872. Cape Canary Serinus canicollis
Order: Passeriformes. Family: Fringillidae
© Michele Nel
Male Serinus canicollis canicollisDescription
The Cape Canary is 11–13 cm in length. The mustard yellow face and chin, grey hind crown and nape, and lack of bold facial markings distinctive.
The adult male has a green back with black edging to the wing feathers wings and tail. The underparts, rump and tail sides are yellow, and the lower belly is white. The rear head and neck are grey, and the face is cinnamon. 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.
Males can be told apart from drab females by a mustard-yellow forecrown, face and throat.
The female is similar, but with a less grey on the head.
The juvenile has greenish-yellow underparts with heavy brown streaking.
It shares its range with six other ‘yellow’ canaries, but the golden face and grey head of the male distinguish it from the others. The less boldy marked females and streaky juveniles may be confused with those of other canaries. This species is easily distinguished from the Yellow-fronted Canary
by its lack of black face markings, having a yellow forehead and crown, and by the greater amount of grey on the nape encompassing the sides of the neck. The juvenile differs from the female Yellow Canary
by having its greenish yellow underparts overlaid with heavy brown streaking. Distribution
Endemic to southern Africa, occurring in Zimbabwe's eastern highlands and adjacent Mozambique as well as in western Swaziland, Lesotho and South Africa, from Limpopo Province south to KwaZulu-Natal and west through the Free State and the Eastern Cape to the Western Cape.
There is an isolated population in the eastern highlands of Zimbabwe which constitutes the subspecies S. c. griseitergum
Three subspecies are recognised:Serinus canicollis canicollis
; south-western Cape to western Free State and southern KwaZulu-Natal.Serinus canicollis thompsonae
; Lesotho, eastern Free State and northern KwaZulu-Natal to Limpopo Province. Its headcolour goes to orange.Serinus canicollis griseitergum
; eastern Zimbabwe and adjacent Mozambique highlands. S.c.griseitergum is a more greenish colour and the back is more striped.Habitat
It generally prefers montane grassland with scattered shrubs an patches of Ouhout (Leucosidea sericea
), open savanna, Protea woodland, borders between drainage line woodland and Karoo shrubland, coastal dunes, edges of cultivated land and occasionally alien thickets of Port Jackson (Acacia saligna
) and Rooikrans (Acacia cyclops
It almost exclusively eats seeds, either taken directly from plants or plucked from bare patches of the ground. Breeding
Monogamous and usually a solitary nester, although it sometimes forms loose colonies with up to 12 nests in a few adjacent trees. The nest is built almost entirely by the female in roughly 2-3 weeks, consisting of a thick-walled cup of tendrils, especially from everlastings (Helichrysum
), also with lichens, leaf petioles, mosses, rootlets, small twigs, pine needles and sometimes pieces of rags, string, wool and cotton. The interior is lined with the hairy and downy pappuses of seeds, fluffy Karoo rosemary (Eriocephalus
) seeds, other plant down, hair, feathers and wool. The rim of the structure is always made of rootlets, and is used by the chicks to deposit faeces (a unique behaviour of canaries). It is typically placed in a vertical fork or a horizontal branch of a bush or tree, which in the Western Cape is more frequently an introduced species rather than an indigenous one. Egg-laying season is from about August-February, peaking from October-December. It lays 1-5 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 12-16 days, while the male regularly feeds her at the nest. The chicks are brooded by their for the first two days of their lives while the male feeds all of them, after which the female remains on the nest to protect the nestlings from rain or sun by standing with wings outstretched. They eventually leave the nest after about 15-19 days and after two days or so are able to fly, after which they still remain dependent on their parents for some time. Call
Sustained series of loud and fast jumbled warbles, trills and twitters. Call note trilled chiv-v-v-v
. Listen to Bird Call.Status
Common endemic. The Cape Canary is South Africa’s most common canary.