What Are Red-Factor Canaries – Genetics And Color Feeding


Red-Factor canaries are canaries that sport a dazzling red or orange plumage. Colors can range from reddish-orange to orange to brick-red, copper, and bronze to even pink and apricot. Canaries gain this vibrant color range through a mixture of both genetics and an act known as “color feeding”.

Red-Factor canaries are not born red. Color feeding is the only way for red-factor canaries to bolster and retain their red feathers, as molting and the growth of new feathers will result in their natural plumage color returning.

Genetics - Can any Canary Become Red-Factor?

Not all canaries can be red-factor. To have the ability to become red, a canary must first carry a recessive gene known as the color-factor gene. A canary can only have the color-factor gene if an ancestor in their lineage is the red siskin.

Red-factor canaries were originally created in the 1920s-1930s. It is a hybrid breed born from a common canary and a red siskin; this genetic mix is what allows some canaries to be red-factor. Nowadays, as the red siskin is greatly endangered, breeders breed red-factor canaries among themselves to retain this recessive gene.

Canary on Branch

It’s important, when obtaining a red-factor canary, to have information on their bred lineage. Because of the limited gene pool for red-factors, inbreeding is done by some negligent breeders. Not only is this highly unethical, but it can also cause a plethora of health issues later in your canary’s life. Don’t obtain a red-factor without proper documentation.

Color Feeding - How to Maintain Red Plumage

Having the color-factor gene isn’t enough to maintain a red plumage; you have to color feed your canary every day, from the moment they are born. Color feeding is the act of mixing carotenoids, beta-carotene, and canthaxanthin into their daily diets. Like a flamingo eating shrimp to turn pink, a red-factor canary’s feathers will take on the color red from these chemicals.

Carotenoids, beta-carotene, and canthaxanthin can be naturally obtained through fruits and vegetables. Squash, carrots, apricots, mango, cantaloupe, yams, kale, spinach, and bell peppers are all chocked full of these chemicals. Giving these to your finch every day can help maintain their bright red feathers.

You can also find artificial supplements online that can boost the color of your red-factor. These supplements are typically added to a canary’s food or water. I find that adding these supplements to their water is ineffective, as they are not heavy drinkers. It’s best to add them to wet food.

New feathers that grow in are not naturally going to be red. This is why color feeding is important, especially when they are molting, otherwise your canary will eventually return to its natural yellow color.

Is it Ethical to Color Feed Canaries

Color feeding with fresh fruits and vegetables is a totally ethical way of maintaining the red-factor color. Not only does it coincide with a canary’s natural daily diet, organic and fresh produce will offer them more nutrients than a diet of just seeds or pellets.

Cute Canary

There is some controversy over the use of pre-made red-factor meals and red-factor supplements. These do not add to a canary’s daily nutrients nor do they generally benefit the health of your bird. They don’t harm your bird, but they don’t help them either.

Generally, it’s up to the owner whether they want to go the natural or artificial route.

Red-Factors are a Lot of Work

It’s vitally important that your red-factor is not inbred. This can result in days or weeks of digging out info on breeders. Inbred birds can be fatally ill or have major complications later in life, and it’s not right for them to suffer for it.

Not only do you need to do your homework, you constantly need to give your bird food that will continue to produce the red-factor color. There’s no guarantee your canary will maintain the same hue you got them in, and changes in diet can result in duller reds, lighter oranges, or even pinks.

If you are getting a red-factor canary in hopes they are easy to take care of for a consistent red hue, then reconsider your options and get a common yellow canary. They sing and play just as much as a red-factor does.

If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to comment below!

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