Canaries: Sex Addicts of the Finch World

Humans have set up canaries to be good breeders, but we may have gone a bit overboard. I just brought home a pair of canaries, and they are very interesting to watch. They are in breeding season now, and the show must go on.

Most of the year, males and females are kept separately in big flight cages. When I brought my pair home, I got a special breeding cage for them, with a divider. Male on one side, female on the other. I named them Rico (for Enrico Caruso) and Bubbles (for Beverly Sills) since they are waterslagers, the very best singers in the canary world.

Rico sang his heart out, and Bubbles sat around looking pretty. I gave them some burlap to tug on, a nest bowl, and lots of food. The signs to watch for were vigorous pulling of the burlap threads and feeding each other. Canaries are super in-tune with the length of the days, so I worried they would be getting too much light in our office. But that didn’t seem to bother them. Soon, I observed them feeding each other. Still not pulling on the burlap, but I gave them some other materials, and put them together. I saw them feeding each other, and removed the divider.

Too soon! Bubbles tried her best to kill Rico, so I put the divider back in. Almost immediately Rico began singing again. Bubbles wasn’t buying it. She went about eating and bathing and looking at the nest without interruption.

Then, quite unexpectedly, I heard a quieter, unmelodious chirping. Looking up, I saw Bubbles with her tail in the air, chirping away. She had Rico’s complete attention. He fed her, he sang, he did everything he could think of to convince me to let him in with her. Once more, I removed the divider.

Whoa! Rico was on her like a moth on bird seed! In his enthusiasm, he knocked Bubbles off her perch. Minutes later, he was trying again, and being young and inexperienced, he tried to mount the wrong end. Oh, dear. But a few hours later, he had figured it out, and Bubbles was really patient with him. They mated happily all day. All. Bloody. Day.

The nest building hadn’t been moving forward very well. I discovered a different material that they seem to like better, and they are working on the nest together.

So for the first few days when they had unrestricted access to each other, they were ready at the crack of any light bulb and weren’t too ready to stop when we shut down for the night. I lost count of the sessions, which is a shame. I wanted to see if there is a world record that they could beat.

Just as I grew convinced that we were on the way to a nest full of babies, Bubbles had a grumpy day, and tried to kill Rico. Panicking, I applied the divider once more. Within five minutes, the little slut was near the barrier, her tail in the air, chirping and begging. Really, Bubbles? You really want to go there when you just tried to kill him?

Her bad mood passed, they kissed and made up, and finally the nest is taking shape. I learned that it will take a week for the hen to start laying her eggs. Now I just have to come up with more opera singer names for the chicks.

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday.


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