The beautiful Norwich Canary is one of the earliest canary varieties developed in England!
Referred to as the “John Bull” canary, the Norwich Canary has a rather robust or bullish appearance. It is a thickset bird with a full head and heavy brows. Being neither as agile nor as lively as some of the smaller breeds, they tend to have a rather laid back personality. They make quite amicable pet birds.
The handsome Norwich Canary is a “type canary”, bred for physical appearance rather than color or song. Though prized for their color in the late 1800’s, this is no longer considered an important attribute and they can now be found in several colors. Males also tend to have a pleasing robust song even though this is not what they were bred for.
For more information about the care of Canaries see:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Canary
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Actiniform
- Class: Elasmobranchii
- Order: Passeriformes
- Family: Fringillidae
- Genus: Serinus
- Species: canaria
Research indicates that the Norwich Canary was developed about 400 years ago by Flemish settlers in Norfolk, England around the city of Norwich. The Norwich Canary of today is larger than it’s predecessor of the 1800’s, which only reached about 5 1/4 inches (13.3 cm) in length, and it is not quite as skinny.
Drastic changes in it’s appearance are attributed to breeding practices in the late 1800’s; the introduction of the practice of colorfeeding along with outcrossing them with larger canary breeds, as the Lancashire which carries a crest. In 1890 at a gathering of over 400 breeders and enthusiasts at the Crystal Palace, an official “type” standard was decided on. This beautiful fluffy bird emerged as one of England’s most popular canary breeds to show.
The Norwich Canary is quite robust looking having a broad body, full head, and very heavy brows. Sometimes you can barely see their eyes. They reach a length of about 6 1/4 inches (16 cm) and are found in both the standard ‘ plainhead’ version and a ‘crested’ version.
Though coloration was restricted in the late 1800’s to deep oranges and reds, today they are bred for “type” or physical characteristics. Norwich canaries can now be found in white, cinnamon, clear, and variegated.
Care and feeding:
Canaries like wide open spaces so provide a roomy cage. Provide a cage with vertical bars and small perches of different size for foot exercise. Have at least 1 perch set high in the cage for the canary to roost (sleep). The cage should be placed high, so the canary can look down on us so to speak.
Canaries eat mainly canary seed and rape seed. Vitamin coated canary seed mixes are readily available at a pet store. Greens are also enjoyed and can be offered daily along with a little calcium in the form of a cuttlebone.
They do like to bath, so should be offered a bird bath. Cage cleaning and toe nail trimming is about all the maintenance canaries need.
See About Canaries: Housing and About Canaries: Care and Feeding for more information.
They are good-natured social creatures that do well when kept in cages or in aviaries. They are timid birds though and should not be housed with parakeets, lovebirds, or other hookbills that tend to be more aggressive birds by nature.
Male canaries should be kept in a cage by themselves to ensure quality singing. Males can be territorial and pairing up with two male canaries in a cage can cause fights. In a spacious aviary canaries can generally be housed with other canaries, finches, and other hardbills.
Canaries do not require toys, mirrors or any other form of entertainment, a swing is all they need to keep themselves occupied. Most of the time, canaries are simply enjoyed for their beauty and singing. However, some canaries are allowed out of their cage to perch or are show canaries and therefore require taming or training.
See About Canaries: Handling/Training for information on taming and training.
Most canaries breed easily and readily if provided with quality food, lighting, secure surroundings, and conditioning. They are best bred in breeding cages.They lay their eggs in a nest. The female will lay 3 to 6 eggs, one per day. It is best to allow a hen to have only two clutches.
The Norwich Canary however, is not a beginners bird and there are some special considerations to keep in mind. It is difficult to pair up birds to prevent feather cysts. This is a problem that resulted in the 1920’s from “double-buffing”. This is where two coarse-feathered birds are crossed to develop a larger soft feather that gives the bird an overall appearance of being larger. Careful breeding has reduced the occurrence of this, but it is still a concern. While breeding season for most canaries is usually from December to April, for the Norwich it is a little bit later. Also, the Norwich Canary is not the best feeder, so many breeders will foster the eggs out to other canaries, such as the American Singer or the colorbred canaries.
See About Canaries: Breeding/Reproduction for more information on breeding.
These birds are hardy and healthy if provided with a good environment and a good diet. Avoid an environment that is wet, cool, and drafty.
See About Canaries: Potential Problems for information on health.
Norwich Canaries are somewhat rare with prices ranging between $80 to $150 US. They are most often available through breeders, but may also occasionally be found through bird shows, bird clubs, and on the internet.
Featured Image Credit: slowmotiongli, Shutterstock