Unveiling the Canary Bird: A Deep Dive into Tenerife’s Iconic Feathered Friend!

The Canary bird

The Canary Islands are good places for birdwatching. However, the main question is: do the Canary Islands owe the name to this particular bird? No is the answer because the Canary bird is actually named after the Canary Islands and not the other way round. Canary bird, also known as Serinus Canaria, originates from the Macaronesian islands and belongs to the finch family. An original Canary was a greenish-colored finch with brownish streaking on the back. Nowadays the birds are mostly yellow, orange or red and they can measure up to 13 cm (5.1 inches). The canaries have been bred into more than 200 breeds and a variety of colors since the 17th century. On average the Canary bird lives 9 to 10 years, and with very good conditions they can live to be around 15 years old on their own.

Where can you find Canary birds?

Most Canary birds can be found in Gran Canaria, but they are also present on the islands: Tenerife, La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro. On Lanzarote and Fuerteventura the bird has only recently started to breed. The population of the Canary birds is estimated at 85,000-95,000 pairs in the Canary Islands. The Canary bird feeds mostly in flocks, eating mainly seeds, grasses and small insects. In the Canary Islands, you will find these beautiful little songbirds fluttering over farmland, in ravines or in the middle of pine forests in search of food.

Canary in a coal mine

From around 1900, the Canary birds became an important part of the English mining industry. That was because the birds are very sensitive to gases, which allowed the miners to find out when it was better to avoid a particular area in the mine. In fact, the miners took special carriers with extra oxygen along with them. With this, they were able to bring the Canary birds caught by gas back to life. As a result, the phrase ‘canary in a coal mine‘ was created. Its meaning is to refer to a person or a thing and to serve as an early warning of an upcoming threat.