goldfinsh and canaries

Friday, 29 October 2010

American Goldfinch

Illustration: American goldfinch

The brightly colored male American goldfinch is especially recognizable. The American regularly visits seed feeders, particularly in the east. It is often very gregarious, especially during the nonbreeding season, when it flocks to roadsides and brushy fields to feed on thistle and sunflowers. It is often heard in flight, giving distinct flight calls. Polytypic (4 named ssp.; differences slight). Length 5" (13 cm).
Identification A relatively large carduelid. Breeding male: unmistakable. Body entirely bright lemon yellow with white undertail coverts. Jet black cap. Black wings with yellow lesser coverts and narrow white tips to greater coverts, forming 2 white wing bars along with white edging to the tertials. White inner webs to most of the tail feathers. Pink, conical bill. Breeding female: very different from male. Underparts very yellow with white undertail coverts, while upperparts, including head, olive green. Lower wing bar buffy and quite wide. Tail feathers with white tips and inner webs. Bill pinkish. Winter male: cinnamon brown above and on breast and flanks, with white lower belly and undertail coverts, yellowish wash on throat and face, and muted black on forehead. Wings more boldly patterned. Yellow lesser coverts. Wide, whitish lower wing bar. Bill darker than in breeding season. Winter female: mostly drab gray body with black wings and 2 bold buffy wing bars. White undertail coverts and edging to tail feathers. Dark bill. Immature male: black on forehead reduced or lacking. Lesser coverts duller. Juvenile: resembles adult female. Unstreaked.
Similar Species The male is unlike any other finch in North America; the Wilson’s warbler is the only other bright yellow species with a black cap, but it does not have the finchlike bill or the bold wing pattern of the American. All other plumages can be separated from the lesser goldfinch by their bolder wing pattern and white undertail coverts. The female Lawrence’s goldfinch is gray like a nonbreeding adult female American, but note the American’s wider, buffier wing bars and different pattern of white in tail. The call notes of the American are very distinct from those of the Lesser and the Lawrence’s.
Voice Call: various, including per-chik-o-ree or a descending ti-di-di-di; given mainly in flight. Song: a long series of musical phrases, often repeated randomly; similar to the lesser. Not known to mimic other species.
Status and Distribution Common throughout much of United States and southern Canada. Breeding: a variety of habitats, from weedy fields to open second growth woodland, and along riparian corridors, particularly in the West. Does not breed over much of southern third of United States. Winter: populations from northern third of breeding range migrate to southern United States and Mexico, augmenting resident populations throughout middle section of the United States.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Keeping Canaries :

The keeping of Canaries for their appearance and song is a tradition that dates back centuries. With proper care, you will enjoy a healthy canary that will sing its heart out for you, and will be a pleasurable companion bird.
Many veterinarians recommend a diet of 80% canary pellets. However, given the poor quality of the available pellets, most of which contain harmful chemicals and additives, a diet that is as close to their natural diet is not only more enjoyable for the canaries, but may pose fewer long-term health ramifications. A high-quality seed mix in addition to plenty of fresh food items (including greens) would be the best choice. Vets usually recommend pellets as they assume that bird owners will fail to provide fresh foods on a daily basis -- in which case, pellets are preferable to a seed-only diet. *Please note: When feeding pellets to your pet, please be aware of the fact that overly feeding citrus fruits (including oranges) or vitamin-C-rich foods to your birds can lead to "Iron Overload Disease" as vitamin C increases the amount of iron absorbed from foods and supplements.
All canaries benefit from a supply of green food such as lettuce, dandelion leaves and nasturtium leaves. They can eat any produce you do, with the exception of avocado. They readily accept and enjoy fresh fruits / veggies a lot, and parsley -- and dandelions are VERY good for them. You can get a lot of free "green stuff" (safe plants please!) from your own garden to feed to them - as long as the plants have not been chemically treated, i.e., pesticides, chemical fertilizers). (For non-toxic ways to control pests in the house or garden, please visit this webpage.) Care should be taken to ensure leaves supplied are clean and have not been sprayed with any chemicals. Canaries also enjoy little bits of fruit, but be careful to offer only what the bird can eat in one sitting, or you may wind up attracting ants, or hornets. (For tips on controlling ants in your house, your garden, or your aviary - in a non-toxic way - please click here.)
During the moulting period it is advisable to supplement their diet with egg food or nestling food (can be bought as a dry mix to which water is added until a crumbly but not soggy consistency is achieved. Some nestling or egg foods can be served dry, others are best served with a soak seed mix; this is a special mixture of seeds meant to be soaked, rinsed, and sometimes sprouted a little, before being served). During the molt season, your canary needs more fat in his diet, such as flax and niger seeds. Cucumber is especially good during molt too. After molt, cut back on the additional fat, and feed your canary niger and hemp seeds as their treat to motivate them to sing. (*Hemp Seeds are often referred to as "super-seeds" as they offer a complete amino acid profile, have an ideal balance of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, and provide an impressive amount of trace minerals - they also have the highest concentration of protein in the plant kingdom.)
Soaked seeds are an absolute necessity for the feeding hen and for the newly weaned young. They are a treat for all birds. Cracked corn, wheat, buckwheat, and safflower, normally too large and hard, are made acceptable to canaries by soaking. Soaking breaks down complex carbohydrates rendering the seed more palatable and more highly digestible. This is done by taking a special soak seed mix and adding two parts, or more, of water and refrigerating. Soak for at least 24 hours. Rinse well and strain before feeding.
Sprouts are not the same thing as soaked seed. Not all seeds can be sprouted. Most bird seeds are treated withpreservatives and vitamins and will not germinate. Seeds for sprouting should be kept separate for various species of plants have different germinating times and requirements. In addition to the regular bird seeds, many seeds for sprouting are available in health food stores. My favorite is the Chinese mung bean which is very easy to sprout and possesses a high degree of palatability for the birds. I have also used soy beans for sprouting. My birds do not like alfalfa sprouts.
Sprouting seed is the simplest way to provide your birds with fresh greens. For a few birds only a quarter cup of seeds should be sprouted at a time. Seeds increase in volume tremendously when sprouted. Place the seeds in a clean glass jar. Fill with tap water and let stand at room temperature for twenty-four hours. Rinse and drain completely. Repeat the rinsing and draining completely daily until the seed has sprouted. If a foul odor or mold develops, discard. Preparations are available to prevent spoilage. Rinsing and draining well is very important. Any surplus sprouts may be refrigerated up to two weeks.
Nestling food can also be mixed with egg. To four cups of dry nestling food, add one pound grated carrots, and one dozen grated hard boiled eggs. Chop the eggs in a food processor shells and all. This is for about fifty feeding hens. Boil the eggs for twelve to fourteen minutes to ensure that no fowl diseases are transmitted to the canaries.
This mixture is given in an amount that the birds will eat in one hour. All birds get one treat cup per day of this egg mix. The supply for birds with feeding young is constantly renewed during the day. The nestling food with egg spoils very rapidly, particularly during the summer. It would be best to prepare the egg mix fresh every day. If this is not possible, refrigerate the excess immediately.
Toys & Entertainment:
To ensure caged birds are happy, toys should be provided and swapped regularly to avoid boredom (which can lead to aggression and feather plucking). Most people keep males and females in separate cages, except during breeding season. When buying pet canaries, great care must be taken to ensure the right mix of sexes in a cage. A mistake could lead to the birds attacking each other, even to the extent that one may kill another.
In general, pet canaries do not require companionship; the canary species is territorial, not social, and does not generally appreciate company in the same cage. It will be seen as an intruder, not as a companion, and although it might take up to two years or so, if they remain in a single cage all year round, usually one or the other will eventually die. A male and a female stand a better chance of getting along amicably, but all too often the less dominant bird will eventually die, although it may take some time.
This is because the dominant bird will feel the need to constantly 'oversee' the less dominant bird of the two. It will never be able to eat, sleep, or drink its fill in peace, and eventually the stress will take its toll.
If a bird is present in the home and a companion is bought, it must be kept in a separate cage for at least couple of weeks, both for quarantine, and to ensure the birds get used to each other; the new bird can then gradually be introduced to ensure that no fighting ensues. A male and female will often get along reasonably well if introduced in this way, but should not be allowed to remain together all year round; each should have some privacy, during the period from midwinter until the start of breeding season in early spring, at the very least.
Two males will very rarely be happy together, although keeping them permanently in separate cages will prompt them each to sing more than they probably would on their own - however a good recording of canary song will work equally well. A cage with a number of males may work as long as no female is present, but again, they should not be expected to live in peace all year round, and each should be separated into an individual cage during the spring/early summer breeding season at the very least.
Male canaries can mimic sounds such as telephone ring tones and door bell chimes but only if they hear these sounds while young. Canaries can be taught tricks over time but great patience is required as they are fairly timid birds. To get the birds to play with toys, toys must be safely constructed (no sharp edges or parts the bird's feet could become entangled upon).
Many people keep canaries for their song. But what if they don't sing?
Are you sure your canary is a male? Frequently, hens are being sold as males, as it is difficult to sex them when they are young. The beautiful song of the male only develop as they mature. Many females do sing quite well, but lack the long trills and warbles of the male. Talented males and females can learn to mimic sound -- so much so that with a little training, a female's song can't be distinguished from that of a male canary.
Is your canary molting? Canaries don't sing during this time. Canaries molt (change plumage) once a year - usually during the summer. A molt should take no longer than 6 to 8 weeks. If it takes longer, then a vet should be consulted as your canary could suffer from a feather disorder. Since molting can be stressful and uncomfortable, some birds experience a decrease in appetite. However, an increase in metabolism to accommodate the production of several thousand new feathers can cause an increase in appetite. Whether they lose their appetite or eat more during the molt probably depends on their comfort level. Molting birds benefit from more quality protein in the diet which can be provided in the form of well done eggs, well cooked meats and seafood, as well as cooked beans and rice, which together form a complete protein. Additional protein and good fats are needed to create strong and lustrous feathers. This is a good time to grind and sprinkle flax seeds over the birds' food. Hemp seeds also provide beneficial oils and the essential fatty acids (EFAs) necessary to produce quality feathers. (*Hemp Seeds are often referred to as "super-seeds" as they offer a complete amino acid profile, have an ideal balance of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, and provide an impressive amount of trace minerals - they also have the highest concentration of protein in the plant kingdom.)
How is your canary's diet? Is the diet appropriate for the canary? Do you provide a quality canary seed, fresh fruits and veggies / greens; calcium / mineral & vitamin supplements? The basic, cheap seed mix at your local grocery store is not going to keep your canary in good health and singing. Click here for information on proper diet.
Is your canary sick? Is your canary protected from draft? Is he or she lively and social, or fluffed up and sleepy. A sick canary won't sing. If there is reason for concern, you need to take your canary to the vet.
Diseases / Illness / Toxicities at Home:
If pet canaries become ill they will rapidly lose weight and this is why it is essential to treat disease as quickly as possible. It is wise to have glucose powder and an eye dropper in store to administer drops of diluted solution via the beak if a canary stops eating. When a bird is sick, it puffs up its feathers to stay warm; give it gentle heat. You can often drape a heating pad over or under the cage, but be sure the bird can also get OUT of the heat if it wants.
Common household hazards include fumes from the kitchen (cooking fumes and especially fumes from non-stick pans)- canaries should never be kept in a kitchen for this reason. They are also sensitive to smoke from cigarettes, aerosol sprays such as deodorant, air freshener and polish.
Plug-in air fresheners or stand-alone fan fresheners are very toxic, as are some candles, especially scented ones (except unscented beeswax candles).
Avoid placing a canary's cage where it is in a draft, or be in full glare of sunlight without any shade available. If you let your canary out to fly about for exercise, always cover mirrors and windows, as they may fly into them and break their neck.
A number of houseplants/cut flowers are very poisonous to canaries (as are some herbs), so never let them nibble leaves of houseplants. Be very wary, as canaries love to eat greens of all kinds! Safe plants include spider plantsafrican violets and boston ferns. Clean water must be available for drinking and separate water should be made available for bathing.
Food dishes/cage parts can be safely sterilized in a hot dishwasher or in baby-bottle fluid such as diluted Milton. When it comes to disease, prevention is better than cure. Canaries should be examined for mites and, if mites are found (especially easy to spot around the neck and rump) they can be treated with over-the-counter medication (canary mites don't bite humans). Abnormalities of the skin and feet may be caused by mites and this can also be treated with over-the-counter pet medication. Be aware that dietary problems can cause skin, foot, and feather problems that may look as if they are due to mite damage, so before treating with any drug, get an experienced opinion from a good avian vet on the actual cause of the condition.
Adapted from This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
Canaries love bathing and should be allowed to bathe often. Offer cold water for them to bathe in, as it improves their feather condition. Warm water, on the other hand, will strip essential oils from the feathers, and may encourage itching and picking, rather than preening. Plentiful time to bathe is especially important to a canary during the moult.

The Canary in Captivity:

Canaries are absolutely delightful beings and fun characters to watch.

I found them to be very social beings. A little "friendly" fight here and there with their cage or aviary co-habitants, but generally they get along really well and are non-aggressive. They make very pretty aviary birds - and the melodious song of the males add a lot to the charm of an aviary.

 They are never going to be "cuddly pets"

.. and I know, having handfed some of them from day 1 - they do become quite confiding. They make a great choice for people who enjoy watching birds rather than having a demanding pet that requires a lot of personal attention.

 Housing Your Canary:
I hate to see them in small cages. Since these are birds that will just about ALWAYS be in a cage, I would hope that people give them a roomy flight cage, maybe with some plants in it too for the canaries to enjoy. They should be able to fly. Make it a "project" to prepare an attractive flight cage for them, with lots of toys (no STRING toys though that might strangle them) and natural branches, maybe some plants.
Your canary should be kept in a room with plenty of natural light.  Do not place cage near a window where he may get a cold draft.  Since a male canary's singing is stimulated by people movements, keep your canary in a room you occupy frequently.
You canary needs plenty of exercise and should be kept in a rectangular cage at least 10 inches wide and 17 inches long.
Be sure to cover your canary's cage  at night so the light stops with the sunset.  This keeps him in tune with the seasons.

beautiful photos ( goldfinch)

Carduelis carduelis parva Tschusi, 1901

Carduelis carduelis parva

Carduelis carduelis parva

Carduelis carduelis parva

Carduelis carduelis parva

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Keeping and Raising European Goldfinches

The famous bird of European antiquity is the European Goldfinch. It can be seen in paintings in most major museums in Europe and the world. It's lovely cheerfulness, perky charm, and delight to both the eye and the ear was perhaps replaced by the canary only because the canary is a more cooperative bird to raise in captivity. That does not mean that the goldfinch is delicate in any way. There are a few special feeding requirements which can be easily satisfied, and breeding them is a bit more challenging. The canary is an easier breeder. The goldfinch remains popular in Europe, but doesn't seem to be well understood in America, probably because the canary won over here in America.

There are several lovely advantages that the goldfinch has over the canary, however, and I would love to see the bird revived. Their song is a delight. It may be less sensuous than the canary, but it is always different and never repetitious to the careful listener. I know no bird that sounds as cheerful and happy. I could do without my canaries, but I could not do without my goldfinches! Trying to describe bird song seems futile, but it's faster and more varied in every way.

They can be kept in a canary cage, but they need a larger cage or aviary for breeding. As they are so perky, they are more fun to watch in a larger cage. They may sing more in a canary cage, however. They can be seen hanging to the sides, tops, any place in the cage, which doesn't mean that they want to get out. They are use to hanging upside down and every which way on their favorite plants, the teasel and thistle. They are a lot more acrobatic than canaries.

Their color may be less gaudy than the canary in some peoples eyes, but the red, white, and black face, black & white wings and tail, with the splashes of gold, (orange, if you color feed them) rich brown back and buff brown belly makes them no slouches to look at. The better I know them, the more I love the way they look.

If you see a goldfinch in a store that looks like it's on the way out, you can revive it. They will not last long on either a canary or a finch diet, but have special diet requirements. Pet store owners usually do not know this.  You should consider whether you want to go through a bit of extra work, but it's easy enough to do, and very well worth it.

The first thing to do is find a seed mixture that has a lot of niger. I think buying wild bird thistle from a Jewel store is adequate, but I was told that it's a lower quality. An excellent mixture is Kellogs song food, and it can be bought in the bulk size right for you. Check with your pet store. The next major seed is sunflower hearts. Many pet stores don't seem to carry them, but perhaps you can special order it. I buy mine at a food store. I've seen it with wild bird seeds in nursery stores, farmer type stores. If you have trouble, I'd use the yellow pages. Once you find it, your in business, though! I'm sure this is enough seed variety, but if you can, you can add hulled oats, hemp, teasel (it grows wild around Chicago), weed seeds of many kinds, spray millet, etc. However, as I said, canary or finch seed alone is not sufficient. I can't get mine to touch canary seed, although many books recommend it.

Goldfinches need a lot of greens, every day. Canaries can survive without them, but not goldfinches. Standard greens like broccoli or bok choy work, but during the summer it seems like they can't get enough dandelions, and you can pick all you want off your neighbors’ lawn. They also eat some spruce or pine. They love spring tree buds, especially elm and willow. They are a bit messy, but the birds love them. The dandelions are the easiest in summer.

Goldfinches also like a lot of egg food. I'm sure that commercial egg food is fine, but if you have time, you can save pennies by making your own, and it may be more healthy. I boil eggs for at least 15 minutes, shred with their shells, which supply calcium, and mix in about 1/3 Kellogs petamine, so that it will dry out before it sours. I put this in those tiny treat cups every day. I also mix in a bit of nikon vitamins here.

If you follow these directions, your goldfinch will revive and be silken and beautiful in one season. Breeding them is a greater challenge, however, it's so rewarding, if you try it for fun. I really am in favor of keeping a captive population, so I very much recommend you try it, perhaps after you've given them a year to acclimatize. If you get captive bred birds, you won't have to wait.

To begin with, you would need a male and a female! If you have a pair, it is easy to tell which is which, as the female has a little less of everything. -just a little, however. Unlike the canary, she does sing a bit even, but not as fully as the male. If you're buying a pair, it's more challenging, as it's a matter of degree. There is an area of the extended wing which is supposed to be a full proof way of sewing them. Brownish on the female, black on the male.

They need a fairly large cage to breed, and books usually recommend an aviary. I use cages, however, which are two feet long and one and one half foot deep. The larger, the better. I keep the pair together all year, and they are really fun to watch in that size cage.

Goldfinches are late breeders, and I recommend that sometime in March you add artificial light and extend the day gradually until 8:00 pm. (9:00 dst). That will extend the breeding season.

The nest is a canary basket, the smallest size. Sew in two nest liners, being careful not to leave thread inside the basket. They have a way of twizzling their feet into everything. I've lost several females that way. You can put it in when you notice the black on the tips of their beaks disappear, when you notice the female carrying things around, or when you feel like it. As much as they like hair, even dog hair, I will never use it, because they twist it around their feet. As I said, I've lost several females that way. I find the best nesting material to be burlap, cut into four inch squares and pulled apart. Some Burlap sacks have nylon strands in them which I toss out. They might also use coco fibers, although I think they would be happy with just burlap and toilet tissue, torn up very small. I haven't seen them use bermuda grass, feathers, or sphagnum moss, although I've been told that they may. I've just heard of corn husks, but don't have any this year.

The female does all the egg work, you do none. I don't candle eggs, or handle them at all. I think it's all up to her. I also don't remove eggs. She just gets peace & quiet. About this time I add 8 in 1 nesting food into the egg mixture, with the Kellogs Petamine (about 50/50). I also give them wax worms, and give them all they want when the babies hatch. I don't know that this is necessary, but I fuss over them! Watch the male at this time, as I have had aggressive males toss out baby birds, I think in frustration. The female can handle everything by herself, and you can take him out as soon as she's finished laying eggs, if you wish.

The babies are so exciting, but I don't disturb them at all, and, once again let the female do all the work. I know someone who has had fed babies, but I can't imagine it! All I do is trust the great cosmos, but I do remove the male if he is the slightest bit disturbing. This year I may just move them out and be safe. Of course if you have more than one pair, don't get them mixed up!

If they jump out of the nest when they're only half grown, you can leave them out. Mama will take care of them. Just watch that they don't get snagged on something. They're tougher than they look at that stage, although it's nerve wrecking to go though.

I put the male back when they start becoming self sufficient and start looking like birds. They will be solid gray, and are called gray pates at this stage. By the way, you don't say flock of goldfinches, you say, chorus of goldfinches. I guess when to remove them, but when the female starts becoming interested in the nest again, I try to balance that out, so far with good luck.

There are a number of things which can go wrong, and if they do, I just start over again next time. Thinking of the reward when I succeed. Best of luck, please feel free to email me with any questions or comments of any kind. I welcome it.

The work may be more than with some other finches, but look at what you get!

Thursday, 14 October 2010


European Goldfinch

The Goldfinch or European GoldfinchCarduelis carduelis, is a small finch.
The Goldfinch can be found across Europe and most of Asia in open, partially wooded lowlands. It is resident in the milder west of its range, but migrates from colder regions. It will also make local movements, even in the west, to escape bad weather.
This bird is a rare vagrant to eastern North America. In 2005, one was spotted and photographed on a bird feeder in Michigan

Gold Finch

The Goldfinch is 12-13.5 cm (4-5 inches) long and weighs 16 to 22 grams.
Sexes are alike, with a red face, black and white head, warm brown upperparts, white underparts with buff flanks and breast patches, and black and yellow wings. The ivory-colored bill is long and pointed, and the tail is forked.
Juveniles have a plain head and a greyer back but are unmistakable due to the yellow wing stripe.

Goldfinch sub-species comparison

Call / Song:

The call is a melodic tickeLIT. The song is a pleasant tinkling medley of trills and twitters, but always including the trisyllabic call phrase or a teLLIT-teLLIT-teLLIT.
European Goldfinches

The European Goldfinch comes in a variety of mutations including: Tawny, Agate, Isabella, Pastel, Satinè, Yellow, Opal and Albino. The sub-species include: American Goldfinch (Carduelis Tristis) and the Himalayan Goldfinch (Carduelis Caniceps).
The Himalayan resembles the European Goldfinch except that it has an absence of black markings and tawny plumage is replaced with grey. Goldfinches have been cross breed with Canaries, Siskins and Linnets.
European Goldfinch

A good Goldfinch diet must include a mixture of millets, cereal seeds, canary grass seeds, green food and live food. Sprouting seed is the simplest way to provide your birds with fresh greens and make a great weaning food. These birds are especially fond of Safflower, and Thistle.

European Goldfinches can be kept in a mixed aviary with birds of similar size or in individual pairs.
European Goldfinch by bird feeder

Many European Goldfinches are housed in individual breeding cages much like Canaries. However, they will thrive in a large planted aviary with plenty of room to fly and sing. These birds are quite the acrobat and can be seen hanging upside down on perches and twirling off one perch to another.

European Goldfinch

Sunday, 10 October 2010


The European Goldfinch or Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) is a small passerine bird in the finchfamily.
The goldfinch breeds across EuropeNorth Africa, and western and central Asia, in open, partially wooded lowlands. It is resident in the milder west of its range, but migrates from colder regions. It will also make local movements, even in the west, to escape bad weather. It has been introduced to many areas of the world.

The average Goldfinch is 12–13 cm long with a wingspan of 21–25 cm and a weight of 14 to 19 grams. The sexes are broadly similar, with a red face, black and white head, warm brown upperparts, white underparts with buff flanks and breast patches, and black and yellow wings. On closer inspection male Goldfinches can often be distinguished by a larger, darker red mask that extends just behind the eye. In females, the red face does not reach the eye. The ivory-coloured bill is long and pointed, and the tail is forked. Goldfinches in breeding condition have a white bill, with a greyish or blackish mark at the tip for the rest of the year. Juveniles have a plain head and a greyer back but are unmistakable due to the yellow wing stripe. Birds in central Asia (canicepsgroup) have a plain grey head behind the red face, lacking the black and white head pattern of European and western Asian birds


The species is divided into two major groups, each comprising several races. The two groups intergrade at their boundary, so the caniceps group is not recognised as a distinct species despite its readily distinguishable plumage.
Carduelis carduelis carduelis group.
  • Carduelis carduelis balcanica. Southeastern Europe.
  • Carduelis carduelis brevirostris. Crimea, north Caucasus.
  • Carduelis carduelis britannica. British Isles.
  • Carduelis carduelis carduelis. Most of European mainland, Scandinavia.
  • Carduelis carduelis loudoni. South Caucasus, Iran.
  • Carduelis carduelis major. Western Siberia.
  • Carduelis carduelis niediecki. Southwest Asia, northeast Africa.
  • Carduelis carduelis parva. Atlantic Macaronesic Islands (Canary I.Madeira), Iberia[citation needed] , northwest Africa.
  • Carduelis carduelis tschusii. Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily.
Carduelis carduelis caniceps group.
  • Carduelis carduelis caniceps. Southern central Asia.
  • Carduelis carduelis paropanisi. Afghanistan to western Himalaya and Tien Shan.
  • Carduelis carduelis subulata. South-central Siberia.
Linnaeus classified the bird as Fringilla carduelis.


Feeding on thistles - note thistledown in bill

A goldfinch nest and eggs.
The goldfinch's preferred food is small seeds such as those from thistles (the Latin name is from Carduus, a genus of thistles) and teasels, but insects are also taken when feeding young. It also regularly visits bird feeders in winter. They nest in the outer twigs of tall leafy trees, or even in bamboo, laying four to six eggswhich hatch in 11–14 days.
In the winter goldfinches group together to form flocks of up to forty birds, occasionally more.
The song is a pleasant silvery twittering. The call is a melodic tickeLIT, and the song is a pleasant tinkling medley of trills and twitters, but always including the trisyllabic call phrase or a teLLIT-teLLIT-teLLIT.
In earlier times, the Goldfinch was kept as a cagebird for its song. Escapes from captivity and deliberate releases have colonised southeastern Australia and New Zealand.

Two on a garden birdfeeder in the UK
Goldfinches are attracted to back gardens in Europe and North America by birdfeeders containingniger (commercially described as nyjer) seed. This seed of an annual from South Asia is small, and high in oils. Special polycarbonate feeders with small oval slits at which the Goldfinches feed are sometimes used.

Relationships with humans

Captive Carduelis carduelis caniceps
Goldfinches are commonly kept and bred in captivity around the world because of their distinctive appearance and pleasant song. The Goldfinch males are sometimes crossed with Canary females with the intention to produce male mules with beautiful singing voices, that often capture the best singing attributes of both breeds.

Madonna of the Goldfinch by Raphael, (c. 1505-1506)
Because of the thistle seeds it eats, in Christian symbolism the Goldfinch is associated with the Passion and Christ's Crown of Thorns. The Goldfinch, appearing in pictures of the Madonna and the Christ Child, represents the foreknowledge Jesus and Mary had of the Crucifixion. Examples include the Madonna del cardellino or Madonna of the Goldfinch, painted (c. 1505-1506) by the Italian renaissance artist Raphael, in which John the Baptist offers the goldfinch to Christ in warning of his future. In Barocci's Holy Family a goldfinch is held in the hand of John the Baptist who holds it high out of reach of an interested cat. In Cima da Conegliano's Madonna and Child, a goldfinch flutters in the hand of the Christ Child. It is also an emblem of endurance, fruitfulness, and persistence. Because it symbolizes the Passion, the goldfinch is considered a "saviour" bird and may be pictured with the common fly (which represents sin and disease).[4] The Goldfinch is also associated with Saint Jerome and appears in some of his depictions.[4]
Antonio Vivaldi composed a Concerto in D major for Flute "Il Gardellino" (RV 428, Op. 10 No. 3), where the singing of the Goldfinch is imitated by a flute.


  1. ^ Snow, D. W. & Perrins, C. M. (1998). The Birds of the Western Palearctic concise ed. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-854099-X.
  2. ^ Clement, P., Harris, A., & Davis, J. (1993). Finches & Sparrows. Christopher Helm. ISBN 0-7136-8017-2.
  3. ^ Svensson, L. (1992). Identification Guide to European Passerines. ISBN 91-630-1118-2.
  4. a b Werness, Hope B. (2007). Animal Symbolism in World Art. Continuum. ISBN 0826419135.


The Canary (Serinus canaria), also called the Island CanaryAtlantic Canary or Common Canary, is a small passerine bird belonging to the genus Serinus in the finch family, Fringillidae. It is native to the Canary Islands, the Azores, and Madeira. Wild birds are mostly yellow-green, with brownish streaking on the back. The species is common in captivity and a number of colour varieties have been bred.
This bird is the natural symbol of the Canary Islands, together with the Canary Island Date Palm.[2]


It is approximately 12.5 cm long, with a wingspan of 20–23 cm and a weight of 15–20 g.[3] The male has a largely yellow-green head and underparts with a yellower forehead, face andsupercilium.[4] The lower belly and undertail-coverts are whitish and there are some dark streaks on the sides. The upperparts are grey-green with dark streaks and the rump is dull yellow.[5] The female is similar to the male but duller with a greyer head and breast and less yellow underparts.Juvenile birds are largely brown with dark streaks.
It is about 10% larger, longer and less contrasted than its relative the serin, and has more grey and brown in its plumage and relatively shorter wings.[3]
The song is a silvery twittering similar to the songs of the serin and citril finch.


'GENUS - Serinus (serins), 'SPECIES' - caneria (canary) Classified by Linnaeus in 1758 in his Systema Naturae. Linnaeus originally classified the canary as a subspecies of the European serin and assigned them to the genus 'Fringilla'. Decades later, Cuvier reclassified them into the genus Serinus and there they have remained. The canary's closest relative is the European serin, and the two can produce on average 25% fertile hybrids if crossed.[6]


The bird is named after the Canary Islands, not the other way around. The islands' name is derived from the Latin name canariae insulae("islands of dogs") used by Arnobius, referring to the large dogs kept by the inhabitants of the islands.[7] A legend of the islands, however, states that it was the conquistadors who named the islands after a fierce tribe inhabiting the largest island of the group, known as the 'Canarii'. The colour canary yellow is in turn named after the yellow domestic canary, produced by a mutation which suppressed the melanins of the original dull-greenish wild canary colour.

[edit]Distribution and habitat

It is endemic to the Canary Islands, Azores and Madeira in the region known as Macaronesia in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. In the Canary Islands, it is common on TenerifeLa GomeraLa Palma and El Hierro, but more local on Gran Canaria, and rare on Lanzarote andFuerteventura, where it has only recently begun breeding.[5][8] It is common in Madeira including Porto Santo and the Desertas Islands, and has been recorded on the Salvage Islands. In the Azores, it is common on all islands.[5] The population has been estimated at 80,000-90,000 pairs in the Canary Islands, 30,000-60,000 pairs in the Azores and 4,000-5,000 pairs in Madeira.[3]
It occurs in a wide variety of habitats from pine and laurel forests to sand dunes. It is most common in semiopen areas with small trees such as orchards and copses. It frequently occurs in man-made habitats such as parks and gardens. It is found from sea-level up to at least 760 m in Madeira, 1100 m in the Azores and to above 1500 m in the Canary Islands.[3]
It has become established on Midway Atoll in the northwest Hawaiian Islands, where it was first introduced in 1911. It was also introduced to neighbouring Kure Atoll, but failed to become established.[9] Birds were introduced to Bermuda in 1930 and quickly started breeding, but they began to decline in the 1940s after scale insects devastated the population of Bermuda cedar, and by the 1960s they had died out.[10] The species also occurs in Puerto Rico, but is not yet established there.[11]



It is a gregarious bird which often nests in groups with each pair defending a small territory. The cup-shaped nest is built 1–6 m above the ground in a tree or bush, most commonly at 3–4 m.[5] It is well-hidden amongst leaves, often at the end of a branch or in a fork. It is made of twigs, grass, moss and other plant material and lined with soft material including hair and feathers.[3]
The eggs are laid between January and July in the Canary Islands, from March to June with a peak of April and May in Madeira and from March to July with a peak of May and June in the Azores. They are pale blue or blue-green with violet or reddish markings concentrated at the broad end. A clutch contains 3 to 4 or occasionally 5 eggs and 2-3 broods are raised each year. The eggs are incubated for 13–14 days and the young birds leave the nest after 14–21 days, most commonly after 15–17 days.[3]


It typically feeds in flocks, foraging on the ground or amongst low vegetation. It mainly feeds on seeds such as those of weeds, grasses andfigs. It also feeds on other plant material and small insects.[3] It has also been found that canaries need gravity to swallow, thus leading to death from dehydration in zero gravity conditions such as space.[12]

[edit]Relationship with humans

Domestic canary
This species is often kept as a pet; see Domestic Canary for details. Selective breeding has produced many varieties, differing in colour and shape. Yellow birds are particularly common, while red birds have been produced by interbreeding with the red siskins. Canaries were formerly used by miners to warn of dangerous gases ("canary in a coal mine"). The bird is also widely used in scientific research. Canaries are often depicted in the media with Tweety Bird being a well-known example.

[edit]See also

[edit]External links


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2004). Serinus canaria. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesIUCN 2006. Retrieved on 12 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern.
  2. ^ Ley 7/1991, de 30 de abril, de símbolos de la naturaleza para las Islas Canarias - in spanish
  3. a b c d e f g h Snow, D. W. & Perrins, C. M. (1998). The Birds of the Western Palearctic concise ed. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-854099-X.
  4. a b Clement, P., Harris, A., & and Davis, J. (1993). Finches and Sparrows. Helm ISBN 0-7136-8017-2.
  5. a b c d Tony Clarke, Chris Orgill & Tony Dudley (2006) Field Guide to the Birds of the Atlantic Islands, Christopher Helm, London.
  6. ^ Arnaiz-Villena, A.; Álvarez-Tejado, M.; Ruíz-del-Valle, V.; Garcĺa-de-la-Torre, C.; Varela, P.; Recio, M. J.; Ferre, S. & Martinez-Laso, J. (1999) "Rapid Radiation of Canaries (Genus Serinus)", Molecular Biology and Evolution, 16(1): 2-11.
  7. ^ Oxford English Dictionary
  8. ^ Clarke, Tony & Collins, David (1996). A Birdwatchers' Guide to the Canary Islands. Prion, Huntingdon. ISBN 1-871104-06-9.
  9. ^ Pratt, H. Douglas; Bruner, Philip L. & Berrett, Delwyn G. (1987). A Field Guide to the Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific, Princeton University Press, Chichester.
  10. ^ Amos, Eric J. R. (1991). A guide to the Birds of Bermuda.
  11. ^ American Ornithologists Union (1998). Checklist of North American Birds, 7th ed.
  12. ^;id=2828;comm=0

The goldfinch is one of Britain’s favourite and most attractive birds. They were once a popular pet due to their colourful plumage and enchanting singing, but now you may spot this little bird swinging on branches or twittering away in your garden.
Length: 12cm
Wingspan: 21-25.5cm
Conservation Status: Green
Description: Goldfinches are one of our prettiest birds and easily distinguished by their bright colour scheme and characteristic markings. They have a distinctive red face with a white patch behind the eye and a black crown and nape. They have a yellow wing patch, black tails and a long pointed bill. Female GoldfinchBoth sexes look similar but juveniles have a grey-brown spotted plumage and lack the face markings of the adult bird which they acquire in autumn.
Nesting:Goldfinches nest in orchards, parks, gardens, villages and anywhere there are tall deciduous trees. They construct their cup shaped nests high in trees and bushes using stems, moss and plant wool and sometimes even decorate the outside of their nests with flowers! They produce 2 broods of 4-6 reddish patterned eggs which they incubate for 12-13 days.
Feeding: Outside of breeding season goldfinches form nomadic flocks, called ‘charms’ and these charms are often spotted feeding in fields and on road verges. They love seeds, buds, insects, dandelions, burdock and thistles in particular, and use their slender, tweezer like bills for extracting seeds from plants and flowers. Juvenile GoldfinchThey will feed at bird tables in your garden but prefer swinging acrobatically on hanging seed feeders.

Male Goldfinch

Foods to attract Goldfinches


Canary food:

The food requirements of canaries are very simple. The prime requisite is a supply of canary seed to which is added a small quantity of rape seed and a little hemp seed. Persons having only a few birds usually buy this seed ready mixed from dealers.

The seed should be clean, well matured, and not old. If canaries do not seem to thrive it is well to examine the seed supply and crack open a few of the seeds to make certain that empty husks alone are not being fed. Too much hemp seed should be avoided, as it is very fattening.

In addition to this staple diet, lettuce, chickweed, or a bit of apple should be placed between the wires of the cage frequently. Bread that has been moistened in scalded milk, given cold, is also beneficial at times. If supplies of moist food are not kept strictly fresh and clean, bacterial diseases may result. In feeding moist foods. special dishes with holders that slip in through the wires of the cage are recommended. These are sometimes known as food holders or slides. Soft foods must not be made too wet. In the case of bread, enough liquid to soften the food, but not to run or to render it a paste, is sufficient. Perhaps once a week egg food may be given. This is prepared by mincing an entire hard-boiled egg and adding to it an equal quantity of bread or unsalted cracker crumbs. Care should be taken to use this egg food only when fresh.

Cuttle bone should always be available to the canary, and at times it is well to give prepared foods that may be secured from dealers. During the breeding season egg food can be given daily as soon as the birds are paired. It may be discontinued or given at intervals of three or four days when the female is incubating. The yolk of hard-boiled egg only may be given for the first day after the young hatch. Bread crumbs are added to this gradually, until on the third day egg food as ordinarily prepared is supplied. The usual seed supply should always be present, no matter what other food is given. Attempt should be made to regulate the supply of egg food or other soft food so that all is eaten without waste. The actual quantity will vary with individual birds.

When the young are four or five days old green food may be fed, but egg food must be given until they are fully grown and able to crack canary seed for themselves. Meal worms occasionally are good for birds that are not thriving. For delicate birds, rape seed soaked in water over night and carefully drained until dry is beneficial. When the old birds are caring for well-grown young, feeding cracked hemp seed will lighten their labor.



The delicate Goldfinch has beauty and charm in abundance.
This small finch is strikingly colourful with its mixture of red, white and black on the head, golden brown body and bright yellow wing bars.
Looking more closely, the lores and crown are black, the chin and forehead are red and the cheeks are white. The body is predominantly golden or tawny brown, but the belly and rump are white. The wings are mostly black with a large striking yellow band. The bill varies from pinkish to pale grey, and the legs are flash coloured.

Goldinch (Rear)GoldinchJuvenile Goldfinch

The sexes are similar except that the male's red face extends slightly behind the eye.
Juveniles are generally a dull brown with darker streaking on the body, and lack the red, black and white markings on the head.


Choose from Quicktime and mp3.SongCall
Quicktime mp3Quicktime mp3

 A pleasant rambling twitter or tinkling best describes the most common call of the Goldfinch.

The delightful song is a composition of this call and other rattling notes and is sometimes accompanied by the "pivoting display" in which the male drops its wings slightly and pivots from side to side.
Goldfinches used to be commonly kept as caged birds because of their colourful plumage and enchanting singing.


Goldfinches feed on various tree seeds, such as alder and birch, and on thistle, teasel and dandelion seeds, which it can obtain owing to its thin bill and light weight.
Niger seed and teasels may attract them in gardens, especially if there are no fields nearby with thistles and dandelions, but they will also feed on sunflower hearts.


The cup-shaped nest is built by the female with moss, grass and lichen, and lined with wool and plant down. The nest is usually in a tree towards the end of a branch or in a bush, and often in large gardens and orchards, but also in open woodland and hedgerows.
The smooth, glossy eggs are pale blue with reddish markings, and about 18 mm by 13 mm. Incubation is by the female only. The young are fed by both parents.

Breeding Data
Breeding StartsNumber of ClutchesNumber of EggsIncubation (days)Fledge (days)
late April2-33-710-1413-18


Some of our breeding birds migrate to the south-western Europe, e.g. France and Spain. Interestingly, many more of these birds are females than males, and birds that migrate one year will not necessarily migrate in others. The autumn population is increased by the passage of European birds down eastern Britain.
They make the most use of our gardens at the same time in late spring every year - between returning from their wintering grounds and the start of breeding, and at a time when natural food resources are at their lowest. More interestingly, this finch is increasingly using garden bird feeders, this may be because natural resources are in steady decline or more gardens are offering niger seed and sunflower hearts, which are both high energy foods that Goldfinches seem to prefer.


The Goldfinches have more or less recovered from a serious decline in the 1970s and 80s that was possibly caused by increased use of herbicides, but changing agricultural practices still threaten this bird. Consequently, they are subject to a Medium BTO Alert.

Introduction to the Pet Canary
  • Species: Serinus canaria
  • Actually a member of the finch family, native to the Canary Islands
  • The wild canary is greenish yellow over most of their body with yellow underparts. The domestic canary comes in an array of bright colors.
  • Canaries can live up to 10 years.
  • Males canaries sing better than females, although the canary may not sing as much during a molt.
  • Do not require a great deal of attention and are suitable for beginning pet bird owners.
  • Canaries are not social birds so will a single pet canary will be happy.

Pet Canary Cages
  • Get the largest cage possible, that allows for room for flight (a pet canary should never have his or her wings clipped and should be able to fly in the cage for exercise).
  • "Flight" type cages are the best (home built or commercial) since they are designed to provide room to move. Remember that a long cage is better than a tall narrow one (the height is not all that important). Try to get a cage at least 24 inches long.
  • Watch the spacing between bars - no more than 1/2 inch.
  • Wire cages are best, wood or bamboo cages are too difficult to keep clean.
  • Perches: wood perches of varied diameter work best (3/8 to 3/4 inches). Some canary keepers alter smooth round perches by scraping them with a saw blade or utility knife, just enough make the surface slightly irregular (easier to grip and the variety may make the perches more comfortable for the canary's feet). Do not use sandpaper perch covers.
  • Temperature: canaries are pretty hardy and can be kept at room temperature. Keep the cage away from draughts, air conditioners and windows that receive direct sunlight (the cage and canary can get overheated).
  • Light: cover the cage at night, at the time the sun goes down (unless you live in an area with extremely long nights or days such as the far north). Canaries need their rest and will do best if given a light/dark cycle that approximates natural changes. Keeping them up late with artificial light is not healthy for them.
  • Toys: provide toys, but place them in the cage in such a way as they do not obstruct flight space. Your canary might enjoy swings, mirrors, bells, and hanging wooden or acrylic toys.
  • Fresh water should be available at all times.
  • A shallow dish of water or a special bath bought at the pet store should be provided at least 3-4 times a week for bathing.
Feeding Your Pet Canary
  • A good quality seed mixture suitable for canaries can be the mainstay of their diet.
  • Pelleted diets suitable for a canary can be offered as well - these are not as palatable as seeds but many owners keep a dish of pellets in the cage along with a dish of seeds.
  • Fresh foods and greens should also be offered. Good choices include apples, oranges, bananas, green peppers, canned corn, fresh corn on the cob, cooked broccoli, raw spinach, raw dandelions, raw collard greens, raw Swiss chard, pears, peaches, strawberries, cucumbers, squash, etc. Bits of hard boiled egg can also be offered occasionally.
  • As seeds are eaten the hulls may be left in the dish, so at a quick glance the seed dish may look full when in fact it is just hulls. Blow the hulls off the seed dish at least daily and replenish the seeds as necessary.