Do Canaries Recognize Their Owners?

By Cristina Pascual, Veterinaria. July 18, 2023
Do Canaries Recognize Their Owners?

The canary (Serinus canaria forma domestica) is one of the most famous domestic birds in the world. Different birds kept as pets have different reputations. For example, the grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus) is known for its high levels of intelligence and well-developed personality. The canary is perhaps best known for their beauty and their enchanting birdsong. They are less well known for their intelligence. Some people even believe they cannot recognize their owners and do not establish the close bonds other domestic bird species create with their guardians.

At AnimalWised, we investigate canary intelligence by asking do canaries recognize their owners? We also examine how we might help encourage positive relationships between canaries and owners.

You may also be interested in: How Do Canaries Sleep?

Do canaries recognize their owners?

Yes, canaries can recognize their owners. Not only do they have the intelligence to recognize individual humans, but they enjoy a certain level of company and interaction. Although not as sociable as some other types of domestic bird species, they are able to bond with their guardians.

An ability to bond with a guardian does not mean canaries will bond with all owners. For a canary to recognize their owner, a bond must be gradually created over time. Canaries are wary of strangers and can be distrustful of humans in general. With time and patience, it can be possible to forge a bond with a canary and establish a relationship of mutual trust.

How do canaries recognize their owners?

Of the five senses, sight and hearing are by far the most useful to birds in their way of life. These senses are essential in various tasks such as searching for food and defending against predators. They are also essential for the development of interspecific relationships (i.e. relationships between different species).

For this reason, we can say that canaries are capable of recognizing their keepers by looking at them or hearing their voices. When looking to bond with these birds, it is important to spend time with them as this will allow them to develop their visual recognition of you. It will also be important to have audible interactions, which can be in the form of whistling, singing or simply talking to the canary.

Singing to your canary can be beneficial because they are a type of songbird. If your canary is not singing, discover how you can encourage this behavior with our tips to help a canary sing.

Do Canaries Recognize Their Owners? - How do canaries recognize their owners?

How do I know if my canary recognizes me?

There are several signs that indicate that your canary trusts you and recognizes you as a reference figure in their life:

  • Resting in your presence: we can know a canary is resting when they have one leg raised and their eyes are closed. In the presence of strangers, canaries tend to remain very alert. When they are completely comfortable and calm with the people around them, it is common for them to adopt this resting posture. If you see your canary resting in this position, it will mean your presence generates peace of mind.

  • Tilt their head to the side: this is a typical behavior that is usually observed between canaries that live together or are a pair. It consists of an invitation to clean or groom. When a canary makes this gesture to another, it is asking them to clean, scratch or groom them. When canaries have a close relationship with their caregivers, it is also common for them to perform this gesture in front of them.

  • They groom you: grooming is a typical behavior among canaries that live together. It is not only a method to keep clean and free of parasites, but it is also a way to show friendship and reciprocal understanding. This same behavior can be observed in canaries that are very trusting with their keepers. If your bird climbs on your head and begins to peck you gently, you should feel very lucky.

Keep your canary free of parasites by discovering how to deworm your canary in our related article.

Do Canaries Recognize Their Owners? - How do I know if my canary recognizes me?

How to make my canary recognize me

We have already confirmed that canaries recognize their owners, but you may be at a stage where they are still fearful or fretful in your presence. Forging a human-animal relationship always takes time. With the arrival of a new individual in the family, a period of adaptation begins in which both parties need time to get to know each other and gain confidence. This is as true of the canary as it is for any domestic animal such as dogs or cats.

If you have just adopted a canary, you will want to help them recognize you. To begin to forge a relationship of trust and friendship, we recommend you consider the following tips:

  • Provide a safe place to live and rest: the canary's cage should become their refuge and resting place. By providing the animal with a safe environment, they will feel calm and help set them on the path of trust with their human guardian. In addition, you must take into account all the basic care a canary needs for health and wellbeing. Without this basic level of care, the canary will be too stressed to create a positive relationship with you. Learn more about caring for a canary in our related article.

  • Allow them to leave the cage daily: although their cage is a safe space for the canary, it is important they have the opportunity to go out every day to explore and make small flights. It is on these outings that canaries begin to get closer to their keepers as they gain confidence. When you let your canary out of the cage, you will need to stay calm. Speak in a soft and collected tone. Doing this daily will help forge a bond, as well as show the canary they can expect some level of freedom. Eventually, you should get to the point where you can leave the cage door open for a certain period of time so they can come and go with relative freedom. A canary's cage should be a refuge and not a prison.

  • Let your canary set the pace of the relationship: at the beginning of the relationship, canaries tend to be distrustful and distance themselves from the people around them. In these cases, we should never force interaction. This can be a very unpleasant experience for the bird and further hinder the development of a strong bond. With time and patience, the animal themselves will gradually approach us for interaction.

  • Do not pick up the canary with your hands: canaries tend to suffer a lot of stress when picked up with the hands, so avoid it. Let the animal approach you when they feel sufficiently safe and confident.

If you consider that you are not going to be able to cover all your canary's needs, we recommend that you reflect on whether adopting a canary is a good idea for you. Although canaries can have healthy and rewarding relationships with humans, they will not provide the same levels of affection and interaction as do some other pets. For some guardians, this will be the ideal relationship. For others, keeping a canary as a pet will not be mutually beneficial.

Learn more about caring for canaries with our article on why a canary has stopped singing.

If you want to read similar articles to Do Canaries Recognize Their Owners?, we recommend you visit our Basic care category.

  • Figueras, E. (2019). Canaries: selection, care, behavior, feeding and reproduction.

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