Serinus canicollis       

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Cape canary

Serinus canicollis

Geographical distribution and habitat

The Cape Canary can be mostly found in the South of Africa and lives in a wide range from the East to the Southcoast. Serinus canicollis- the serinus with the grey(=cani) neck(=collis) needs a subtropical to tropical climate where during cold seasons there is no or nearly no frost. The natural habitat of the Cape Canary is characterized by an amount of trees and plants. About the Cape Canary it is noticed that they feed on several immature weedseeds, grasseeds, treeseeds and thistles and soft sunflowerseeds from the crown. On nature pictures we see that the birds always pick the seeds out of the spikes, so above the surface. Nests in the wild are found during the period September to March with a climax in November. This period is comparable with spring / summerstart in Europe. Sometimes nests are found solitairy, sometimes nests are in semi-related colonization. The sound from the male is a mixture of sounds that can be compared with the twittering vocals of the goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis).

Size: 13cm (5,1 inch)

Description and subspecies

The adult male is distinguished from the female by a more intensive yellow headcolour (sometimes with a touch of orange), a more bright grey from the neck and more black outer wing feathers and more contrast and markings at the wing-tips. There are three subspecies; Serinus canicollis canicollis, S.c.griseitergum and S.c.thompsonae. In the last one the headcolour goes to orange. S.c.griseitergum is a more greenish colour and the back is more striped. In some books, Serinus canicollis flavivertex is named as a subspecie. S.flavivertex (Yellow-Crowned Canary) has clearly less grey in the neck and also is confused with Serinus syriacus (Syrian Serin) which shows less black in the wings. The Yellow-Crowned Canary (S.flavivertexlives more in the North of Africa, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and the North of Tanzania).


The Cape Canary in the wild, uses the planting from pine trees and fruit trees like peaches and lemons in which nests are built. From research on the stomach contents from the Cape Canary it shows that these birds mainly feed at different seed-bearing composite plants like hawkbits, cat’s ear, daisies and coltsfood. During the courtship dance the singing male lowers his wings so the green/yellow rump will be clearly visible. S.canicollus belongs to the Serinus species which can be best fed the seed mixture which is sold as a goldfinch/siskin mixture. The Cape Canary is not often found in aviculture. For breeding it is important to consider the natural breeding season, which means autumn, winter and early spring in Europe.



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