Island canary

Serinus canaria

SUBFAMILY

Carduelinae

TAXONOMY

Serinus canaria Linnaeus, 1758. OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Common canary, canary; French: Serin des Canaries; German: Kanarengirlitz; Spanish: Canario Sylvestre.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

The island canary is a small, slender finch with a body length of about 5 in (12.5 cm). It has a rather long, forked tail, and a short, stout, conical, pointed beak. The male is colored overall

olive-brown, with yellow on the face and belly. The female is somewhat duller in color. Domesticated varieties, however, can vary widely in coloration, with as many as several hundred types being recognized. Red canaries are among the extremes of coloration, and are derived from fertile hybrids of the island canary and the black-capped red siskin (Carduelis atriceps) of South America.

DISTRIBUTION

The canary is a highly local (or endemic) species indigenous only to the Azores, Canaries, and Madeira Islands of the eastern temperate Atlantic Ocean. It has been domesticated for centuries, however, and is kept as a caged songbird in many countries.

HABITAT

The island canary inhabits forest, open habitats with shrubs, gardens, and orchards.

BEHAVIOR

The island canary is a non-migratory species. It is a social bird that may occur in small flocks when not breeding. The song is a highly musical series of warbled notes, often given in flight.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

The island canary feeds on seeds and small fruits of various kinds.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

The island canary weaves a cup-shaped nest of plant fibers and usually locates it in a shrub or low tree. They are often polygamous breeders, meaning a male may mate with several females. The clutch size is typically about five, but can vary from one to ten. Hatching occurs about 14 days after the hen begins to incubate. There may be more than one brood per year.

CONSERVATION STATUS

The island canary is an endemic species of only a few islands in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, but it is locally abundant there. Domesticated varieties are abundant in captivity.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

The island canary has been kept as a caged songbird for more than 500 years. It is a highly prized pet because of the loud, enthusiastic, musical song of the male.

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