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Joining together individuals who share a common interest in breeding Carduelan species in captivity

Updated Thursday, 08 April 2010

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                                                      Taxonomic Changes

A recent taxonomy update, posted to OKBirds by Steve Schafer:

Given the interest in the recent discussion on this list of the
systematics of the Yellow-rumped Warbler, I thought I'd summarize some
of the more interesting changes that have either been recently approved
by the AOU Check-List Committee, or will be so in the very near future:

1) The most surprising of the changes is the discovery of a new species
of yellowlegs (genus _Tringa_), right beneath our noses, so to speak.
Genetic research has revealed that the larger, longer-billed individuals
of what have previously been thought to be Lesser Yellowlegs (_T.
flavipes_), along with the smaller, shorter-billed individuals of what
have previously been considered Greater Yellowlegs (_T. melanoleuca_),
are actually both members of a third species, now known as Middler
Yellowlegs (_T. intermedia_).

2) Gull taxonomy has undergone some radical changes. There are now five
species of _Larus_ gull. Total. In the whole world. They are:

_L. melanodorsum_ - Black-backed Gull
_L. poliomaximus_ - Large Gray-backed Gull
_L. poliomedianus_ - Medium Gray-backed Gull
_L. poliominimus_ - Small Gray-backed Gull
_L. allothersi_ - Black-headed Gull-of-Any-Size

3) You may have heard that genetic evidence has shown that birds in the
genus _Piranga_ (our North American tanagers, plus a couple of Central
and South American species), aren't really tanagers, but rather
cardinals. Conversely, South American cardinals of the genus _Paroaria_,
including the Yellow-billed Cardinal (_P. capitata_) and Red-crested
Cardinal (_P. coronata_), both introduced to and established in Hawai'i,
are actually tanagers. Well, it seems that the ornithologists involved
in the original classification of these birds aren't too happy about
admitting their error, which has been described as a form of "bait and
switch." Unfortunately, they also have a lot of seniority in the
community, and collectively carry quite a bit of clout. So, in a fine
CYA move, they have reached a compromise, destined to please no one,
wherein the English names of the _Piranga_ species will henceforth be
"{descriptive} Tanager-Cardinal," while those of _Paroaria_ will be
"{descriptive} Cardinal-Tanager."

Or maybe it's the other way around.

4) Speaking of tanagers, the bird formerly known as Stripe-headed
Tanager (genus _Spindalis_), and currently known as Western Spindalis
(_S. zena_), has received a new English name: Western Stripe-headed
Passeroid. The rationale for the change, according to one ornithologist
close to the checklist revision process, was "Well, we have no idea what
it really is, and what the hell kind of name is 'Western Spindalis,'
anyway?" That same ornithologist offered no comment in reply to the
observation that "Western Stripe-Headed Passeroid" was hardly any

5) Finally, there were some gasps heard in the ornithological community
a few years back when Least Pygmy-Owl (genus _Glaucidium_) underwent a
five-way split, and birders across North America have been uneasy ever
since it was announced that Red Crossbill (genus _Loxia_) may consist of
as many as ten separate species in North America alone, with another
half-dozen or more occurring in Eurasia. Those records have now been
shattered by the upcoming split of Song Sparrow (genus _Melospiza_) into
twenty-three species:

_M. adusta_ - Rio Lerma Song-Sparrow
_M. atlantica_ - Atlantic Coast Song-Sparrow
_M. caurina_ - Yakutat Song-Sparrow
_M. cleonensis_ - Cascade Song-Sparrow
_M. fallax_ - Desert Song-Sparrow
_M. goldmani_ - El Salto Song-Sparrow
_M. gouldii_ - Northern California Song-Sparrow
_M. graminea_ - Channel Islands Song-Sparrow (endangered)
_M. heermanni_ - Southern California Song-Sparrow (includes one
near-threatened subspecies)
_M. insignis_ - Bischoff Song-Sparrow
_M. kenaiensis_ - Kenai Song-Sparrow
_M. maxillaris_ - Suisun Song-Sparrow (near-threatened)
_M. maxima_ - Giant Song-Sparrow
_M. melodia_ - Eastern Song-Sparrow
_M. mexicana_ - Puebla Song-Sparrow
_M. montana_ - Plains Song-Sparrow
_M. morphna_ - Northwestern Song-Sparrow
_M. pusillula_ - Alameda Song-Sparrow (threatened)
_M. rivularis_ - Baja California Song-Sparrow
_M. rufina_ - Sooty Song-Sparrow
_M. samuelis_ - San Pablo Song-Sparrow (near-threatened)
_M. sanaka_ - Aleutian Song-Sparrow
_M. villai_ - Toluca Song-Sparrow

Interestingly, all of the endangered, threatened and near-threatened
populations are in California, and four of the five are in or near the
San Francisco Bay Area. So, gas up the RV and head out there, before
it's too late.

Janet S. Duerr, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Biological Sciences
241 Life Sciences Research Facility
Ohio University
Athens, OH 45701


Rare Species in Captivity 

Gray-headed Olive-back Finch

It has come to my attention that some of the very rare Estrildid finches are occasionally found and kept in Aviculture but seldom an effort being put in to provide suitable enclosures for them to be able to breed and hopefully produce the much needed captive bred birds! The birds are often wasted, or rendered uninteresting simply because no one knows what they are or no one else is breeding them, often their colors are dull and uninteresting so why even bother breeding them!

It is a pity because the breeders could then provide as with some invaluable information on their requirements in captivity and may be answer the questions on why are they so rare in the wild. The art of keeping birds is not and never has been about how many different species one keeps or how many birds one keeps. The art of keeping birds in captivity is; being able to asses and provide the type of environment the birds need, knowing and being able to provide food similar to what they feed on in the wild and simply loving, enjoying, respecting and preserving the wild species in colors as they are in the wild.

Because it is difficult or impossible for most Finch hobbyist (if kept to many) to provide generous amount of space for every bird in their possession, it is best to concentrate on one or two closely related species. Estrildid finches are more often better breeders when kept in a colony environment (together), therefore it is important to keep an aye on those rare or unknown species for any signs of aggression which would indicate that this particular species should only be bred in pairs per aviary.

Although the ICS is a web site that deals with all kinds of topics concerning the Carduelan species, I decided to add a page for Estrildid Finches in the “Photo Album”.

  In November 2004 I received an E-mail, a person describing a finch that I had no idea what it was, a scientific name was given as the Nesocharis capistrata. I spent quite some time on Internet searching for more information on this species but unfortunately I could not find anything other then a few entries into Species lists, their common name as being the ‘Gray-headed Olive-back finch’, that it was an Estrildid species and nothing more than that. I contacted several breeders in Europe and three of them confirmed that they were known in European Aviculture but so far nothing has been published on their keeping or any breeding achievements in captivity. One of them was Rafael Zamora Padrón who kept the Grey-headed Olive-back Finches but never managed to breed them. He said that initially his birds were very timid but when placed in a small cage in a dark place for about a month they did become comfortable with his presence and their new surroundings, they can then be released into a small-planted Aviary. Like most other species they like competition so it is best to put another pair in an adjoining aviary, this move usually acts as a breeding stimulant. Generally these birds are very active warblers-like, always on the move, that is why they are not suitable for small cages. Their food consists of the general finch mix, egg and biscuits, ant pupae, small insects and mealworms. Although he had not bred them he says that during that time they became increasingly more insectivorous. Rafael also feels that a generous supply of green half-ripe grass seeds and millets just before the breeding season is essential to get them into the breeding mode. We have no idea if they build a cup shaped nests or do they nest in cavities so it is best to provide both with a variety of nesting material made available. The Grey-headed Olive-back Finches are apparently sensitive to aspergillus, so it is important that the hygiene is maintained. On the other hand they do not seem to be suffering from Coccidiosis like many Estrildids do. The use of Ivermectin could be disastrous with this species, try to avoid it as mush as possible. This species is currently on CITIES appendix III list. I would like to point out that there is a short description of the Grey-headed Olive-back Finches in the book “Finches and Sparrows” by Clements, Harris and Davis. If anyone else has more information on these birds please let me know!

Nesocharis capistrata IIIIa RZ.JPG (48755 bytes)
Grey-headed Olive-back Finch
Nesocharis capistrata)
Photo by: Rafael Zamora

Salvadori's Serin 
(Serinus xantholaema)

This is another Carduelan specie critically threatened with extinction, native to Ethiopia it shares similar habitat as the Abyssinian (Rupell's) Siskin, those of you who know the Yellow-breasted Canary this bird is very similar. All of the African Serin species are easy to breed in captivity,  if anyone out there still keeps these birds please let me know so that we can form a breeding program. This is the time we can do something about it, if we wait any longer it could be too late. Nowadays the wild-life habitats are on the mercy of current governments who seem to always have other priorities and therefore cannot always be depended on. One of the Wild-life organizations that I still trust and I think we can work with is the Bird-Life International therefore if anyone still has some of the rare Carduelan finches in captivity do not cross them with other species, contact me and I might be able to help. Any financial support is welcome and it will be going directly for the research of the  endangered Carduelan species, we have our qualified Scientists and people whose passion is Carduelan species therefore we can choose the people who will be doing any Scientific Carduelan bird research, I can guarantee you this. The aim is to send these people to various parts of the world to see if anything can be done for those endangered species, some of the Scientists live in  those countries but at times still need some small financial support, so please let me know if anyone can help or has any suggestions. 

Update: 1-Dec-01            Salvadori's Serin - doubtful specie?

From what we know so far very little if any work has been done with these birds, Salvadori's Serin appears under several synonyms in the literature which at first made me wonder if anyone really knew what they were talking about. So far I have received some correspondence regarding this specie but no one has ever seen them or knew of anyone who bred or kept them in captivity. One of the E-mails received was from a good friend of mine Scientist who works with birds at one of the Institutes of Zoology in Europe. Not only that he knows Carduelan birds well, he also breeds them, as a part of his Scientific studies. He has given me a reason to doubt about the authenticity of this specie by saying that they might be a wild hybrids between two closely related specie. He said:
"But according to Walters (1975 - 1982) Ocrospiza xantholaema (Salvad., 1896) (Syn. Poliospiza collaris Reich., 1905; Poliospiza dimidiata, Mad., 1912) is a doubtful specie on the basis of few specimens from S.E. Ethiopia and maybe a hybrid between Ocraspiza reichenovi -  (Reichenow's Seedeater- Serinus atrogularis as we know them) and Ocraspiza dorsostriata - (White-bellied Canary - Serinus dorsostriata as we know them) or a hybrid between the Ocraspiza reichenovi - Reichenow's Seedeater and the Ocraspiza atrogularis - (Yellow-rumped Seedeater - Serinus atrogularis).
For those of you who own "Canary and Related Birds" by "Horst Bielfield" a beautiful photo of a Reichenow's Seedeater can be found on page 324.  White-bellied Canary (Serinus dorsostriatus) can be found in "Finches and Sparrows" page 24. The yellow -rumped Seedeater can be found in both books as well. If anyone out there has other information on this specie please let me know, so that we can be aware of what "could be" and what could not be the truth.
If anyone read the articles I wrote in the AFA's "Watchbird Magazine", Brazilian "Atualidades Ornithologica" or the "Australian Birdkeeper" about Endangered Siskin species, the Yarrell's Siskins another endangered specie, is by far more endangered than most people think simply because it hybridizes with a well known close relative the Hooded Siskin (Spinus alleni) producing a strain known as the "Zorro Yarrelli" as the name implies the black of it's crown extends and covers its eyes, the patterns are often very asymmetrical and their pink feet are often all black. This is the worst that can happen to an endangered specie and is probably impossible to save the specie although some people would like to "sweep it under the carpet" by saying "it is only a variation of the same specie.
As for the beautiful little Saffron Siskins according to the last report from Ecuador,  they are very vulnerable but if they can stop the forests from being cut down they are pretty safe for now. These are one of the Siskin species virtually unknown in captivity but threatened with extinction from the distraction of their habitat. 

Here is the list of Carduelan species (or aviary kept finch-like birds) which are threatened or endangered, watch out for them and if anyone still keeps some of the species in captivity and I know that some are still kept, do not waste them. Specie like the Cone-billed Tanager which is only known by one single bird collected in 1938 and hasn't been seen since it is presumably extinct. The bird was collected in Cuiaba -Brazil (Mato Grosso), anyone traveling trough the neighboring countries like Bolivia, Peru, Colombia or Venezuela watch out for this black and white bird (not to be confused with the Black and white Tanager), let's hope they are still surviving somewhere.
1.) Ankober Serin (Serinus ankoberensis)
2.) Azores Bullfinch (Pyrrhula murina)
3.) Cone-billed Tanager (Conothraupis mesoleuca), 
4.) Cherry-throated Tanager (Nemosia rourei)
5.) Golden-winged Grosbeak (Rhynchostrathus socotranus)
6.) Hispaniola Crossbill (Loxia megaplaga)
7.) Red Siskin (Spinus cucullatus)
8.) Saffron Siskin (Spinus siemiradzkii)
9.) Salvadori's Serin (Serinus xantholaema)
10.) Sao Tome Grosbeak (Neospiza concolor)
11.) Yerrel's Siskin (Spinus Yarrellii)
12.) Yellow-throated Serin (Serinus flavigula)
13.) Yellow Cardinal (Gubernatrix cristata)
14.) Warsangli Linnet (Carduelis johhanis)
Also, there is large number of South American "Sporophilas" (Seedeaters) threatened, they are not listed here but if anyone out there is specializing in Seedeaters please let me know, I can add the list of Seedeaters as well.

Cone-Billed Tanager 

Finally some promising news about the Cone billed Tanager apparently rediscovered East of Bolivian border, southern Goiás  province in Brazil just south west of Jatai. This bird is known by only one specimen collected more then 60 years ago, and kept in Museum in Paris. Despite me on few occasions requesting a photo of this bird from Finch breeders in Paris I still haven’t heard anything from them. It is not clear to me whether is it or not allowed to photograph birds in museums but I remember Ornithologist who came all the way from Canada to Sydney just to see some of the Australian rare or presumably extinct species like the Paradise Parrot and the elusive Night Parrot, a booking and a special permission was required to photograph these birds.  Since the late 1930 the Cone-Billed Tanager has been reported on only one occasion in 1998  but the sighting was not confirmed and again reported this year (2006) but this time published in the Birdlife International and the Atulitades Ornithologicas. 

 The report appears to be more genuine, a small photo also being published in both articles.

The bird about the size of a Ultramarine Grosbeak (16.5 cm) and similar in color to it’s closest relative the Black and white Tanager but according to the “The Birds of South America” by Robert Ridgely, differs from the later by having all black flanks and crissum and the white wing speculum may be smaller. The female was never seen until now.  Check out these links, they are very interesting!

The Forgotten Cardinal the Crimson-Fronted Cardinal (P. baeri. xinguensis) although reasonably common in its region hasn’t been mention at all in the recent times, the only photo of this bird that I have seen is published as (Cardeal-de-Goiás) in the Brazilian Confederação Brasileira dos Criadores de Pássaros Nativos  Web site . Cardinals are not very popular birds in Aviculture, being over aggressive, very insectivorous during the breeding season and definitely not a cage birds, they are nowadays only found in Zoos or kept by the very few very experienced Aviculturists. From the four species we once enjoyed in Australia only about 10 Red Crested Cardinal are left since the import ban in 1950’s and none have been bred in the recent years. Worth only $10 a pair in South America they sell for around  $4000 in Australia when they’re available, certainly those who are successful breeding them have the right incentive to do so. Green and the Red-Cowled Cardinals (Pope Cardinals) have probably died out. If they still exist they would be priceless. Money is not often the reason why we keep birds, it would be nice to have larger variety of species to work with but as you see flooding the markets with large number of species we cannot sell is not an option. Therefore it is up to the Finch Clubs or the Avicultural Societies to request permission from the government to import certain number of species of (number of birds permitted to import per year or two) and this should never be denied unless the birds are threatened or endangered. We have many more birds that are just about hanging in existence, and increasingly more and more sad stories about the last bird of its species in existence like the Yellow Canaries (the Large Green Singers), European Siskins etc. On the other hand the status of some Finch species even after 50 years is by far better then ever in the past. Check this out (it can only be accessed using the Internet Explorer ), a link to Jean Michel's web site, those who persevere with Cardinals get their rewords, in this case it's the Red Cardinals -


Checkout this other interesting sites:

Salvadori's Serin 
(Serinus xantholaema)

These are the videos taken by Josep del Hoyo (editor of the "Handbook of the Birds of the World" )
I am inclined to believe that it probably is a genuine specie and not a hybrid after all! It is similar to the Lemon-breasted Canary published in the Photo Album under "Serins". Or even better description would be a Yellow-rumped Serin (Serinus atrogularis) with black ribbon and yellow throat!  

To see Salvadori's Serin check out this link
- scroll down to the bottom of this page and follow the link!
or just go to any of these links to see the Videos

While you're there check out the Abyssinian Siskins as well

Anyone thinking of taking a Birding Trip to Ethiopia check this out first: Solomon Berhe Tours


Saffron Siskin Posters are available for sale, the price is AUD$10 plus shipping, the Posters are collectors item, designed by a professional artist, the size is 43 cm by 28 cm, just the right size to frame and hang on the wall. The Posters in Europe are available from Claudia or in this part of the world please contact me. All of the money will be going back to the Saffron Siskin Project.
SaffSPoster.JPG (71000 bytes)

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