What are the different colors of canaries?


The canary is traditionally associated with yellow plumage. We also find “canary yellow” in the color repertoire, alongside lemon yellow and mustard yellow. Breeders have carried out selection over several generations and crosses in order to create specimens with superb colors. Red, agate, brown, blue, white, opal, pastel, ruby, topaz… In this article we will explore the palette of shades that exist in the colored canary today. We will also discover how it is possible to obtain hundreds of colors through the play of genetic and pigment combinations.

What kind of bird is the canary?

The canary (Serinus Canaria) is the tame form of the Canary Island canary. As its name suggests, it is native to the Canary Islands (Spain) but it is also found in the wild on other islands, such as the Azores and Madeira. Building on its success, the animal has been considerably reproduced so that today there are several breeds with different morphology, with sizes ranging from single to double. Its pretty plumage, its melodious song and its ease of breeding make it the most widespread cage bird throughout the world. Easy to maintain, it is an ideal little bird for beginners. This lovely creature is lively and cheerful provided its needs are met, the first of which is to live in pairs, or even in groups. Alone in its aviary, this gregarious species would let itself waste away. The life expectancy of a canary is 8 to 10 years, some individuals can reach 15 years.

What are the 3 categories of canaries?

The canary is the most abundant domestic bird species in the world alongside parakeets. Although many classifications are possible, canaries are generally divided into 3 large groups which correspond to the 3 criteria most commonly sought in this animal (color, song and posture). For colored canaries, the term mutations is more appropriate because in this category, the birds present the same standard of morphology. For singing and posture canaries, we speak of breeds because the 2 groups are distinguished by their physical appearance and their physiological abilities to sing. Let’s take a closer look at these 3 categories:

Colored canaries

The first category is based on the color of the feathers. It is divided into 2 subgroups according to the predominant pigments of the plumage: lipochrome canaries and melanistic canaries. We will detail later in this article the pigmentation process which results in this vast choice in the range of colors;

The singing canaries

These birds exhibit an incredible ability to reproduce complex melodies. Note that the male canary generally has a more melodious song than the female. This group brings together the breeds most popular in canary breeding such as the Harz, the Malinois Waterslager or the Timbrado;

Posture canaries

You must display very specific morphological characteristics to belong to this group which is itself divided into subgroups such as curly-feathered, smooth-feathered or crested canaries. There are around twenty posture breeds including the Portuguese harlequin, the Parisian curly, the Northern curly, the Belgian hunchback, the Gloster, the lizard or the German crested.

Where does the color of canaries come from?

The color of canaries results from the combination of genetic factors and pigments (carotenoids and melanins) present in their feathers. Different combinations of genes control the production, distribution and intensity of pigments. Crosses between canaries of different colors can therefore produce individuals with a diverse range of hues, depending on the combination of genes inherited. As noted above, colored birds can be divided into 2 categories: lipochromic canaries and melanistic canaries. Explanations:

Lipochromic canaries

Lipochrome canaries have a solid color (or almost) because their feathers do not contain melanin, but carotenoids. Carotenoids are pigments with the particularity of being soluble in lipids, hence the name lipochrome (light background). These canaries are white, yellow or red. For example, the most common canaries display a yellow tint, with white colored tips (tail and wing tips). For what ? Because the gene responsible for the yellow color is dominant, while the gene for the white color is recessive (a recessive hue is hidden or less obvious in the presence of another dominant). There are 3 categories in the group of lipochromes:

Intensives have close plumage with short feathers and the ground color is very bright; Schimmels have long, fluffy plumage. The background color is paler and may even appear “frosted” with white; The mosaics have a white background and a design (or marking) of another color. The marking is mainly located on the head, shoulders and sometimes the chest. Melanistic canaries

Melanistic canaries exhibit a so-called background color (white, yellow or red) but their plumage contains melanins including eumelanin, a black or brown pigment which is found in the center of the feathers and pheomelanin, a brown pigment which borders the feathers. . Since melanin includes dark pigments, melanistic birds are differentiated from lipochromes by their dark hue. The wild canary is part of the melanin variety because its original color is gray-green. Among melanistic canaries, we distinguish the subgroups:

Normal. These are the black-brown, brown, agate and Isabelle colors; Pastel. Has the effect of graying black or brown colors; Opal. Produces a bluish tint in the plumage; Topaz. Is characterized by a light hem on the wing, tail and back feathers. The eyes are also slightly depigmented; Ruby. The ino dilution factor is the cause of depigmentation of the beak, legs and nails. The eye is red except in the brown-black canary; Satin. A dilution factor reduces black eumelanin and brown phaemelanin. All satins have red eyes. Why are some canaries red?

The red factor was first provided by canary hybridization with the Venezuelan red siskin also called red goldfinch. Red canaries are therefore yellow canaries carrying the red gene. Appearing at the beginning of the 20th century, they are the result of genetic manipulation aimed at isolating and promoting the genes responsible for the red pigmentation of feathers. In order to accentuate this red color, it is possible to provide the bird with a particular diet which intensifies the color (a bit like the pink flamingos which find the pink pigment in the massive ingestion of shrimp). Food should contain carotenoids, pigments found for example in carrots, tomatoes, pumpkin, squash, radishes, peppers, cherries, mangoes or apricots. It is advisable to distribute these foods especially during the moulting period, when the new feathers begin to grow. The specialized store also offers food supplements which strengthen the feathers and optimize their growth while reviving the red color. However, care must be taken to ensure that these products only contain natural ingredients.

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