Types and Mutations of White Canaries
White canaries come in two different types: recessive and dominant. The naming comes from genetic mutations and inheritance laws of canaries. Recessive white canaries inherit two copies of the recessive white gene, while dominant white canaries inherit one copy of the dominant white gene. Both genes are autosomal and therefore they are not sexlinked. This means offspring will receive the white mutation whether recessive or dominant, indiscriminately regardless of their sex.
The dominant white gene is more common and produces a brighter white coloration in the feathers, while the recessive white gene produces a softer white coloration. White recessive and dominant canaries can be distinguished based on their feather appearance. Recessive white canaries have pure white feathers, whereas dominant white canaries may have shades of yellow feathers mixed in with their white feathers at the edge of their wings or tails.
Genetic Applications of Breeding White Canaries
Breeding two white dominant canaries is generally not recommended because it can lead to a reduced chick survival rate. When two white dominant genes are present, they both compete to be expressed, and this can result in a condition known as “lethal white” where the chick is unable to survive.
Breeding two dominant white canaries
When breeding two dominant white canaries, there will be a 25% chance of producing offspring with two copies of the dominant white allele (WW) which is lethal, and a 50% chance of producing offspring that are heterozygous dominant white (Ww), and a 25% chance of producing offspring with two copies of the recessive white allele (ww). To learn more, read our article Canary Genetics.
Breeding dominant white with recessive white
One way to improve the survival rate of offspring when breeding two dominant white canaries is to introduce a recessive gene into the breeding process. Introducing a recessive gene such as recessive white, can help reduce the chances of producing offspring with a lethal factor and increase the chances of producing healthy chicks.
For example, one approach could be to breed a dominant white canary with a recessive white canary. This pairing will produce offspring that carry only one dominant gene from the dominant white canary and one recessive gene from the recessive white canary. The offspring will appear visually as dominant white canaries, but they will carry the recessive gene.
When this pair is bred with each other, there will be a 50% chance of producing offspring that carry one dominant white gene and one recessive white gene (heterozygous dominant white) and a 50% chance of producing offspring that carry two recessive white genes (recessive white). Big W represents dominant white and small w donates recessive white.
Breeding dominant white with a yellow canary
Another option could be to introduce a different dominant gene, such as a dominant yellow gene (yellow canary), into the breeding process. This can help reduce the chances of producing offspring with a lethal factor and increase the genetic diversity of the offspring.
When breeding a dominant white canary (WW) with a dominant yellow canary (YY), all offspring will inherit one W allele from the dominant white parent and one Y allele from the dominant yellow parent, resulting in a heterozygous dominant white-yellow phenotype (WY) for all offspring. These offspring will carry both the white and yellow genes, but will not appear white, as the dominant yellow gene will mask the appearance of the dominant white gene, and hence will appear yellow.
To produce healthy white offspring from crossing white and yellow canary colors, it is necessary to cross a dominant white canary with a dominant yellow canary carrier of the recessive white gene. In this case, you will have 100% offspring with the white gene, with 50% physically appearing white and 50% physically appearing yellow, but carrying the white gene.
In any case, it is important to approach breeding with caution and to consult with an experienced breeder or veterinarian for guidance and advice. Breeding two dominant white canaries carries a risk of producing offspring with a lethal factor, and it is essential to take appropriate measures to improve the survival rate of offspring.
Edited and Reviewed by Bashar Jarayseh, a biologist, and expert in wild birds of the Middle East.