canary (kənârˈē) [key], common name for a familiar cage bird of the family Ploceidae (Old World finch family), descended from either the wild serin finch or from the very similar wild canary, Serinus canarius, of the Canary Islands, Madeira, and the Azores and introduced into Europe in the late 15th or early 16th cent. The wild birds are usually gray or green; selective breeding has produced both plain and variegated birds, mostly yellow and buff but sometimes greenish. Germany is traditionally the center for training and breeding canaries; the Harz Mt. and the St. Andreasberg canaries originated there. The birds are trained to sing by exposure to other birds of superior ability or to musical instruments. The song of roller canaries is a series of "tours," a complex set of rolling trills delivered with the bill almost closed; choppers sing with the bill open. Canaries breed rapidly in captivity and with proper care may live to 15 years or more. Canaries are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Passeriformes, family Ploceidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.