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American Singer Song


To the uninitiated, all canaries sing beautifully. However, given the opportunity to hear a canary that has been bred strictly for song quality one quickly realizes that these birds are in an entirely different league than any other kind of canary.

American Singer canaries were developed in the 1930's by a group of women in the Boston, Massachusetts area who sought to create a canary that would be ideal for the home. This bird should be both musical and attractive with a song that was louder than that of the soft-voiced German Roller canary (which was the only song type canary widely available in the United States at the time) yet not so loud as to be unpleasant.

The American Singer is a cross between the Border type canary and the German Roller song canary. Ideally, approximately 68% of an American Singer’s parentage is of Roller heritage and 32% is of Border heritage. If starting a unique strain of American Singers, five years of breeding is required before the offspring can be called American Singers.

The American Singer possesses the best traits of both sides of its genetic inheritance - the musical song of the Roller and the pleasing looks and steady temperament of the Border. Its song is louder in volume, freer, and more varied than the Roller but softer than the Border’s chopper-type song.

Over the past 70 years, dedicated American Singer canary breeders have made great strides in the development of the breed. The resulting improvements in song have produced the Singers of today which are noteworthy for high quality song. The sometimes loud and brash American Singers of yesteryear have been replaced with songsters that display the remarkable variety, melodiousness, and - above all- the outstanding freedom for which the American Singer canary is prized.


Visit Judging of the American Singer for discussion of how American Singers are judged at shows.





Before discussing what makes a song “good”, mention must be made of the absolute need for freedom in a bird. The simplest definition of freedom is the willingness of a bird to offer its song.


This definition of freedom is a little simplistic as in order to be successful at the shows a bird needs to also be willing to offer its entire repertoire – birds often have something I refer to as a “short’ and a “long” song (this is entirely different from birds that have songs that are simply too short all of the time). Nervous birds will often sing their “short” song over and over again on the show bench while at home in familiar surroundings they sing a much longer song. This can only be discovered, of course, if one actually listens to ones birds carefully, which some breeders neglect to do. Length of song is a bit subjective and requires the ability to discern whether or not the bird is simply singing the same song with no breaks between or actually singing a song that lasts longer. At an absolute minimum, in my opinion, a bird should sing a song of 30 seconds – preferably longer.


Freedom is absolutely vital – it will do you no good whatsoever to breed a bird that sings like Pavarotti if the bird will only sing once in a while. Such a bird is not even worth much as a pet! And freedom is genetic- if it is not in the bird’s genes, no amount of show training will create it. American Singer breeders do well to always bear this in mind- freedom must come first. One can work with song development by tutoring, but you must have the freedom first.


What differentiates a high quality song from one of lesser quality? There are a number of factors, some of which are: tone, melodiousness, variety, range, and volume.

Many judges will state that tone is the single most important element of a canary’s song. Tone can be defined as music or sound with reference to its pitch, quality, and strength. To those who prefer a simple explanation- such as myself- this refers to the bird’s ability to sing on key with a beautiful, strong, rich fullness to the song. A bird without good tone can sing the best song ever produced by a canary, but it just doesn’t sound good.

Melodiousness refers to the pleasing, harmonic way the bird puts his song together. The song should flow from one passage to another in a pleasant, coherent stream of sound rather than bounce from one sound to the next with little connection. A song cannot be simply a collection of notes, it needs to be strung together like pearls – strung together, pearls can make a beautiful necklace or bracelet but separately they are just a pile of pearls. Unstrung pearls are still beautiful, but they are much less impressive. Melodiousness can be viewed as the string upon which the notes are strung together to create a beautiful piece of music.

Variety in simplest terms refers to the collection of distinct notes, tours, or song passages the bird sings. A bird which repeats the same limited number of notes and passages over and over again lacks variety. The term variety could also be used to more broadly describe the way in which a bird mixes the notes and tours- singing notes one way and then another and changing the order of passages and tours

Range refers to the lowest and highest pitches a bird can sing. Rollers sing in the low range while Borders tend to sing in the high range. An American Singer should be able to sing both low and high notes.

Volume is a grey area as the acoustics of the judging room are highly variable from show to show – basically, a bird must be loud enough to make himself heard over other birds but not so loud as to be overpowering.  In the home, an American Singer should not be so loud that one cannot carry on a conversation without having to speak louder when the bird is singing.

For more information, check out Song Faults and What Makes A Champion Bird.



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Last modified: 06/30/15