have white patches and are lined with rose red. His black tail feathers are speckled with white spots. In winter and autumn the male becomes browner and dull in colour. The juvenile bird has a similar coloring to the male’s winter and autumn colour.
The adult female Grosbeak has black and white stripes on its crown above its eyes. The under parts of the bird are white with extensive streaking, whereas the upper parts are a dark grey. Where the male has a rose red lining the female has a more yellow to yellowish-orange wing lining. The juvenile has an orangey-brown breast and the juvenile female has similar coloring to the adult female.
The Grosbeak mating system is monogamous and so the male and female will pair off and have between three to five pale green, blue eggs. During the courtship the male will fly after the female while singing to her; he will then crouch down and spread and droop his wings; spread his tail, withdraw his head with his nape against his back; once in position he will start singing and waving his head and body in an erratic dance.
The cup-shaped nest is made up of loose twigs, rough plant material and then lined with thin twigs, hair and rootlets. The nest is normally 5-15 feet above the ground and is built by the female with help from the male Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The incubation of the eggs takes up to two weeks and will be looked after by both the male and female bird. The development of the chicks is altricial, which means that they are immobile and eyes closed. Once the young hatch it takes just less than two weeks before they will leave the nest.