The domestic canary (Serinus domesticus) is a species of bird belonging to the Fringillidae family of the order Passeriformes. It is known for its melodious singing and is often kept as a pet. Through selective breeding, various color variations and traits have been developed in domestic canaries.
Canaries can also be crossed with other species of songbirds from the same order and family to produce hybrids. While many successful attempts at canary crosses have been recorded over the years, there are also many doubtful claims. In this article, we will explore 20 documented cases of canary hybrids.
The majority of crosses use the female canary, not the male. But some breeders have succeeded in producing the reverse. Keep in mind that hybrids are usually infertile.
Successful and doubtful crosses with the canary
The majority of canary crosses involve using the female canary as the parent bird, however, some breeders have succeeded in producing hybrids using the male canary as well. The list below reveals some of the successful and doubtful crosses with the domestic canary based on the available records and reports. Let’s start with the successful ones:
- European goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis): one of the most popular crosses and has been around since the 15th century – a female canary is used for this cross, and it is possible but more difficult to use a male canary.
- Red siskin (Carduelis cucullate): this is a common cross where a canary female is used, and then the hybrid male is back-crossed with a yellow canary female to produce the red factor we see in canaries.
- Eurasian Siskin (Carduelis spinus): this cross is common as well and can work in both directions, but a canary female is usually used. The cross doesn’t produce 100 % fertile eggs.
- Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula): usually crossed with a female canary but very hard to produce using a male canary according to some reports.
- Greenfinch (Chloris chloris): one of the easiest to produce and yields a high percentage of fertile eggs. Usually crossed with a female canary but the reserves work as well.
- Redpoll (Acanthis flammea): it used to be a popular cross, and it can work in both directions, using a male or female canary.
- Eurasian Linnet (Carduelis cannabina): it works in both directions but usually a female canary is used. Males are usually mull, but they can be fertile more frequently than females.
- Black siskin (Spinus atrata): not a rare across – a female canary is used – the youngsters are green in color, and they become black when they mature.
- Mozambique Siskin (Serinus mozambicus): a female canary is commonly used to carry out this cross.
- Common Rosefinch (Carpodacus erythrinus): a common cross where a female canary is used.
- Twite (Carduelis flavirostris): better to use a male canary for this cross. Most offspring are males and the result is similar to linnet × canary.
- American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis): A male is used to produce the hybrid.
- European Serin (Serinus serinus): the first-generation of males is fertile, and females are partially or less likely to be fertile.
- Citril finch (Serinus citrinella)
- Lesser goldfinch (Carduelis psaltria)
- Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella): A canary female is used to obtain the hybrid. But there is doubt about the authenticity of reports as the Yellowhammer doesn’t belong to the same family as canaries.
- Saffron Finch (Sicalis flaveola): It is reported that it can be produced in both directions, but there are doubts about the authenticity of records.
- Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs): It belongs to the same family as the canary, but many breeders double that this cross is possible. A female canary is supposedly used, and it is very difficult to produce the hybrid from this cross.
- Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra): It shares the same family with the canary but the reports only indicate that the crossbill was seen mating but not producing a hybrid.
- House sparrow (Passer domesticus): It doesn’t belong to the same family as canaries, and the reports of this cross are very much doubtful.
Note: Hybrids are typically sterile because they inherit different sets of chromosomes from their parent species. As a result, they are unable to reproduce and produce offspring that are genetically similar to themselves. While some hybrids are intentionally bred to produce unique traits or exceptional singing abilities, others may be produced inadvertently during captive breeding programs. Although these hybrids may exhibit fascinating combinations of physical and behavioral characteristics, their inability to produce offspring limits their long-term viability as a separate species.
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- Eugene M. McCarthy (2006), Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World, Oxford University Press, page 340- 344. https://spinus.info/Images/books/AH743697479746.pdf
- The American Naturalist, Vol. 56, No. 645 (Jul. – Aug., 1922), pp. 322-329, retrieved Feb 2020 from: https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/2456272.pdf
- Birkhead, T. & van Balen, Bas. (2007). Unidirectional hybridization in birds: an historical review of bullfinch ( Pyrrhula pyrrhula ) hybrids. Archives of Natural History. 34. 20-29. 10.3366/anh.2007.34.1.20.