Serinus koliensis  

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Van Someren's canary, Papyrus canary

Crithagra koliensis (Serinus koliensis)

Geographical distribution and habitat

The Papyrus canary is found in the middle and southeast of Uganda, southeast of Kenya, parts of Zaire, northeast of Rwanda and Tanzania. This Crithagra species has a relatively limited distribution range in countries that are located near to the equator (Central Africa) and in or nearby the specific biotope of wetlands and marshes with papyrus (Cyperus papyrus). This papyrus-cane can grow a few meters high and forms dense plant masses. Crithagra koliensis feeds mainly on the seeds of this papyrus. But sorgo-grass (Sorghum) and young maize will also be eaten. Further they "feast" on seeds of herbaceous plants and buds. There is no report that these birds eat insects. These Papyrus canaries live mainly in these marshes and on the banks of them where they search for food. The nests seems to be mainly made of leaves and strips of papyrus. It is reported that no light colored material is used for nests. In their habitat, the nests are found from April to August. This is likely to be related to the food that can be found in that period. Like many other African birds, breeding period in European aviculture could differ from these periods in nature. During breeding, the female presses her selve deeply into the nest. These birds roost in the marshes where they are relatively safe from predators.

Size: 11 cm (4.3 inch)

Description and subspecies

The female is a more striped version of the male, especially on the head, under the beak and on top of the chest. Also the black-grey mask of the adult males, is more pronounced then by the females, so sexes differ. The eyebrows are vaguely present. No subspecies are described.


The Van Someren’s canary or Papyrus canary is threatened as a species by the disappearance of their habitat, the papyrus marshes. It is doubtful that in the past these birds have been imported and where recoginsed. Although some small amounts of birds have been imported and sold to specialised breeders. This Crithagra species can be confused with the African citril (Crithagra citrinelloides), the Eastern citril (Crithagra hyposticta) and the Forest canary (Crithagra scotops), although this last (South African) species - both male and female – have a clear yellow eyebrow. At the first description of Crithagra koliensis by Grant & Mackworth-Praed (1952), the scientific name was Crithagra capistrata koliensis. Koliensis is related to the location where this Crithagra species was found; at the Koli River in Uganda. The main difference with the African citril is in the form of the beak. The Van Someren’s canary or Papyrus canary has a less pointed beak then the citril races of the African continent and male and female show more striping on the head and underparts.



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