How many canaries belong in the home cage – one, two, three or even more?
In this article, we will show you the social behavior of these small pets and what you should pay attention to when keeping them in order to prevent psychological damage to the animals.
Are canaries solitary or flock animals?
Canaries naturally live in flocks of birds. They are extremely social animals and definitely not solitary.
If you want to get canaries, then you should get at least two animals to you.
Even in larger groups, the animals feel very comfortable, but there are some things to consider when keeping groups.
But more about that later.
Now we dedicate ourselves first of all to the social and communication behavior as well as the basic needs of the canaries.
General information about the social behavior of canaries
The diurnal animals orientate their activity time completely according to the number of daylight hours. This means that the birds are active longer in summer than in winter.
However, the active phase is interrupted by several rest periods every day. Also for the extensive care of the own plumage as well as the plumage of the conspecifics some time is spent.
Although the canaries appreciate the company of their conspecifics very much and maintain very profound friendships with selected animals, each canary still has its personal individual distance.
This individual distance is usually accepted by the conspecifics without any problems. Even when sleeping, the animals make sure to always keep a certain distance.
If the individual distance is undercut, the canary clearly shows the ‘intruder’ its limits.
The communication takes place on body language level as well as by means of singing and calling sounds. We will now take a closer look at these forms of communication so that you will be able to read and understand your animals.
Being able to read your animals gives you the advantage of being able to react appropriately to them, and you will also be able to develop a feeling for the relationship between your animals.
To be able to interpret the body language of a canary correctly, a trained eye is necessary. Here you will find three examples of how quickly misunderstandings can arise in relation to the body language of the birds.
Especially in the summer with hot temperatures you will see your birds ‘panting’ from time to time.
In this panting, the animal locks its beak open and cools itself down.
On the other hand, unlocking the beak can also be a clear threatening gesture. For this reason, it is important to consider the animal’s behavior in its immediate context.
Another way canaries cool off is by spreading their wings away from their bodies.
Birds also feel the need to stretch extensively from time to time. For this purpose, the animals also spread their wings from the body.
But beware! This can also be a threatening gesture, with the help of which your canary wants to show its territory or claim resources, such as food, for itself.
An important point: beak hygiene.
A canary cannot brush its teeth regularly – because it lacks both the toothbrush and the necessary teeth! 😉
All kidding aside…
Canaries also maintain a certain beak hygiene. To keep their beaks clean, they occasionally sharpen them on a branch or the bars of the bird cage. If you observe this behavior after eating, while your canary seems content and relaxed, everything is paletti.
In another context, however, the sharpening of the beak can also be used as an appeasement signal.
Did something unusual happen a few moments before?
Could you see or hear an argument between your birds?
Is another bird behaving in a conspicuously aggressive manner right now?
All these things can lead to the fact that your animal wants to bring calm into the overall situation with the sharpening of the beak. You need to know that canaries are very stress-prone and in need of harmony.
Popular reasons to pick a fight
In and of themselves, canaries are relaxed and compatible animals.
Nevertheless, minor quarrels can occur from time to time. So if a conspecific behaves aggressively or otherwise brings unrest to the group, the other birds will do everything they can to restore balance within the group and appease the rebel.
Common reasons for a dispute may include:
- nesting material
Especially during the breeding season in spring, heated tempers often arise.
Nest building plays a big role during this time, so you should take extra care during the spring months to make sure there is enough nesting material for everyone.
- food envy
The classic reason to start a fight: The food!
True to the motto ‘you’re not yourself when you’re hungry’, one or the other animal companion will also get quite stroppy when his stomach growls. Several smaller feeding stations distributed in the cage can remedy this.
- but I was there first!
We all know this feeling: If you often travel by bus or train, sooner or later you will find your favorite seat.
The more disappointed you are when you get on one day and see that someone else is sitting in ‘your’ seat! Really unheard of! This is also the case with your birds, because many of them have their favorite perch and do not like it when it is occupied by another canary when they want to sit there themselves.
There one can already sometimes briefly and strongly scold, in order to show the other, where its place is – here namely not! 😉.
Calling sounds and singing
In addition to communication by means of body language, the call sounds also make up an essential part of inter-bird communication.
If a loud song sounds from the direction of the bird cage already in the early morning hours in spring, it is most likely the so-called ‘courtship song’.
Your canary uses the song to mark out its territory, to attract a pretty lady or simply as accompanying music during nest building – because it is always easier to work with music, as is well known.
Fun fact: Only part of the song is innate in the canary. However, a large part of the individual melody is developed by listening to other canaries. There is, so to speak, a refinement of one’s own melody through specially developed compositions, which comes about through inspiration from other conspecifics.
Besides the classical song, there are also special calling sounds. The most common sounds are shrill warning and threatening sounds, which are used when the physical threatening gestures are ignored by the opposite.
Although the pitch of these sounds go through the marrow and bone, they are a natural part of communication and no cause for concern.
The ideal group
How an ideal group constellation looks like with canaries, can not necessarily be said sweepingly. However, there are a few guidelines that increase the chance of harmonious coexistence.
- an even number of animals
It is advisable to always house an even number of animals.
Otherwise, in a group of 5, for example, a canary can quickly become a literal fifth wheel, excluded from the group and unable to develop a deep friendship with a conspecific.
- pay attention to the sex of the animals
If you want to keep a group of more than two animals, you should think about the group constellation regarding the sexes.
If your group consists of five males and only one female, there is bound to be a lot of stress between the males (especially during the mating season). It is therefore advisable to put the groups together of animals of the same sex.
Attention: Even if you put a group of females and a group of males in separate cages in the same room, this will most likely lead to quarrels between the males!
Bullying among animals: The outsider
Animals are the better people!
Or are they not?
Contrary to many opinions in our society, there are also behaviors among animals that are anything but ‘nice’. Bullying, for example, is a widespread phenomenon not only among humans, but also among animals – including canaries.
If you keep only two or three birds, this problem will probably not occur. In a larger group, however, it is not uncommon to find individual birds that cannot connect and are ostracized.
Do you observe that one of your birds is somehow not really integrated into the group?
If this bird is new to the group, this is completely normal. It takes some time until the bird is integrated into the new group. However, if the problem has existed for some time, you should look for a new home for the bird for the sake of the animal, so that it also has the chance of deep bonds with conspecifics – even between some birds, the sympathy is now once in limits. 😉
Conclusion: Are canaries then now loners?
No, canaries are not loners.
The extremely sociable and social animals have quite complex communication and are very particular about their need for closeness and distance.
Keeping them in groups is imperative for maintaining their physical and mental health. With larger groups you should pay attention to a well thought-out group constellation to be able to avoid stress and disputes as far as possible.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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