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Named for the Canary Islands, their original home, canaries are members of the finch family. Their sunny color and sweet songs have made them favorites among bird fanciers for more than four centuries. There are now more than 200 distinct varieties of canary, each carefully bred for color, song, or both.
With proper diet and care, canaries can brighten the homes and spirits of their owners for as long as 14 years. (See References 1)
Base Diet and Water
As a base diet feed your canary a seed mix formulated just for canaries. He'll eat about ½ tbsp., or ¼ oz., each day, according to canary breeder Ginger Wolnik of the Pacific American Singers Canary Club.
Your canary shells the seeds as he eats. By spreading a thin layer of seeds on a plate you'll help him find the whole ones. Provide only a small amount each day so he eats all the seed, getting some of each variety. If you'll be gone for a day or two, give him enough seed to tide him over but don't be surprised if he eats his favorite ones first.
Canary pellets are a tidier and more nutritious alternative than seed, because they have no shells and are fortified with protein and vitamins. Birds that haven't been raised on pellets, however, may not accept them.
Give your canary plenty of fresh water to wash down his seed. Use a tube water feeder and clean it daily. (See References 2)
Fruits and Vegetables
Canaries love fresh greens, and a fresh broccoli floret with a two-inch crown will keep yours occupied for hours. A canary favorite, dandelion leaf, could well be growing in your yard. Finely dice a bit of fresh apple, orange, melon, or banana for a sweet treat. (See References 2)
Remove whatever fruit and veggies your canary doesn't finish after a few hours so the food won't spoil or draw insects. Rinse everything well before serving it. Organic produce will protect your bird from potentially harmful chemical pesticides. (See References 1)
Diet is essential for maintaining the color of red factor canaries. These birds have genes that allow owners to alter their feathers from yellow to red with the right diet. Feed a commercial color diet, or create your own by including cherries, red grapes, carrots, yams, or other red and orange fruits and veggies in your bird's diet when he is molting, so his new feathers are the desired color. Diet won't change his existing feathers. (See References 1)
Provide a cuttlefish bone for calcium and, for extra protein, a once-weekly egg biscuit softened in water for extra protein. If your seed mix isn't vitamin-fortified, mix a fresh serving of vitamin powder into your canary's drinking water each day. (See References 1)