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Home > Birds > Scotch Fancy Canary – Pictures, Care Guide, Temperament & Traits

Scotch Fancy Canary – Pictures, Care Guide, Temperament & Traits

Scotch fancy canary perched

The Scotch Fancy Canary is an old breed developed in the 1800s. Recognizable instantly by their unique hunched appearance, these birds are a great addition to bird shows. Unfortunately, the breed faced extinction in the early 1900s, and breeders have struggled to revive them ever since.

Whether you’re curious about the origins of these rare birds or are considering trying to find one to adopt yourself, you’re going to want to keep reading. So read on to find everything you need to know about the history, temperament, and diet of the Scotch Fancy.


Species Overview

Common Names: Scotch Fancy, Scots Fancy, Bird O’ Circle, Glasgow Don
Scientific Name: Serinus canaria domesticus
Adult Size: 7 inches
Life Expectancy: 8 to 12 years


Origin and History

The Scotch Fancy Canary, sometimes known as the Scottish Canary, Bird O’ Circle, or Glasgow Don, was developed during the 1800s from a stock of imported Belgian Canaries.

The bird achieved considerable popularity in the middle of the Victorian era, especially among Scottish fanciers in the Glasgow area. It soon became known by other names, including the Glasgow Don or “Bird o’ Circle,” referring to the ideal outline of the breed standard.

In the later years of this century, there was much crossbreeding between the Scotch Fancy and the Belgian Canary, which, unfortunately, was a detriment to both varieties. It is believed that infertility and poor rear ability due to excessive inbreeding were partly to blame for the breed’s decline in numbers. During this time, the Scotch Fancy’s popularity began waning, and they were on the brink of extinction. The species was saved thanks to the efforts of dedicated breeders, though their numbers have never truly recovered.


This breed is an engaging canary; they are free breeders, lively, and easy to care for. They do well in homes with novice or champion bird keepers. However, since they’re such a unique and rare bird, they are often kept strictly as show birds.

The Scotch Canary had a nervous temperament. They often feel unsteady in aviaries that are too big or those that contain competing species. Like other canary breeds, they can be timid and shy. Though they’re charmers that like to be around their humans, they don’t care for being handled too much.

Canaries, in general, are an intelligent breed. With time and patience, they can be trained to do some neat tricks. Of course, as with any animal, the earlier you’re able to start training, the better.

  • Unique appearance
  • Not as demanding as other bird species
  • Can have a beautiful singing voice
  • Take up smaller space than other species

  • Nearly extinct
  • Hard to find
  • Not much information regarding species-specific care

Speech & Vocalizations

The Scotch Fancy was not bred specifically for its song but, like other canaries, does have some singing abilities. Males will typically stop singing during their molt, but other than that should sing periodically. If a male Scotch Fancy stops singing, there may be some health condition at play.


Scotch Fancy Canary Colors and Markings

The Scotch Fancy was an old-time “bird of position” instead of a purely “type” canary. Birds of this kind show what looks to be a curvature to their spines with an inverted half-moon posture. They were bred purely for their form, without any regard to song.

They are typically found in yellow colorations, though they have been seen in white and green.

The ideal Scotch Fancy Canary had a form the shape of a circle rim from the beak to the tip of the tail. The more of a perfect circle the bird had, the more points it was awarded in the show.

Scotch Fancy’s had small, snake-like heads with long, thin, and nicely tapered necks that reached far out when the canary is in full pose. They had high, narrow shoulders and a long, closely folded tail that swept under them.

Caring for the Scotch Fancy Canary

It’s best to treat the Scotch Fancy as the unique, rare gem that it is. Instead of keeping them in an aviary with many other birds, this breed does better alone or with one other canary. They can be territorial birds, and attack other canaries they feel are encroaching on their territory, especially during the breeding season. If you must have two Scotch Fancy’s, we don’t recommend choosing two males for this reason.

The cage will need several perches of varying width and materials to allow your bird to change its grip and prevent the wearing of its feet. As for toys, they like bells and swings, but mirrors can be hit or miss. While some canaries love looking at themselves in the mirrors, their reflections can cause undesirable behaviors such as refusal to sing in some individuals.

As with other canaries, males tend to be more willing to sing than their female counterparts. They sing to woo females during the breeding seasons and are quiet during their summer molts.

Common Health Problems

The Scotch Fancy Canary can be prone to the same health problems as other canary breeds. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, these cute birds can be at risk of conditions such as:

  • Feather cysts
  • Cataracts
  • Baldness
  • Tassel-foot
  • Air sac mites
  • Poxvirus
  • Reproductive issues (e.g., egg binding)

Make an appointment with your avian vet when you first adopt your Scotch Fancy to create a benchmark for its health. Then, keep up with your annual visits to ensure your feathered pal is as healthy as can be. If you notice any signs of illness, contact your vet as soon as possible.

Sick canaries often display signs such as:
  • Depression
  • Lowered heads
  • Ruffled feathers
  • Relaxed wings
  • Not moving
  • Not eating
  • Thin belly skin
  • Thin, wet, non-bi-colored feces

Diet and Nutrition

As with other canaries, the Scotch Fancy needs a high-quality diet of seeds and fresh greens. We recommend a high-quality seed mixture designed specifically for canaries. These mixes are coated in vitamins that your bird needs to stay healthy. However, most vets recommend feeding pellets over seeds, as canaries fed too many seeds may be vulnerable to obesity and nutritional deficiencies. Slowly weaning a canary off seeds and transitioning to a pelleted diet is recommended.

A canary’s diet should consist of roughly 20-25% vegetables and fruits. They can eat any healthy greens like broccoli and love the occasional treat of fresh fruit like apricots or apples.


The exercise needs of a Scotch Fancy Canary are the same as any canary breed. Letting your bird out of its cage every day for a few hours will give it the opportunity to exercise. Flying freely allows domesticated birds to relieve stress, develop stronger lungs for their birdsong, and keep them physically fit.

Try to minimize the clutter in your canary’s cage so it can move freely while inside. Canaries don’t need a lot of enrichment toys as a parrot does. One or two toys or mirrors should be all it needs to get the mental and physical exercise necessary.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Scotch Fancy

While this breed didn’t completely go extinct, it did dwindle to devastatingly low numbers. You can still find these birds for sale, but you’ll need to speak to a breeder. Unfortunately, we were unable to find any breeders online in our search, so you might have better luck speaking to a local bird association who might have a better lead on where to find this rare breed.



The Scotch Fancy Canary is certainly a stunning and unique breed, but they’re exceedingly difficult for bird fanciers to find. Since they were on the brink of extinction in the 1900s, it has been challenging (if not impossible) for breeders to revitalize the breed. As such, there are very few places you can find the Scotch Fancy for sale.

Featured Image Credit: Fernando Zamora Vega, Shutterstock

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