Made famous by Looney Tunes’ Tweety, canaries are popular cage birds known for their bright yellow hue. However, domestic canaries also come in other colors.
Parakeets, dubbed lovebirds, often have green or blue plumage, but they can be yellow, too. Sometimes, it can be hard to tell the difference between the two.
Both canaries and parakeets come in various colors, but canaries are smaller and lighter. Canaries are songbirds, and they are often more vocal than parakeets. However, parakeets can learn to mimic speech, whereas canaries can only mimic other sounds. Parakeets are gentle, docile, and often bond with their owners. Canaries are shier and don’t like being handled.
The table below shows a quick list of characteristics and differences between parakeets vs. canaries*:
|Native geographic range||Eastern Atlantic Ocean||Worldwide in warm regions|
|Natural habitat||Pine and laurel forests to sand dunes||Grasslands, savannas, woodlands, open forests, farmlands|
|Size||3.9 to 5 inches||7 to 8 inches|
|Weight||0.5 to 0.7 ounces||1 to 1.4 ounces|
|Appearance||Robust bodies and short, cone-shaped beaks||Robust bodies and long, curved beaks|
|Colors||Yellow (most popular) and a variety of other colors||Green and blue (most popular) and a variety of other colors|
|Temperament||Somewhat timid and shy. Doesn’t usually like being handled||Gentle, docile, and easy to tame. Bonds with owners|
|Vocalization||Vocal with a varied range of vocalization. Can mimic sounds but not speech||Vocal. Can mimic sounds and speech|
|Nutrition (in captivity)||Granivores||Whole seeds and vegetables|
|Breeding||Spring; 13-14 days egg incubation time||Spring; 18-23 days egg incubation time|
|Common health problems||Bacterial and viral infections||Bacterial and viral infections, liver diseases, hormonal diseases, tumors|
|Lifespan||5 to 10 years||8 to 15 years|
*Data in the table above was sourced from research papers, veterinary websites, magazines, almanacs, and other official sources that are cited throughout this article.
15 Differences Between Canary Vs. Parakeet
Parakeets can sometimes be mistaken for canaries – and vice versa – but the truth is that they belong to different families.
Domestic canaries belong to the Atlantic canary (Serinus canaria) species. These birds are part of the Fringillidae family, which includes finches and siskins.
For a long time, it has been thought that canaries were domesticated in Germany in the seventeenth century. However, researchers now believe that this species was domesticated at least 200 years earlier in Italy.
Rather than a species, parakeets are a group of small-sized, long-tailed parrots belonging to 115 species and 30 genera in the Psittacidae family.
One of the most common types of domestic parakeet is the budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus), a colorful and lively bird that is only slightly larger than the canary and that can have similar plumage colors and patterns to canaries.
Even though there are many more parakeet types, the terms parakeet and budgerigar or budgie are often used interchangeably to refer to the same parrot species.
2. Native Geographic Range
Both canaries and parakeets thrive in warm climates, but they have different geographic ranges.
Budgerigars are native to Australia, even though they have been introduced to many areas around the world, and a feral population established itself in Florida.
Other parakeet species can be found in the wild in almost all warm regions around the globe, including India, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands.
Canaries are native to regions in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean, including the Canary Archipelago and Madeira.
These birds are one of the first examples of animals domesticated for non-utilitarian purposes, even though canaries were also used in mines to detect toxic gasses.
3. Natural Habitat
Canaries and parakeets alike live in a wide range of natural habitats.
Canaries prefer pine and laurel forests, but they are also found in arid areas, such as sand dunes, from sea level to altitudes over 5,500 feet.
Like most parrots, budgerigars are nomadic birds that prefer open habitats such as grasslands, scrublands, and open woodlands.
Parakeets are capable of surviving for long periods without water. Yet, they typically nest in areas near water sources. Droughts can drive the flocks to coastal areas or wooded habitats.
One of the main differences between a parakeet and canary is the size, with the former being around two times larger than the latter.
Considering the size, it doesn’t come as a surprise that canaries are lighter than parakeets.
Canaries are typically brightly colored regardless of their color. The head and underside usually appear to be a solid color, whereas the sides and wings can have dark streaks.
Females are similar to males, but they are smaller and generally duller in color.
Similar to sparrows and goldfinches, canaries have short yet robust beaks with a pointed end that allows them to break open seeds.
Parakeets have robust bodies similar to canaries, but their chests are less prominent. Nonetheless, they have longer tails and are as brightly colored as canaries.
Wild parakeets typically have a yellow forehead with a yellow and black head. The color transitions to a yellowish-green with black on the wings, while the back and underside are typically green.
However, pet parakeets present a greater color variety.
Similar to canaries, parakeet males are typically larger and brighter in color than females.
Domestic canaries and parakeets are available in a wide range of colors and shades.
Traditionally, canaries are yellow, and this is still the most popular color for the bird. However, they can have red, green, or blue plumage as well.
Bi-colored canaries – the so-called Pied variety – are typically white with localized splashes of pigment.
These splashes can be of any color but are most often red, yellow, or brown. Other colors and patterns are also possible.
Similar to canaries, parakeets come in a rainbow of colors.
According to the World Budgerigar Organization, there are nine base hues that determine the bird’s color: light green, dark green, olive green, grey-green, sky-blue, cobalt, mauve, violet, and grey.
Other varieties, including lutino (yellow), slate, anthracite, and albino, are also common.
Despite the numerous similarities between the two birds, canaries and parakeets have opposite temperaments.
Parakeets are friendly and docile birds that don’t mind being handled and form bonds with their owners.
Typically, single parakeets form stronger bonds with their owners and are more likely to learn to mimic words compared to pairs.
Canaries aren’t aggressive either, but they are rather shy and don’t like being handled. They are a better choice for people who want a songbird that needs little interaction with humans.
As mentioned, canaries are songbirds, and they are quite vocal.
Males typically sing after reaching sexual maturity, whereas females are more likely to chirp rather than sing.
These birds are intelligent and can learn to imitate sounds. Researchers even discovered that canaries can be trained to sing specific tunes. However, they are not able to imitate speech and don’t learn words.
Things are different with parakeets.
These parrots not only learn different tunes, but they can imitate different animals and even mimic human speech. Males typically learn faster than females – a trait that presumably is linked to their need to impress females during the mating ritual.
Both canaries and parakeets are omnivores, but pet canaries have fewer demands and can live healthy lives on a granivore diet. This means that they can eat grains and seeds exclusively.
If kept for breeding, the diet should be supplemented with softer plant materials and insects before mating.
In nature, parakeets eat a variety of seeds, fruits, berries, and other vegetation. In captivity, a diet consisting of up to 75-80% bird seed mix and the remainder made up of vegetables and fruits is recommended.
As cage birds, parakeets and canaries don’t need the constant care other pets may require. However, both species need plenty of space for exercise, a quiet spot for resting, and constant access to food and clean water.
Both parakeets and canaries can be kept at room temperature, but they should be placed away from blasting air-con or fans.
A difference between the two species is that canaries need nesting materials to build themselves a nest, whereas parakeets don’t build nests and are typically content with a cozy box.
Both canaries and parakeets are monogamous species, but canaries can display courtship behavior towards individuals that are not their mates.
Breeding usually occurs in spring, when the temperature is around 70°F, and there are at least 14 hours of light.
Parakeets also mate in spring, but they mate for life. If their partner dies, the remaining parakeet usually goes through a grieving stage and may or may not accept a new partner.
13. Common Health Problems
Canaries typically have robust health but are subject to a number of bacterial and viral infections.
Atoxoplasma and polyoma virus are two of the most common pathogens infecting canaries. They can also be subject to E. coli, avian pox, and giardia.
Sudden death is typically a sign of improper care and occurs due to starvation, obesity, aviary malaria, or toxic exposure.
Parakeets are more delicate and can develop an array of health issues ranging from infections to hormonal problems, obesity and liver or kidney issues, fungal infections, and cancerous tumors.
14. Exercise Requirements
While a healthy diet is important for both species, canaries and budgerigars also need plenty of exercises.
Free flying is essential for both species, so the wing tips should never be clipped. As an alternative to free flying, these birds should be kept in aviaries or cages that are large enough to allow for wing stretching and proper exercise.
Cage enrichments, such as sticks, mirrors, and branches set at different heights, could allow these birds to exercise properly.
Parakeets enjoy interacting with humans and can be trained to come when called and fly on a shoulder or hand. Canaries can be trained too, but they don’t like being handled.
Which Makes A Better Pet?
Deciding whether a parakeet is better than a canary or vice versa is a matter of preference, owner personality, and lifestyle.
Canaries are typically solitary and don’t particularly like being handled. They are ideal for busy households and people who want to enjoy the singing or chirping of a bird but don’t necessarily want to hear it talk or learn tricks.
Parakeets are more social and like interacting with their keepers. They are ideal for households with children old enough to understand proper handling; these birds can learn to talk and can even learn tricks.
However, parakeets are prone to more health problems than canaries and typically require a partner if they can’t get sufficient attention from the owners.