Yellow canaries are one of the most popular types of canaries, known for their bright and cheerful feathers. These small birds are a favorite among bird enthusiasts due to their charming color, personalities, and beautiful songs. In this article, we will explore the fascinating world of yellow canaries. Whether you are a seasoned canary owner or simply curious about these delightful birds, join us as we dive into all things yellow canaries.
Origin of Yellow Color in Canaries
Yellow canaries are not found in the wild but are the result of generations of selective breeding. The ancestor of the modern yellow canary is believed to be the wild canary, which is native to the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa.
These wild canaries have a predominantly greenish-gray coloration with a yellowish-green underbelly and a few yellow patches on their head, wings, and tail feathers. The variation in color depends on the subspecies and geographic location. The males tend to have brighter and more extensive yellow patches than the females.
Through domestication and selective breeding, canary fanciers were able to produce canaries with more and more yellow pigmentation. This process involves choosing birds with the desired traits, such as yellow coloration, and breeding them together. Over time, this has led to the development of yellow canaries that are almost completely yellow.
The earliest record of a yellow canary in captivity is from the 16th century in Spain. Since then, yellow canaries have become one of the most popular and widely bred varieties of canaries. Over time, breeders have developed a wide variety and types of canary colors, including white, orange, red, and even black canaries.
Yellow Feather Types: Understanding Essential Terms
Canary breeders have not only been successful in producing a wide range of canary colors but also different types of feathers through selective breeding techniques. While there may be variations in feather types among different canary breeds, color-bred canaries such as yellow, red, and orange generally have two major feather types:
- Non-intensive feathers are also called buff, frosted or soft feathers.
- Intensive also called yellow (not the color), non-forested or hard feathers.
Note: When we discuss feather types in canaries, we are referring to the color appearance of the feathers on the bird’s body, rather than the physical structure of the feathers themselves.
Non-intensive, buff, forested, or soft simply means the feathers of the base color of the canary whether yellow, red, or orange don’t extend to the tip of the feather. This creates a whitish or frosted appearance on yellow, red, or orange canaries. For example, if the canary base color is yellow and has a non-intensive feather type then we say it is non-intensive or forested yellow. All these terms convey the same meaning. However the term Buff is used specifically for type canaries such as the Golster, while the term frosted or non-intensive is used for color canaries such as the red factor. Here are examples of frosted non-intestine Yellow and Red/Orange canaries:
On the other hand, intensive, yellow, non-frosted, or hard feathers simply mean the feathers of the bird’s base color extend to the tip of the feather, resulting in a solid and vibrant appearance. For example, if the canary base color is yellow and has an intensive feather type then we say it is an intensive, soft, or forested yellow canary.
Notice that this feather type is also called yellow. The yellow refers to the feather type and not the color itself. To illustrate, if we have a canary with a yellow coloration and an intensive feather type, which is also known as yellow or non-forested, then we refer to this canary as intensive or non-forested yellow rather than yellow-yellow to avoid confusion. So, the term “yellow” can refer to both the color and the feather type of a canary.
Remember intensive refers to the feather type while yellow refers to the color.
Lipochrome Yellow Canaries
As we dive deeper into the topic of yellow canaries, we come across a technical term called Lipochrome. Lipochrome is a group of pigments found in the feathers of birds, including canaries, that produces bright and vibrant base colors of the canary bird including yellow, orange, and red colors only. These pigments are derived from carotenoid compounds in the bird’s diet and can be either yellow, orange, or red.
A Yellow canary is technically called a Yellow Lipochrome Canary, and if a canary has an intensive feather type and is yellow in color, it is called Intensive Lipochrome Yellow Canary. Understanding these technical terms is important for properly identifying and breeding canaries.
Since Lipochrome pigments are derived from carotenoid compounds in the bird’s diet, yellow, orange, and red canaries must consume foods that contain carotenoids to display the colors they inherited. If they lack carotenoids completely in their diet, they will turn completely white, which is not healthy. Fortunately, for yellow canaries, it is easy to get yellow pigment from the diet as many of their commercial seed mixes contain yellow carotenoids such as zeaxanthin and lutein. Given this information, we can now discuss the yellow canary diet.
Yellow Canary Diet
Yellow canaries require a balanced and nutritious diet to maintain their health and vibrant colors. One important aspect of their diet is the intake of carotenoids, which are naturally occurring pigments found in plants. They are essential for producing the yellow, orange, and red colors in canaries’ feathers. The most common sources of carotenoids in a yellow canary’s diet are yellow and orange fruits and vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, apricots, and mangos.
Seeds are also a significant part of a canary’s diet, but not all seeds are created equal when it comes to providing carotenoids. Canary-specific seed mixes often include canary seed, hemp, rapeseed, and flaxseed which are a good source of carotenoids. Other sources of carotenoids include broccoli, bell peppers, egg yolk, corn, dandelion greens, and leafy dark vegetables such as kale and spinach. All these food items are great options to feed yellow canaries to maintain their feather quality and overall health as well.
Breeding and Genetics Tips
Breeding yellow canaries can be a rewarding experience for bird enthusiasts. Here are some tips:
- Avoid breeding two non-intensive yellow lipochrome canaries, as this can result in offspring that are prone to reduced feather quality and intensity. However, breeding non-intensive feather-type canaries with intensive ones is a good breeding practice.
- Breed a yellow canary with a mate that has a different color, such as a white or a green canary, to introduce genetic diversity and reduce the risk of health problems.
- The yellow lipochrome mutation (color) dominates over other base lipochrome colors: white, orange, and red. This generally but necessarily means that if a yellow canary is bred with a white, orange, or red canary, the offspring will all be yellow canaries.
- If a Yellow canary carries the white, orange, or red mutation in its genetic code and is bred with a white, orange, or red canary, the resulting offspring will have a 50% chance of being Yellow and a 50% chance of being white, orange, or red.
Author: Omar Abusalem, Editor, Bashar Jarayesh (May 2023).