serinus pusillus  

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Red-fronted canary, Red-fronted serin

Serinus pusillus

Geographical distribution and habitat

The Red-fronted canary (Serinus pusillus) has its habitat from the Middle East far into Asia, from Turkey to Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, China, Tibet and Nepal. It is a Serinus species that lives in mountainous regions. In the winter they migrate to the valleys, in the summer they return to the more higher altitudes. They are used to low temperatures. Noteworthy is that there are sometimes migratory movements in which the birds come to Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Syria and Israel. These birds find their food on open, rocky terrains. They are also seen eating seeds of trees, such as birch and alder, as well as more low-growing plants such as thistles, rocket, chickweed and other herbs. The biotope has a great variety; mountains overgrown with pines to slopes with juniper berries. Understandable therefore, is also the variety in the location of the nests, the nest materials and the period of nesting per distribution area. During the mating period their song is enthusiastically recited. As a courtship ritual, the males lower their wings and the feathers on the head are uplifted so that the red color of the forehead is even more noticeable. The Red-fronted canary is a European bird species and therefore covered by the legal regulations for European birds. In European aviculture, they need to be ringed due to the legal requirements. In the Netherlands with a legal ring for European species (2,5mm).

Size: 12 cm (4.7 inch)

Description and subspecies

The appearance of these birds is different in summer and winter. Although there is no mention of subspecies in Serinus pusillus, the available photos show that there are many differences in color, brightness and markings. Determination of sexes is difficult. There are a few subtle differences to be noticed. Both the male and female show a bright red forehead during the period of mating and breeding. The black color on the head and chest of the male is more deep and bright and therefore the contrast with the red color of the forehead is bigger. The depth and brightness of the black and red color of the female is slightly less. Adult males in good condition show an orange-yellow rump. It is reported that males show more black color on the back covers and have a more pronounced red-brown spot on the shoulder. Young birds do not have a red forehead and the head color is more brownish / black. In aviculture, the intensity of the red head color can decrease. DNA research of the feathers can provide information about the gender of young birds that are born in aviculture and wich are not yet in their adult plumage. Serinus pusillus cannot be mistaken with other Serinus species. A close relation to the Syrian cini (Serinus syriacus) can be suspected.


Serinus pusillus is a very attractive species because of the red forehead in contrast with the bright black and brown color. In aviculture these birds are very difficult to keep and breed. They need special attention for hygiene and prevention of diseases, and even then there is a big chance of problems. There is still no answer why these birds suddenly weaken after several months of good condition and then die in a short period of time. Extra vitamin K is propagated by some breeders. Sometimes it is not easy to bring them into breeding condition; although occasionally good results are achieved. In the seed mixture, these birds especially like the bird rape seeds (Brassica rapa). According to some reports; after laying the first egg, the male builds a second nest while the female is breeding on the first nest. As soon as the young are born, the female lays a second nest of eggs. While the female breeds on the second nest, the male alone raises the nestlings of the first nest. This increases the chances of sufficient offspring in their natural habitat, where there is only a short period of  time of abundant supply of food of which the young can be fed. This behaviour causes problems in aviculture when breeders misinterpret this behaviour and remove the male out of the breeding cage or aviary. It is therefore advisable not to intervene by removing the male from the female and her nest.




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