Canary types are classified into three major categories: type, colorbred, and song canaries. In this article, we will focus on colorbred canaries and their wide range of vibrant and diverse pigments. Canary birds are popularly known for their bright and striking hues, which can range from yellow, orange, and red to white, brown, and black. These colors are primarily created by two major pigment types: melanin and lipochrome.
Melanin colors are pigments produced by the body and found in the feathers of canary birds. This type can produce shades ranging from brown to black. In contrast, lipochrome colors are pigments produced by the presence of carotenoids, which are obtained from the diet of canary birds. This type can produce shades ranging from yellow to red. Both types of colors can be present in a canary bird, resulting in a range of color combinations.
Lipochrome Ground Colors
Lipochromes are also known as “base” or “bold” or “ground” colors and are the result of pigments called carotenoids obtained from diet. Lipochrome shades range from bright yellow, orange, and red to white, and The intensity of each color depends on the amount and type of carotenoids present in the bird’s die:
Yellow is the most common lipochrome color seen in canary birds. It is produced by the presence of carotenoid pigments, specifically lutein and zeaxanthin, which are found in the bird’s diet. The intensity of the yellow shade can range from pale to deep, depending on genetics and the concentration of carotenoids in the diet.
When the yellow color in canaries is genetically diluted, resulting in a lighter shade, it is often referred to as ivory or ivory yellow. Ivory canaries have a pale, creamy yellow coloration that is softer and less intense than the typical vibrant yellow canaries.
Orange and Red Canary Colors
Orange and red lipochrome colors are less common in canary birds and are produced by other carotenoids such as beta-carotene and canthaxanthin obtained from the bird’s diet as well. These shades are usually seen in birds bred specifically for their color.
The natural color of a red canary is actually orange. However, when an orange canary carries the red factor mutation, its feathers have the potential to turn red during molt. This color transformation occurs when the canary consumes foods that are abundant in beta-carotene and canthaxanthin. These pigments play a crucial role in enhancing the intensity and vibrancy of the plumage, resulting in the striking red coloration observed in red canaries.
If an orange canary lacks the red factor mutation, it will maintain its natural orange coloration even when fed with naturally occurring red pigments. However, during molt, the feathers of an orange canary without the red factor mutation may darken, resulting in a shade of dark orange. The absence of the red factor prevents the transformation of the feathers into a vibrant red color, but the bird’s plumage can still exhibit variations within the orange spectrum.
White is also considered a lipochrome color in canary birds, although it is not produced by carotenoids. Instead, it is the result of a lack of melanin in the bird’s feathers, which gives them a pure white appearance. White Canaries have two types: recessive (pure white) and dominant (pure white but with shades of yellow on the tip of feathers and or tails).
Nearly all melanin pigments in canary birds are a combination of melanin such as brown and a base lipochrome color, such as yellow. For example, a combination of a yellow base and covered with melanin black and brown would give us a green canary. let’s explore the green canary and other melanian pigments types in more detail:
The “green” color is considered the most common among canaries and is actually the original color of the wild canary. Through selective breeding over the years, we have obtained other endless shades such as yellow and white. While green canaries may appear to have green feathers, they actually do not.
Green is not considered a lipochrome color, but rather a combination of yellow lipochrome and black/brown melanin, which creates the illusion of green. The black/brown melanin is most visible in the bird’s wings and tail, giving the appearance of a green body. So while it may look like the green canary has green feathers, it’s actually just a trick of the eye.
Cinnamon and fawn are two of the most common and basic types of brown colors in canaries. Cinnamon brown canaries have a dark brown melanin pigment combined with a yellow lipochrome base color, resulting in cinnamon-like color, hence the name.
Fawn-brown canaries, on the other hand, have a lighter brown melanin pigment combined with a white lipochrome base, resulting in a lighter, more whitish-brown. This coloration is also caused by a genetic mutation, but it affects a different gene than the one that produces cinnamon brown.
Blue canaries are not actually blue, but rather a combination of white base or ground color and dark black/brown melanin. The melanin pigment gives the appearance of blue or grey, but the bird’s ground color is actually white. This is similar to how the green canary appears green due to a combination of yellow and black/brown melanin pigments.
The presence or absence of brown melanin determines whether the blue coloration appears lighter or darker. Blue canaries are typically bred by crossing a green canary with a white canary to produce offspring with the desired coloration. Other factors, such as genetics and diet, can also influence the shade of blue displayed by the bird.
The Variegated Canary
Variegated is a type of canary bird that has a combination of both melanin and lipochrome colors. The feathers on the bird are a mix of white or yellow with areas of black or brown. However, unlike in green and blue canaries, the melanin pigment (black to brown) doesn’t have a consistent pattern on the bird’s body. These colors are randomly distributed, giving each variegated canary a unique and distinctive appearance.
Other canary colors
Canary birds offer an astonishing range of color combinations, making them highly sought-after among bird enthusiasts and breeders. Many of these captivating colors are the result of intricate combinations of lipochrome and melanin pigments, as well as variations in their shades. Canary plumage can exhibit a spectrum of hues, from vivid and vibrant to subtle and delicate. The names of the following color-bred canaries are derived from the specific combinations and shades they possess with some colors appearing more diluted, showcasing lighter tones, while others exhibit darker and more intense pigmentation:
Canary breeders and enthusiasts have dedicated themselves to refining and developing new color variations through selective breeding programs. The continuous exploration and introduction of these diverse color combinations have turned canaries into fascinating and cherished part of the avian world.