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Background information for Canaries

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Canaries are native to the Canary Islands, Madeira and the Azores, and have been maintained as pets in Europe since the 16th century. Because canaries breed intensively in captivity, pairings over this time period have resulted in many distinct varieties and mutations. These mutations bear little resemblance to their green, free-ranging ancestors. Depending on the qualities desired, canaries may be bred for color variations, size and shape characteristics, feather traits or singing ability. The Norwich and Yorkshire are large, robust birds, while the Glouster, a miniature breed, is known for the cap of feathers on its head. American Singers and Rollers are bred especially for their vocal ability. Because today's canaries come from a small gene pool, mutations may be associated with genetic abnormalities and reduced life span. Birds with undesirable genetic traits should not be bred.


Credit: Used with permission of the Zoological Education Network.
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