“I tawt I taw a Putty-Tat!” So says the world’s most famous canary — Tweety Bird. Tweety is a yellow canary for a good reason: they are popular pet birds and known for their singing abilities. But are these birds really good pets? It all depends on what the owner wants from a pet bird.
Canaries are a type of finch, but unlike many finches, they are not particularly social animals. They usually only get together in the wild to mate. Because of this trait, it is unlikely that an owner will be able to “tame” the bird to sit on a finger or to really bond with the bird. Depending on the owner, this may not be a bad thing. If an owner wants a nice pet bird that doesn’t require much attention, canaries are good candidates. However, the trade-off is that the owner will probably not have the bird for a companion, unlike members of the social parrot family, who depend on their human owners for love and companionship.
These birds do well in a household of working people, since they do not require a great deal of interaction. Again, because of their solitary natures, canaries are happy being “only birds.” On the other hand, some finches, such as society or zebra finches, prefer being in flocks.
Another advantage of canaries is that they do not require large cages, as do parrots. Cages that allow them to fly back and forth, rather than up and down, are best, but they need not be very large. Canaries exercise by flying, and so should not have their wings clipped. These birds, also unlike parrots, do not need “outside” time from their cages. As small birds, they feel safest and most secure in their cages, and being outside tends to stress them.
Canaries require a regular sleep schedule that syncs with the sun, but this can be adjusted somewhat with electric lights and cage covers. However, even with a covered cage, the birds should always have a quiet place to rest at night, away from noise and bright lights. This is essential in maintaining the bird’s health, and with good care, a canary may live up to ten years.
A prospective owner should consider buying a pet canary from a local breeder. This ensures the owner will have a guarantee of the bird's health and a guarantee it will sing. The owner should be careful to buy a bird at least two years old, since it can be difficult to sex younger birds. Only the male sings, so if an owner wants a songbird, he should choose a male.
Canaries do not talk like African Grey parrots, but can often mimic a few notes of music and perhaps a word or two. Owners say that talking and whistling to their pets, as well as playing music for them, improves their singing abilities. Some breeders do some “training” with their male canaries before they are offered for sale, and this helps guarantee they will sing in their new homes.
Feeding canaries is relatively simple, as well. Their food is readily available, and they also eat most fresh fruits and vegetables safe for human consumption, except avocados, which are poisonous to them. A prospective owner should purchase a book about her new pet, and a wealth of feeding and care information is available online. She should also make sure she knows of a veterinarian in the area who treats birds. Breeders can usually give references for good vets in the area.
Canaries are certainly good “first” birds, but the question remains: are they good pets? If an owner is looking for a relatively low-maintenance bird that can sing, but doesn’t scream or vocalize like larger birds, then yes, they are very good pets. If the owner wants an animal that doesn’t require constant attention and is fairly inexpensive to maintain, canaries are perfect pets.