The plumage is one of the most characteristic elements of birds. The feathers expand the flight surface, improve aerodynamics, and maintain waterproofing and body temperature. The mutations and adaptation processes to different media produced during millions of years of evolution have also provided the plumage with an incredible variety of colors and shapes.
From the intense reds, blues, and greens of the great American parrots to the yellows, greens, and reds of goldfinches or greenfinches, birds offer us an extensive color range that enriches our landscapes and that fulfill various functions, such as camouflage, recognition, and group cohesion, and even sexual and reproductive function.
The human contribution is added to this intense creative activity of nature. Breeding and species selection have made it possible to enrich and diversify what evolution and species selection have created. And in the field of ornithology, the paradigm of human intervention is, without a doubt, the canary. Few birds have a variety of ranges and colors like this little bird. And of all, surely one of the most colorful groups is that of the red factor canaries.
The red factor canary has developed from the crossing of the canary with the red siskin or also called Venezuelan Cardinal, which, like other species of birds that have evolved naturally, contains in its inheritance the genes that give it its characteristic red color. But the red canary is not capable of manufacturing the pigments that give color to its plumage.
To avoid loss of color, it is important to add to its diet foods containing these pigments or much more powerful artificial colors, which help give the feathers intensity and shine.
These were bred from the 20s, becoming the only canary of its species that has the color red in its plumage. The person who developed this species of bird was a doctor of German nationality named Hans Duncker.
The natural habitat of the red factor canaries
Like all species of canaries, these birds get their name because the first species discovered were in the Canary Islands. These birds attracted attention from the first moment, thanks to their beautiful song. The original canary was a simple finch with a green color, which was not something completely extraordinary at that time.
When the Europeans were delighted with their singing, they began to carry out export efforts in the 16th century. After a few years, they began to have canary babies, and that was when several mutations developed.
At present, canaries are not even a trace of what their ancestors were when it comes to what they look like; however, their song is still one of the most beautiful. As for the canary factor network, there is no specific place where it can be found because of its colors and appearance, in general, are thanks to breeding. However, they are ubiquitous to find in European and Latin American houses.
Factors influencing the color of the red factor canary
We must emphasize that originally the Canary (Serinus Canaria) was not prepared to deposit the red pigments in the feathers and thus show a plumage, partly or totally red. It is by hybridizing with the red siskin of Venezuela, and being his fertile offspring when the canary acquires that capacity and the first red factor canaries emerge.
To better understand it, if we took a wild canary from the Islands (originally pure) and fed it red pigments, it would never get a single red feather; on the other hand, if we took any domestic canary (Serinus Canaria Domestica), be it color, song or posture, and we administer the same diet, it will show red feathers, the intensity of which will vary depending on the “amount of blood” of the red siskin that runs through its veins.
There are several factors that influence these species of canaries to have that characteristic plumage:
- The proximity or distance to its predecessor, the red siskin: This is the first and most important factor that will condition a good pigmentation in the Canaries. Therefore, it will manifest in a better or worse way a beautiful and luminous red livery. This condition is decisive in the rest of the factors that affect pigmentation. Thus, canaries with parents very close to the red siskin will need a minimal amount of artificial pigments for their coloring, requiring higher doses of colorants, those that are far from the red siskin. In fact, the first canaries originating from this cross did not show a red coloration, but orange, and it was not until the emergence of artificial pigments in Ornithology (Canthaxanthin, Carophyl, and Beta-carotene mainly) when the reds you can see currently in exhibitions that can be obtained are not achieved.
- Structure of the feathers for the optical refractive factor: The way in which the feathers will absorb or repel the light that falls on them; thus, as the canary shows more or less blue refraction (for many authors, it is recessive and cumulative in nature), it will show a brighter red the more refraction it shows and, in the same way, the less pigmenting it will need for optimal coloring. In the specimens with good refraction, red is especially bright and clean. When the color is more opaque, it means that there was a mixture with the brown pheomelanin, and when the red is more tan, it means that it was mixed with the scattered black eumelanin. The refraction effect is much more evident in melanic canaries (by preventing the manifestation of pheomelanin), but also in lipochromes, it must be very taken into account.
- The specimens category: Another factor that we must consider is the category (distribution of the lipochrome on the mantle) of the specimens. Thus, in the case of canaries with the Mosaic category (distribution of Lipochrome in certain areas), they begin to pigment once they have left the nest, around 40 days. In any case, provided they are complete, all wing and tail feathers. In this category, special care is taken that the specimens do not lose any of the large feathers. When they come out again, they would do so with the rest of the pigmentation, which would seriously penalize the animal. In the case of the intense ones (distribution of the lipochrome throughout the pen), and due to the very structure of the intense pen, which produces the same effect as in the case of the optical refractive factor mentioned above, a red is achieved optimal and luminous in an easier way and with less quantity of pigments or lower mixtures in Canthaxanthin.
In the case of red factor canaries, food is essential for the correct manifestation of red lipochrome. With Food, reference is not only made to those natural or synthetic foods that have favorably coloring influence, but also those that harm it.
As mentioned above, in the first copies of the red factor, the color they showed was Orange, this being more intense, the closer it is to its predecessor. Therefore, the breeders enhanced the color with foods rich in carotenes, such as pepper, carrot, or tomato.
These foods provide what we know as Beta-carotene, which by itself is not capable of pigmenting canaries to Red, which is why other products are needed to achieve the optimal Red; these are Canthaxanthin and carophyll.
The way to administer the pigments can be through food (inbreeding pastes) or water. The administration through the water poses several disadvantages since for example it considerably dirties the drinkers and the birds, when wanting to bathe in them, they can stain of pigment where they should not, besides, these pigments are affected by light, so If you choose to administer them through water, it should be done in opaque and ball troughs.
The technique most used by the breeders of this species of canaries is to administer it in the breeding paste, which in general are usually morbid type, since this type of paste acquires moisture through added fats and, as we have commented, pigments they are deposited in the feathers through fat.
For this same reason, in the molting season, a little more fatty seeds (hemp, Linseed, etc.) are added to the red factor canaries to facilitate the deposit of red pigments. It will also favor pigmentation, all those products rich in carotenoids, in general, those of Red color (Tomato, Pepper, Carrot), and vegetables such as spinach or Broccoli.
Traditionally, the red canary’s pigmentation had been enhanced by adding to its diet foods, carrots, for example, which contained a high proportion of pigments. However, bird lovers have achieved more effective results using artificial pigments that improve the intensity and brightness of the color.
Three types of colorants are used in the breeding of the red factor canary: canthaxanthin, red carophyll, and beta-carotene:
- Canthaxanthin: This pigment is found naturally in a colorful mushroom called “chantarellus cibarius.” The chemical synthesis pigment has a very intense red color, tending to violet. It is water-soluble, but it is customary to use it mixed with the breeding paste. It is the most powerful dye and gives the birds an intense red color, which varies according to the doses used.
- Carophyll: It is obtained from canthaxanthin and has pigmenting properties practically identical to those of this colorant. The main difference is in the microencapsulated molecular structure that makes the dye’s assimilation slower and more gradual.
- Beta-carotene: In nature, beta-carotene is found in many fruits and vegetables, among which carrots or tomatoes stand out. As a chemical, beta-carotene has a dark orange color. It is water-soluble so that it can be administered both with the breeding paste, the most used system, and with water. The degree of pigmentation it provides is low but instead gives a great shine to the plumage. That is why, for good results, beta-carotene has to be mixed with canthaxanthin or carophyll. Besides, beta-carotene is transformed into vitamin A and has an antioxidant action on cells, delaying aging.
Fun facts about the Red Factor Canary
These are some fun facts that you should know about the Red Factor Canary:
Sounds and songs of the Red Factor Canary
The canaries have always been characterized by their beautiful song, which is why bird lovers are so struck by it, and they get excited every time they hear them. However, red factor canaries are not recognized precisely for their song.
This canary species is not very noisy, and although it is not specifically trained to sing, it does emit a beautiful, albeit very soft, sound. They love being in a couple, so you are unlikely to see a lone canary factor network.
Although their main gift is not singing, they are inveterate in music. In general, the owners of these birds leave the radio on with music so that they can enjoy and relax.
They can breed with yellow canaries
Red factor canaries can live and breed with yellow canaries without any problems; however, this is not recommended. The reason is simple, the offspring between both birds can be born with the color of the feathers diluted, and it would lose that vibrant red that characterizes it so much.
The canary factor network prefers interactions with humans, where there is no physical contact. This bird does not like to be stroked or carried with the hands. The best thing their owners can do is to avoid physical contact as much as possible to avoid causing them stress.
For this reason, it is extremely important that the bird is in a spacious cage so that it can feel comfortable at home. Toys or accessories can be added to make them happier.
They are straightforward to care for; they are not aggressive and are generally very calm. They have the peculiarity of quickly recognizing their owners and always enjoying it when they play with them, as long as there is not completely close contact.
This species of bird usually lives up to ten years on average if it receives its ideal care. For this reason, it is important to feed it properly, without excesses. Also, they must be provided with a suitable space for them to be calm.