For centuries, miners have been taking canary birds down into their mines to warn them of potential disaster. If a tunnel or shaft collapses or is blocked, thereby diminishing the oxygen supply, the canary will be the first to react, usually dying, alerting the miners to trouble and to immediately vacate the mine.
"Canaries, sometimes pigeons and occasionally mice, have been used in coal mines throughout the world to test for poisonous gases, especially carbon monoxide, which is colorless and has no taste or smell. Even very small amounts of the poisonous gas will cause a canary to swoon, due to its extremely rapid heart beat, before it becomes fatal to the miners. Often, the canary could be revived, if evacuated immediately with the miners." "Until modern detection devices came into mandated use, as they are today, canaries were brought into the mines in small wood or metal cages, especially after a fire or explosion, to provide a clear signal as to whether the underground conditions were safe. In the presence of carbon monoxide , the canary would sway noticeably on his perch before falling, in a dramatic indication of dangerous conditions."
Over the years, this yellow songbird has saved countless human lives.
Artist: Ms. Susan Norris
"The Coal Miner's Canary" - book by Edward Allan Faine
Miner holding canary in cage from 1928