One of the delights of a small bird aviary is being able to keep a combination of different species, each with its own colors, song, and personality.
However, not all small bird species will cohabitate peacefully with other species, and some may have different nutritional needs, making it difficult to feed them properly in a shared habitat. In order to have a healthy, harmonious mixed flock, careful thought must go into your choice of birds.
Canaries and finches are common choices for small bird aviaries, but can they live happily together?
Peaceful finch breeds and canaries can peacefully cohabitate in a large aviary, but aggressive finches should not be kept with canaries, as they will bully the more docile bird. If you have a single cage rather than an aviary or wish to breed either species, they should not be housed together.
Canaries and finches are related species with similar needs and behaviors. Their sizes are comparable, and they can be fed a shared diet.
Their biggest difference has to do with temperament, and this varies even between individual breeds.
Unfortunately, you can’t just pick out a few canaries and whatever finches are available at your local pet store, put them together, and expect peace to reign. The size of your aviary, the breed of your finches, and the arrangement of perches and feeding stations must be factored into the process of setting up a mixed flock.
Passive Finch breeds
Canaries are docile birds that will cohabitate with almost any other small bird as long as they are left alone. Finches, on the other hand, may be aggressive or domineering. In a mixed flock, there is always the risk they will bully and attack other finches or species such as canaries.
When choosing finches to cohabitate with canaries, go for more passive breeds like the following.
- Star Finches
- Bengalese/Society Finches
- Double-barred/Owl Finches
- Gouldian Finches
- Plum-headed Finches
- Munia Finches
- Red-headed Parrot Finches
The Star Finch is among the timidest, so you will also need to make sure they are not overwhelmed by the larger canaries. More domineering finches that may be able to live peacefully with canaries in a large, carefully monitored aviary setting include:
- Zebra Finches
- Java Sparrows
- Strawberry Finches
- Lavender Waxbills
Aggressive finch breeds like the following should only be kept in same-species aviaries.
- Diamond Firetail Finches
- Cut-throat finches
- Bar-breasted Fire Finches
- Crimson Finches
- Cuban Melodious Finches
- Parson Finches
- Peter’s Twinspots
- Violet-eared Waxbills
Plentiful space is essential for a healthy, harmonious flock. Canaries and finches are active and excitable.
Both species need space to spread their wings and get out of each other’s way. For multiple birds, you will need a cage no less than 47 inches wide, and bigger is always better.
Birds should have room to flap and hop without being crowded by perches, toys, or other birds. For every pair, there should be at least one perch. Make sure there is an adequate number of high perches for when the birds settle in at night. This will reduce evening squabbling.
No matter how docile your combination of breeds or how large your aviary is, overcrowding will always result in bullying and fighting. Canaries prefer to be kept in pairs or very small flocks.
Finches need company, but a small flock is usually best for them as well. A sparsely populated aviary where everyone coexists peacefully will be much more enjoyable and sustainable than an aviary full of stressed birds that must be constantly monitored.
Multiple feeding stations
A final key to reducing squabbling and promoting harmony in your small bird aviary is providing multiple feeding and watering stations. Both finches and canaries may become protective of resources, leading to a constant fight over the food or water dish.
It’s best to provide at least two feeding stations—one for each pair of birds is optimal. You don’t need quite as many water dishes, but two or three are better than one.
Check regularly to make sure all of your birds are being allowed access to food and water. If resource guarding is a problem, you may need to add more dishes.
Any flock of birds must be monitored for bullying, but this is especially true of a mixed flock. A certain amount of chasing and scuffling is only natural, but constant fighting or bullying of individual birds indicates that something is unbalanced and can greatly stress your birds.
Spend several minutes each day just watching your birds. Take note of any birds that are constantly being chased or are constantly chasing.
Watch for scuffles involving lack of space and perch arrangement or fights over food and water dishes. Also, look for plucked feathers and lethargic or ill birds.
This daily checkup will allow you to adjust your cage arrangement for more peaceful interactions and keep an eye on birds that may be bullies or bullied.
Remove weak birds or bully birds
A bird that is even slightly unhealthy should be immediately removed from the flock and placed in its own cage. Birds that exhibit signs of weakness will be bullied by their flock members, even to death.
This will also keep disease from spreading if you are dealing with contagions.
If you have one bird that just won’t get along with anyone, you can also try removing it for a few days. Before returning it to the aviary, try rearranging perches and food stations, etc.
This will help shift the power dynamic so that the bird will be hesitant to pick right back up with its bullying.
Introduce birds in pairs
Introducing new birds in small groups or pairs rather than one at a time will reduce the likelihood that your new bird will be bullied. When moving your canaries and finches together for the first time, it’s best to introduce both species to a new or rearranged aviary at the same time.
This way, one group will not feel the aviary already belongs to them and become territorial.
Your flock should also be a balanced number of canaries and finches. Each species should at least have one other of its own species along with it.
A single canary in an aviary of finches is much more likely to get bullied than if there is a pair of them.
Provide leafy cover
If possible, provide fresh, leafy green cover for your shyer birds to hide behind. Make sure to use greens or branches that are safe for your birds to eat.
Toys can be used as cover as well but shouldn’t clutter up the cage too much. Your birds still need plenty of room to move around and away from each other.
No breeding pairs
You should keep your canaries and finches separate if you wish to breed either species. Birds in breeding conditions can be extremely territorial, and anything like a nest will be fought over endlessly.
They will also be unlikely to settle down enough to actually sit on eggs and raise young.
If you decide your canaries and finches are not right for each other, there are other birds you can keep with one species or the other instead. Of course, you will need to take precautions with these birds as well and take the temperaments of each species into consideration.
Doves are gentle birds commonly seen in mixed small bird aviaries. The key word here is aviaries.
A dove should not be kept in a regular cage with a canary or finch, only in a large space where both species can get away from one another if they wish. Otherwise, they may harass each other to sickness or death.
Button Quail can be kept in an aviary with a smaller bird because they inhabit an entirely different level of space. The little birds usually stay near the top of the cage while the quail stays at the bottom, each species practically ignoring the other.
This tiny parrot should only be kept with canaries or finches in a very large aviary as one bite from its strong beak could severely injure the more fragile species. Budgies do best with finches, as finches are not easily alarmed. In an appropriately sized aviary, the two species may coexist without interacting with one another at all.
There is always a risk when housing parrots with non-psittacine species as they are much stronger and often much larger birds. Larger parrots should never be housed with canaries or finches.
When it comes right down to it, canaries and finches are happiest when kept with their own kind. A canary will be happy on its own or with one fellow canary.
Finches should always be kept in groups but will be most comfortable and have the fewest issues if kept with other finches of a similar size and temperament. However, in a large, carefully arranged aviary, canaries and finches can live together without too many problems.