East African Citril
Crithagra hyposticta (Serinus hypostictus)
Geographical distribution and habitat
The East African Citril is found in some eastern parts of Africa; in southern Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Malawi and northern Mozambique. It is a common bird which prefers open landscapes and plains in higher parts of these areas. It is mentioned that the East African Citril prefers a habitat with a lot of rain and prefers the presence of water, like rivers, streams, lakes and ponds. They feed on seeds that are found on the ground and in the ares and spikelets of composite plants such as black jack (Bidens pilosus), thistles and also sunflowers, in the same way as Goldfinches and Siskins do. For that reason, and because Crithagra hyposticta has a pointed and long beak, that resembles the beaks of Goldfinches and Siskins, there is a long presumed relating between Crithagra hyposticta, Crithagra citrinelloides and Carduelis carduelis.
Size: 11-12 cm (4.3-4.7 inch)
Description and subspecies
Sexes of adult birds can be defined by the appearance of the black-grey mask. Males have a more extensive and somewhat deeper colored mask than the female birds. Important is to look at the mask under the beak. The mask extends under the beak by the male birds. The mask at the female birds is interrupted under the beak where it is replaced by some little, fine striping that extends tot the chest. Males, especially in breeding condition, have a more deeper and bright greenish color than the females, which have slightly more striping on the upper chest. The James F. Clements update of December 2010 lists two subspecies of Crithagra hyposticta:
- Crithagra hyposticta hyposticta; Southeast Kenya, Tanzania to Malawi (type species)
- Crithagra hyposticta brittoni; South Sudan, West Kenya (color of the mask is paler)
In "Finches & Sparrows" (P. Clement, A. Harris and J. Davis, 1999), Crithagra citrinelloides is mentioned with a large number of subspecies, which later, according to some ornithologists, are listed as independent species. According to these other classifications, Crithagra frontalis and Crithagra hyposticta are no subspecies from Crithagra citrinelloides but true species of their own. The fact remains that clear recognition of C. citrinelloides, C. frontalis and C. hyposticta can be difficult because of the many interstitial forms that have arisen in both nature and aviculture.
For birds belonging to the genus Crithagra, these 'African citrils' are different from the other Serin species in some respects. Noticeable is the rather pointed and fine beak, a beak that changes color in breeding time. And nestlings of whose the inside and edges of the beak are strikingly colored. The East African Citril is heard with a 3- or 4-tone contact call. The soft twittering song resembles to the song of the European Goldfinch. In aviculture we provide these birds with a seed mixture for Goldfinches or Siskins and some fine grass seeds, egg food, (deep-frozen) mealworms and maggots (pinkies). There is no specific breeding period in European aviculture. Moulting usually takes place several times a year and consists of replacing only a few feathers at a time. In case of hatching a new nest of young birds and a previous nest is still being fed by the parents; a good couple does not stop feeding the older birds and feed both the new and older youngsters. Probably, in the past, these East African Citrils have been imported as 'African Citril’, without making any difference in subspecies. As a result, the vast majority of the current stock of birds in European aviculture can be expected to consist in great majority of this former subspecies of Crithagra citrinelloides (African Citril).