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Articles > Confessions Of A Canary Convert

1 Apr 2005


By Madeleine Franco

Slightly over a year ago, I was not unlike many “bird people” you might come across.
Those of us who keep canaries are quite familiar with a conversation that goes something like this:

“So, I understand you’re a breeder. What birds do you breed?”
“I breed canaries.”
“Oh, the little birds? Is that all?”
“Yes, they’re quite fascinating; you’d be surprised.”
“Oh, well, I’ve never been much interested in the little birds.”

I myself took a chance on a canary offered on the Bird Club’s raffle primarily because of the accoutrements, especially the flight cage that came with the bird, because I knew I had a need for such a cage for one of my other birds. I had every intention to give the bird back to the breeder, until I saw the forlorn look on her face that perhaps I didn’t appreciate the brilliant yellow American Singer that she had bred and selected especially for the raffle table. “Oh, I’ll take him back in a heartbeat,” she said, nearly in tears. “He’s my very best singer.”

And, she would have taken him back, but I somehow thought destiny had brought me and that bird together. The truth known, however, I was somewhat afraid of the little guy. As one who keeps “big birds,” including some of the largest cockatoos, I had always thought canaries to be somewhat delicate and fussy. Well, it’s true, they won’t hold up to blatant abuse, but I’ve always said that when I come back, I want to be one of my birds, so “abuse” is not even in the cards. As ridiculous as it sounds, I just didn’t think I was up the task of caring for something as small as a canary. My partner has worked as a nurse in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and perhaps my idea of what it means to care for something so small had been influenced by that. After all, aren’t these small birds delicate in constitution, fussy, hard to please and finicky eaters? The answer is no, no, no, and emphatically no!

Another look into the breeder’s doleful eyes, and my decision was made. I’d take on the responsibility of this canary, if only not to have to face her again as the insensitive ingrate she’d take me to be. I was hopeful I would be a quick study before this tiny creature succumbed to my ineptitude.

Approximately a year later, I’m happy to report that “Riley,” as in “The Life of . . . ”, who enjoys the full run of a rather large cage with Megan, his cage mate and the love of his life, is every bit the bird my Moluccan cockatoo is. I acquired Megan, of course, because I was concerned that Riley had been singing and singing to no avail. I thought it somehow selfish not to reward his faithful and diligent concerto. Already having produced a family of their own, Riley still sings, Megan is on eggs, and the two of them are perfect cage birds as anyone could ever want, rewarding me constantly with candid glimpses into their well ordered and happy lives. They’re housed in my office, and I couldn’t ask for more pleasant roommates. It’s absolutely impossible to have a genuinely “bad” day with them around, and I just love what they’re teaching me. I’m grateful to them for sharing with me their feeding rituals, the singing and flying lessons, the indulgent and comical baths, and the lovers’ spats. It’s nothing less than magical. Certainly, it was worth taking the chance for all the joy they bring.

Copyright © 2006 Madeleine Franco, all rights reserved. Madeleine Franco, an award-winning business writer/presenter and founding president of the Southern Nevada Parrot Education, Rescue & Rehoming Society (SNPERRS), is an avicultural hobbyist who tends a flock of approximately 30 non-breeding, highly platonic and interactive pet parrots. She is the owner/operator of Premium Pine Cones, LLC (www.premiumpinecones.net), specializing in remedies, toys and diversions for parrots that pluck but would like to kick the habit.