The Canary


This bird, which is now kept and reared throughout the whole of Europe, and even in Russia and Siberia, on account of its pretty form, docility, and sweet song, is a native of the Canary Isles. On the banks of small streams, in the pleasant valleys of those lovely islands, it builds its nest in the branches of the orange-trees, of which it is so fond, that even in this country the bird has been known to find its way into the greenhouse, and select the fork of one of the branches of an orange-tree on which to build its nest, seeming to be pleased with the sweet perfume of the blossoms.

The canary has been known in Europe since the beginning of the sixteenth century, when a ship, having a large number of canaries on board destined for Leghorn, was wrecked on the coast of Italy. The birds having regained their liberty, flew to the nearest land, which happened to be the island of Elba, where they found so mild a climate that they built their nests there and became very numerous. But the desire to possess such beautiful songsters led to their being hunted after, until the whole wild race was quite destroyed. In Italy, therefore, we find the first tame canaries, and here they are still reared in great numbers.

Their natural colour is grey, which merges into green beneath, almost resembling the colours of the linnet; but by means of domestication, climate, and being bred with other birds, canaries may now be met with of a great variety of colours. But perhaps there is none more beautiful than the golden-yellow, with blackish-grey head and tail. The hen canary lays her eggs four or five times a year, and thus a great number of young are produced.


As they are naturally inhabitants of warm climates, and made still more delicate by constant residence in rooms, great care should be taken in winter that this favourite bird be not exposed to cold air, which, however refreshing to it in the heat of summer, is so injurious in this season that it causes sickness and even death. To keep canaries in a healthy and happy state, it is desirable that the cage should be frequently hung in brilliant daylight, and, if possible, placed in the warm sunshine, which, especially when bathing, is very agreeable to them.

The more simple and true to-nature the food is, the better does it agree with them; and a little summer rapeseed mixed with their usual allowance of the seed to which they have given their name, will be found to be the best kind of diet. As a treat, a little crushed hempseed or summer cabbage-seed may be mixed with the canary-seed. The beautiful grass from which the latter is obtained is a pretty ornament for the garden; it now grows very abundantly in Kent.

The song of the canary is not in this country at all like that of the bird in a state of nature, for it is a kind of compound of notes learned from other birds. It may be taught to imitate the notes of the nightingale, by being placed while young with that bird. Care must be taken that the male parent of the young canary be removed from the nest before the young ones are hatched, or it will be sure to acquire the note of its parent.

The male birds of all the feathered creation are the only ones who sing; the females merely utter a sweet chirrup or chirp, so that from the hen canary the bird will run no risk of learning its natural note.

the end


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