Roller Canary

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Is the Roller Canary right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: German Roller Canary; Hartz Mountain Roller Canary; Hartz Roller Canary; Edelroller; Harz Roller; Gesangskanarien; Canaris de chant

Scientific name: Serinus canaria domesticus

The basics:
One of the oldest known song canaries, the Roller Canary has been a prized pet songbird for hundreds of years, ever since it was first developed in the Hartz Mountain region in the Tyrol mountains of Germany sometime in the 1700s. Many people still consider it the finest of singers. When purchasing a single pet to sing for you, make sure that you deal with a seller who is willing to guarantee that you have a male.

The different songs that a good show quality Roller Canary may learn are called “tours.” There may be as many as 13 “tours,” although no known bird sings all 13. Some tours that resemble drumrolls are called “rolls,” and these drumroll-like songs give the bird its name. Other evocative songs include the “bell” tours, the “flute,” the “water roll” which hints of bubbling water, the “Glucke” tour which reminds one of a woodpecker, and the “Shockel,” which resembles laughter.

The Roller Canary has a legendary history among the miners of Germany. Perhaps they were the original canaries in the coal mine. It's said that when some older mines petered out, several families moved to the Tyrol region, bringing their canaries, and while the men sought work in the mines there, the families also bred their singing canaries for extra song and income, leading to the development of this special variety.

As Roller Canaries were bred with song as the first, last, and most important consideration, they are a smaller canary that can come in a range of colors and sizes. It sings with its throat feathers puffed up and its beak closed.

15 - 20 grams (0.5 - 0.7 oz.)

Average size:
11 - 13 centimeters (5 in.)

10 - 12 years

Behavior / temperament:
The male Roller Canary is a splendid, confident singer who can fill the home with song. They can truly sing hour after hour, if they are kept as a single pet, in a confortable cage, where they can fly, play, and feel confident in the home. Be aware that the very best singers do receive song training. Purchase training recordings of prize-winning singers, and allow your bird to listen regularly, so that he can learn from the best. A Roller Canary who has never heard another male sing has been cheated of his chance to develop his best voice, so buy the best recordings you can for your pet.

Although a Roller Canary who has never sung at all, yet otherwise seems healthy, is probably a female, then there are some good reasons why a healthy male might stop singing. They need to feel strong and full of testosterone to sing, so your bird is unlikely to sing much or at all while he's molting. If the bird is being terrified or teased by another pet, such as a cat watching the cage, or a parrot heckling the canary, then you would need to put a stop to any situation that frightens the canary. If the house is much too quiet, then the bird may fall silent too, just because it's a natural instinct to assume that a predator must be lurking if everyone has gone quiet. You might be surprised at how quickly your canary tunes up if you put on some classical music playing very, very softly.

Many commercial cages sold for Roller Canaries are too small. Take the time and trouble to find a cage that is at least 24”wide by 18” deep by 24” high. These birds cannot exercise by climbing. They need to fly, and the cage needs to give them space to do that. Placing the bird's cage fairly high should also help the bird's confidence. You need to provide adequate perches, of varying widths to allow the bird to change its grip and prevent wear on the feet. You can include toys like bells and swings. A mirror is a bad idea if it persuades a singing male that he has now won his mate and he needn't bother to sing so much. They also like food treats. A favorite foraging toy might be a millet spray, especially if you have soaked the spray for a few days in order to let it sprout.

Roller Canaries, like all canaries, must be protected from mosquitoes, which can carry the deadly and disfiguring canary pox, in addition to other dangerous diseases. There is a vaccine for canary pox and if you live in an area where it's a reality that mosquitoes may get into your home from time to time, strongly consider asking your vet for this one-time vaccine.

The hardy Roller Canary has been kept in captivity for hundreds of years, and they thrive on a relatively easy-to-provide seed-based diet. The backbone of most Canary diets is a high quality canary seed mix formulated especially for canaries, with a high proportion of canary, rape, flax, linseed, sterilized hemp, thistle, and not too much millet. Some high-end seed mixes also contain freeze-dried fruits and vegetable bits, and anise may give the mix a wonderful aroma.

You should regularly test the Roller Canary's seed for freshness by soaking and sprouting the seed. If the seed doesn't sprout, it's too old and stale for your canary. You can also buy special seeds that are easy to sprout in the home. These so-called soaking seed blends may include sunflower, safflower, and wheat that would otherwise be too large or too difficult for a Canary to crack by itself, yet once sprouted, they will gain in vitamins and become soft, delicious treats that your bird will love.

However, seed alone just isn't enough, even for the sturdy Roller Canary. Chopped fresh greens like unsprayed chickweed, dandelion greens, and oregano are highly recommended, but any healthy greens such as the flowering heads of broccoli or chopped fruit like apples, apricots, and so on, will add vitamins and flavor to the diet. You should also be able to find some pellets formulated especially for Canaries. Some people report that their Canaries first learned to eat their pellets after they sprinkled them with a little apple juice.

What about protein for the Roller Canary? Many people make a classic eggfood which consists of a hard-boiled egg chopped up well, with about 1 teaspoon of brewer's yeast (NEVER baking yeast) stirred into the mix. Don't leave eggfood sitting around. Remove what's left in the bowl after a couple of hours. It's especially important to provide the eggfood to molting or breeding birds.

Written by Elaine Radford


novice bird owners, terrific mimic, social little fellow, pure singing voice, little showoff


loud so


ample ventilation, birds magical voice

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