The Differences in Canary & Finch

Canaries are closely related to finches like this goldfinch.
i Jupiterimages/ Images

Canaries and finches are similar in regard to their care and needs; one reason is that a canary is actually a true finch. There are a few differences, however, that could help sway you toward choosing one over the other if you're considering a bird. Both make excellent apartment pets.

Kind of the Same

Canaries belong to the family Fringillidae, or true finches, along with goldfinches and siskins. Some differences exist between these types of finches and the species commonly found in the pet trade, though. Many of the pet finch species belong to the family Estrildidae. One of the most notable differences between these two families is the shape of their nests. In general, however, they share similar physical characteristics such as the shape of their beaks and their small size. Many of the differences come in the different types of canaries and species of pet finches.

Types and Colors

While you may think of a canary as the telltale canary yellow variety, several types and colors exist among birds in the two canary genera. Yellow, blue, white and fawn are examples of the many hues these little songsters sport. Bodies and feathers vary among species. Pet finches also come in a variety of colors. Gouldian finches have elaborate blocks of colors including orange, turquoise, yellow and purple. The common zebra finch is gray with zebralike stripes on its chest; the male also sports bright orange circles on his cheeks.


Canaries are typically known for two things: their color and their song. Males are the singing sex; a single male will offer his glorious song throughout the day. Females don't sing like the males, who sing to attract mates and protect their territory. Finches are known not for songs but for chirps. While they are quieter than many other birds, many of these have an almost endless supply of conversation that some people find charming and others can't stand.


Both canaries and pet finches love to fly and should have large large flight cages. A flight cage has a long horizontal stretch to allow birds to spread their wings and get in some air time. Both types of birds can live in smaller cages if need be; in fact, a few finches do better in these smaller quarters: zebra and Gouldian finches will take better to smaller cages than other species. Feeding finches and canaries isn't all too difficult, as their availability has encouraged many retailers to supply specially formulated seed mixes. In addition to their specific seed mixes, offer a variety of dark greens, sprouts and millet sprays to keep them happy. Canary toys are good to help keep both finches and canaries entertained; these types of bird toys are on the smaller side and will help keep your feathered friend from getting bored.

the nest