This section is from "The American Cyclopaedia", by George Ripley And Charles A. Dana. Also available from Amazon: The New American Cyclopędia. 16 volumes complete..
Canary Bird (fringilla Canaria, Swains.), a well known member of the finch family, a native of the Canary islands, but naturalized in Europe and the United States. The native bird differs materially from the variety commonly seen in cages; the adult male has a much darker bill; the general color of the plumage varies from a greenish yellow on the front, chin, throat, and breast, to a golden yellow on the belly; the sides, thighs, and under tail coverts are dirty white; the top of the head, back, and upper tail coverts, brown ash, with a longitudinal brown spot down each feather; the wing feathers, brown black, with pale brown edges, margined with white near the back. The color of the female is more dingy and indistinct, having much less greenish yellow about it. In size it is smaller than the domesticated species. It builds in thick bushes and trees, pairs in February, and lays from four to six pale blue eggs, hatching five or six broods in a season. It is very familiar, and frequents the gardens of Madeira, where its song is highly prized. - The domesticated species is about 5£ inches long, with a pale bill, and the whole plumage of a rich yellow color, with the edge of the wing yellowish white; the colors of the female are less bright.
The original stock is said to have been imported from the Canary islands about the 14th century; in Europe it has been mixed with the aberdevine (carduelis spinus), the venturon (fringilla citrinella), the serin (fringilla serinus), the goldfinch (carduelis communis), and various other birds, producing hybrids, fertile and sterile, of great variety of color and characters. There are about 50 varieties of the canary. They are bred in immense numbers on the continent of Europe, and many are imported into the United States from Germany. The two varieties most prized by amateurs are the jonquil and the mealy, which combine the greatest beauty of color with excellence in song; the latter have a bright orange cap, this color pervading the whole plumage, except on the wings and tail, which are deep black; the former have the neck, back, and wings waved and mottled with purplish gray tints. The German birds have often considerable green in their plumage. The most mottled varieties may be as good singers as those of the purest colors. The song of the canary is familiar to every one. "With less power, compass, and variety than the nightingale, it has greater powers of imitation, a better ear, and a better memory.
It becomes very tame, is capable of attachment to man, and is easily educated to perform tricks at public exhibitions. Their dispositions are as various as their colors. They begin to pair about the middle of February, and will make a very neat nest if the proper materials are supplied to them; they will also lay in nests artificially prt-pared. The time of incubation is 13 or 14 days; the number of eggs is usually six. The young partake of the physical characters of the parents, whether gay or mottled. Their favorite food is canary seed, to which a little rape and hemp seed may be occasionally added; they should have light, fresh air, plenty of water to drink and bathe in, and free access to sand or gravel; a sprig of chickweed or a leaf of lettuce is highly relished by them. The canary will thrive very well on this food; when breeding, the yolk of a hard-boiled egg should be given them. Their diseases are due principally to improper or too much food; cleanliness and attention to sifting their seed will generally protect them from parasitic insects.