The Dead Canary

It’s 3:07 pm and we just got back from a burial.  It was Maryam’s funeral.  Maryam was our yellow-fronted canary.  The maid found her dead this morning in the cage she shares with the other canary.

My wife told me that our daughter Selma (6 and 1/2) had all kinds of questions this morning about Maryam.  For one thing, if she was dead, why were her eyes still open?  What happens when you die?  Can you feel anything when you die?  How does God take someone when they die? And on and on.

The Strange Canary Story

About 9 or 10 months ago we were at a small gathering at some friends’ house.  Um and Abu Junaid offered us their new canaries.  Apparently their kids won them in a birthday party.

We agreed and took them home with us.  Selma and Laith were really excited the next morning when they saw them.  We let them name them.  We thought they’d give them pet names like Tweety and Gonzo, but instead they named them Ziyad and Marym!  After their school friends.

Being someone who doesn’t do anything in half measures I decided to make “canarying” my new hobby!  I went on amazon and bought 4 or 5 books on canaries.  I also bought a DVD from someone called the Canary Whisperer – really, I’m not joking.  There really is a Canary Whisperer!

You could say that within a few weeks I became a bit of a canary expert.  I first took them to the vet to make sure they were healthy.  There I found out their breed – yellow-fronted canaries.  Really quite attractive.

A Yellow-Fronted Canary

A Yellow-Fronted Canary

I also found out from my reading that only male canaries sing.  Apparently, it’s the testosterone that makes them sing.  In fact, a scientist actually did a study on the effects of testosterone on canaries, and he discovered that even female canaries start singing when injected with testosterone.

Obviously, this was a scientist with a lot of spare time.  I suppose their weren’t many openings at the local cancer research centre, so he was compelled to study canaries and testosterone…. I can just imagine Laith coming up to me one day “Dad, I want to be a canary scientist!”


Canary scienctificking must be right at the bottom of the science hierarchy, somewhere just below falcon claw studying and above dung beetle logistics.

Anyway, I digress… back to my canaries.

Like I said, I became a bit of a canary expert and decided on a new hobby.  I found out that you can actually tame canaries (because ours were not human-freindly at all), and I took it upon myself to tame them.

The research material I consulted suggested separating the pair as they would respond better to training/taming when separated.  I did that and for several weeks spent about half an hour a day trying to tame Maryam. (I decided to try Maryam because she was less fidgety than Ziyad)

Anyway, within just 24 hours I managed to get her to eat from my hand – but that’s all I ever managed to do.  I tried to put her on my shoulder and develop a “bond” with her.  I stuck it out for several weeks but eventually lost patience. This bird was just not interested in being tamed.  I even emailed the Canary Whisperer but she never replied.

So I concluded that this bird was tool old to be tamed, and that I was too impatient.  Being an ultra-busy person I didn’t feel that that daily half-an-hour was the best use of my time.  Besides, a hobby is supposed to bring you joy, not stress.

So I decided on a different direction.  Why try to tame two grown canaries when you can have them mate and lay eggs?  I could then hand rear the chicks!  For the briefest of flashes I saw myself starting a canary breeding side business… but that thought was soon  filed in the section of my brain marked “Suhail’s very many dead business ideas.”

I read all there was to read on canary mating and got very excited all over again.  I ordered a special canary food from the US and set up Maryam and Ziad’s cage in such a way as to maximise the chances of romance 🙂

Apparently, the mating season was between March and July.  In fact, you could even artificially alter their mating season by adjusting the lighting in their environment!  I bet you always wanted to know that.

Well, March came and went… followed by April, May, then June and finally July and still no eggs!  I even placed an artificial nest in their cage hoping to stimulate them, but to no avail.  Maryam always seemed a bit week and slow.  And I finally concluded that she was just too old to lay eggs.

I guess I was right.  I suspect she just died of old age this morning.    The maid created a really nice coffin out of a tissue box, and we had a little ceremony in the garden.  Rest in Peace Maryam.

Maryam's Coffin


The question is what do I do with the other one?  I really don’t care much for pets that you can’t interact with.  So I guess I’ll try to find him a younger mate that he can… eh, “do it” with.

I like the idea of having chicks that are hand-reared.  Apparently, once tamed canaries can be very loving and affectionate companions.

Well my friend, that’s our canary story.  All flowers and condolences should be sent to Zen-Do in Al-Hamala….

Talk to you soon.


  1. Global Voices Online » Bahrain: The Dead Canary - 6 October 2008

    […] Bahrain, Suhail Algosaibi writes this story about his dead canary. Posted by Amira Al Hussaini  Print Version […]

  2. The New Canary! « Suhail Algosaibi’s Radical Dojo - 8 October 2008

    […] I then started laughing and thanked Hussain for his gift.  I teased him and said I’d call the canary Hussaino.  I should have blogged about wanting a new Ferrari!  (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, see my post entitled The Dead Canary.) […]

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