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Norwich Canary Bird Species: Personality, Food & Care Guide


Mar 3, 2023
adult Norwich canary (serinus canaria) bird


adult Norwich canary (serinus canaria) bird

The Norwich Canary, also known as the John Bull Canary, was named after an English city called Norwich. If you’ve ever wanted to own a Canary species, the Norwich Canary could be an excellent choice for you. They are a laid-back, amicable species that make excellent pets. However, they aren’t as agile or lively as some of the smaller Canary birds.

If you’re considering adopting a Norwich Canary, you’ll want to know a bit about the bird species first. We’ll cover everything you need to know in the guide below and much more.


Species Overview

Common Names: Norwich Canary, John Bull Canary
Scientific Name: Serinus Canaria Domesticus
Adult Size: 6.3 inches
Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years in the wild, up to 20 years in captivity


Origin and History

The Norwich Canary first made an appearance in the 15th century. The little songbirds were kept as cage birds by the wealthy families in the area. These birds are initially from the Canary Islands and are considered a “type Canary” because they are bred for their appearance instead of their song.

Spanish sailors first kept the birds as pets, and the birds didn’t become popular in Norwich, England until the Flemish weavers brought the birds with them in the 17th century. Soon, Norwich became famous for its Canary birds, not just the Norwich. In the 1800s, the English decided to start breeding Canaries. At that time, the Norwich was bred for appearance and songs.


The Norwich Canary is a docile, laid-back bird and is good-natured. They do well when kept in cages or aviaries. However, since they are timid, they shouldn’t be housed with Parakeets, Hookbills, or any aggressive bird.

The male should be kept separate from other males to ensure their singing quality. Males should be kept separate anyway, as these birds can be territorial, and keeping two males in a cage can lead to fights between the two birds.

The Norwich Canary in an aviary can be housed with other Canaries, Finches, and Hardbills as long as the aviary is spacious enough for them all to spread out. The male has a gorgeous singing voice, though that’s not what this species is bred for. You’ll be pleasantly surprised when this bird starts to sing, and everyone will stop to listen to his song.

  • Take up very little space
  • Low-maintenance pet
  • Very rarely bite
  • Messy, as they tend to fling seeds everywhere
  • They are territorial birds
  • Males sing frequently

Speech & Vocalizations

This species was bred for its colors and appearance instead of its song. However, the male has a robust, pleasant singing voice that makes anyone within range sit up and notice. If you’re searching for a Canary that isn’t loud but still has a nice voice, it might be the pet for you.

Norwich Canary Colors and Markings

The Norwich Canary is a robust bird with a broad body, heavy brows, and a full head. They grow to be around 6.3 inches and have a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years if they live in the wild. However, they can live up to 20 years in captivity.

This breed comes in the standard plainhead version and the crested version. In the 1800s, the birds’ colors were restricted to only reds and deep oranges; today’s birds come in colors such as cinnamon, white, clear, and variegated.

There are two types of Norwich Canary birds. The Colorbred Canary, though not as popular as the Song Canary, comes in fewer colors, including white.

On the other hand, the Songbird Norwich Canary comes in the colors above, including yellow, white, red, and brown, with yellow being the most popular color.

divider-birdCaring for the Norwich Canary

Caring for the Norwich Canary is much the same as caring for any Canary bird. Canaries, in general, like wide open space, and the Norwich Canary is no exception. Make sure that you have the bird in a spacious aviary or a roomy cage. Although some canary owners suggest cages should measure 3 feet in every dimension, the minimum size is 18” L x 24” H x 18” W. Make sure that the cage you provide has perches and vertical bars. You need small perches where your Norwich can get its foot exercise.

One of the perches in the cage needs to be set higher than the others since that is where the Norwich will perch to sleep.  The cage needs to be placed in a high spot in a room so that the Norwich can look down on you from its lofty perch.

Never clip any Canary’s wings, as they fly to get their exercise and won’t be able to if their wings are clipped. While Norwich Canaries are hardy birds and do well in room temperature settings, keeping them away from air conditioning vents, drafty areas, and open windows and doors is best. The direct heat from windows can also cause your Norwich to become too hot.

If you see your Norwich with its mouth gapped open and wings held away from its body, it is overheating. On the other hand, if your little Canary looks like a bar of fluffed-out fur, it’s too cold. Finally, ensure that you cover your feathered friend’s cage at night so it can rest. It’s not good for the bird to be kept up all night with artificial light, as it can adversely affect its health.

Common Health Problems

For the most part, these birds are hardy, healthy, and, if taken care of properly, will live for several years. However, it is best to keep them out of wet, cool, and drafty conditions.

Here are the health problems that you have to look out for:

  • Certain viral and bacterial viruses
  • Yeast infections like avian gastric yeast infection, candidiasis, and chlamydia
  • Bumblefoot
  • Mycoplasma
  • Tuberculosis
  • Avian Pox

If you think that your Norwich Canary is displaying troubling signs, it’s best to get the bird to a vet right away for diagnosis and treatment.

Diet and Nutrition

The Norwich Canary’s diet consists mainly of rape seeds and Canary seeds. You can find vitamin-coated Canary seeds at almost any pet store and some places online. Canaries love greens of any kind, and you can give them to your feathered pal daily, along with calcium in the form of a cuttlebone. You can feed your little songbird a variety of kale, dandelions, broccoli, celery, spinach, peas, and watercress.

For the occasional treat, feed your Norwich fruits, such as bananas, melons, apples, and oranges, with the peels off. You can even give the bird bits of hard-boiled eggs as an added supplement. Make sure to keep fresh water in the bird’s cage at all times: one bowl for bathing and one for drinking fresh water.


Your little Canary doesn’t need toys or mirrors to be entertained. However, it needs perches and vertical bars to climb on. It’s also a good idea to let the Norwich out in a room where the windows and doors are closed so the bird can fly around and exercise. Make sure that there are no other animals, such as cats, in the room and that there’s nothing your Norwich can run into and become injured on. Other than that, the only exercise the Norwich needs is to be in a spacious cage where it can move around at will.


Where to Adopt or Buy a Norwich Canary

These Canaries are somewhat rare and will run you anywhere from $80 to $150 from a reputable breeder or pet store. The breed is primarily available through breeders. However, it is possible that you might find one at bird shows, through bird clubs, or even on the internet.

No matter which way you find your Norwich Canary, do your research to determine that the person, group, or breeder you’re adopting or purchasing from is reputable and maintains sanitary facilities. The last thing you want is a Canary with health problems.



The Norwich Canary is an adorable bird bred for its appearance more than for its ability to sing. However, the male has a lovely voice and will entertain anyone who happens to be near him when he breaks out into song. If you’re considering adopting or buying one of these Canaries, remember that while these are low-maintenance pets, they still require care and love, so make sure you’re ready to give your feathered friend both.

Featured Image Credit: slowmotiongli, Shutterstock

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