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Can Canaries Be Set Free?

Can Canaries Be Set Free? [Chances of Survival in The Wild]

Last Updated on: 10th November 2022, 09:09 pm

Perhaps you can no longer provide for your canary and need to find them a new place to live. Since canaries live in the wild, you may think setting them free is the right option.

Perhaps your canary escaped your home and found its way outdoors through an open door or window, so you want to know if your pet bird will survive in the wild.

Unfortunately, pet canaries shouldn’t be set free, as they’re unlikely to survive the extreme temperatures and have fewer survival skills and slower reaction times than wild birds.

Can Pet Canaries Survive in The Wild?

A canary raised in captivity can’t survive in the wild. At best, it’ll endure for a couple of days before succumbing to predators, the elements, or a lack of food and water.

The main problem with domesticated canaries (and birds in general) is that the comfort and monotony of captivity blunt their instincts, making it harder for them to survive in the wild.

The Journal of Animal Ecology studied how early development conditions and diets affected the post-release mortality rates of captive animals.

The research found that birds reared on more ‘commercial’ diets were more likely to die when let out into the wild. In contrast, birds used to ‘naturalistic’ foods, like worms, seeds, nuts, and fruits, fared better.

Even though the cited study was carried out on pheasants, which are much larger than canaries, the fundamentals are the same. Any animal not used to hunting and foraging for its food will experience difficulties when forced to do so by circumstances.

Why Can’t Domestic Canaries Survive in The Wild?

Various factors lower your pet canary’s likelihood of surviving in the wild.

A pet canary will have slower reflexes and a dampened survival instinct. This can make it fall victim to these dangers more quickly and easily:


Many animals target canaries as prey. These animals are skilled at ambushing, stalking, or pouncing when the time is right. Even if your canary tucks itself away in a lofty tree, some animals can still reach them.

Since your pet canary hasn’t spent its entire life watching out for these predators, it’ll have more difficulty avoiding them. Common predators of the canary include:

  • Hawks
  • Falcons
  • Owls
  • Eagles
  • Snakes
  • Feral cats

Windows and Glass Buildings

The Condor estimates that over 365 million birds in the U.S. die from colliding with buildings yearly. Most birds can’t recognize glass and fly into it at full speed, head-first, which can have fatal consequences.

can pet canaries survive in the wild?

Environmental Toxins

Canaries have a long history as poisonous gas detectors in British mines, specifically because they’re sensitive to poor-quality or toxic air.

As the rates of air pollution increase worldwide, the chances are that your canary will be fatally affected if you release it in an urban area.

For one, birds have unique respiratory systems designed to inhale as much oxygen as possible to allow for seamless flight.

This means they’re just as likely to inhale fumes in high quantities. Your canary may fly into areas with poorer air quality than your home, damaging its respiratory system.

Furthermore, the Indian Journal for Anesthesia discovered that canaries have a high basal metabolic rate. Therefore, they react much faster to toxic gas exposure than other animals.

They’re particularly sensitive to carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and methane, all of which are emitted at high levels in urban areas.


Wild birds are taught by their parents to forage for food in their early developmental stages. They gradually build on these foraging and meal-hunting skills as they grow older.

In contrast, pet canaries are mostly on commercial diets and prepared meals. Therefore, they don’t build the skills necessary for fast and effective food selection and handling in the wild.

These skills include food discrimination and preference, handling live prey items like insects, and removing husks and skins from fruits and vegetables.

Additionally, wild birds are adept at looking out for predators and foraging at quick speeds. A canary that has never been exposed to predators will stay in areas too long and draw too much attention to itself.

Extreme Weather

Because of their small size, canaries are sensitive to temperature changes. Those used to living in climate-controlled homes may find it hard to deal with extreme temperature rises or drops.

Since the ideal temperature range for a canary is between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit, overly hot temperatures (anything above 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit) can give one heat stroke.

It may also suffer from hypothermia when it gets too cold, especially if it can’t locate shelter.

Can A Canary Come Back After You Release It?

Your canary is unlikely to come back if you release it. It’ll struggle to find the correct direction to fly in once let into the wild since it won’t have experience navigating or familiarity with the area.

The canary may also starve to death before it finds its way back, especially if you release it in an urban sprawl as opposed to the countryside, where food is plentiful.

That said, there are instances in which freed birds returned to their owners.

This mostly happens when the canary doesn’t fly too far away from your home due to being overweight, not knowing how to ‘free fly,’ or lacking stamina. Such a bird will inadvertently find itself in your or your neighbor’s home and possibly on your roof.

There’s also the possibility of injury, whereby the canary knocks itself against a window or glass wall near your home, rendering itself immobile. You may come across it before it can recover and fly again.

What To Do Instead of Releasing Your Canary

If you can no longer care for your bird, don’t release it into the wild. Instead, consider if a person in your social group (like a friend, colleague, or relative) is interested in taking the canary.

You can also advertise the bird in online groups, either for free or at a price, to ensure it goes to a safe, new home instead of being released to fend for itself.  

You can give or sell the canary to your local pet shop. They likely have other canaries in stock, so your pet will have experienced employees to care for it until a new home is located.

You can also contact a local rescue center for advice and support.