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

Updated Wednesday, 05 February 2014

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Hooded Siskins 
(Carduelis magellanica)

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These are tame and excellent breeders

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Ten days old Hooded sSiskins

Grey-headed Goldfinches

Sometimes it is difficult identifying the 3 subspecies C.c.paropanisi, C.c.caniceps and the C.c.subulata, firstly because, both in captivity and in the wild these birds hybridize. If you are like me who likes to see nothing but the purest of the purest, identifying them in the wild would be the region where the subspecies is said to occur using the information we already know about each race. 
The most southern race is the C.c.paropanisi and according to (Clements Harris and Davis) Finches and Sparrows its range is from about Iran, Afghanistan to about north-west province of Sinkiag in north-west China.
 The next is the C.c.caniceps although overlapping throughout the region they range just north of the C.c.paropanisi but as far west as Southern Turkmania on Caspin Sea, Tadzhistan, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Western Himalayas and Nepal.
The C.c.subulata is the most northern race found throughout the southern Siberia, east to Lake Baikal, northwest Mongolia and southern Altai ranges.

In captivity we can only go by their colour and the size of the bill.
It is said that the northern race C.c.subulata is the largest of all, it has slightly heavier bill and it is palest of the three races just like the C.c.major the breast and underparts are almost all white.
The greyest of all is the C.c.caniceps.
The southern race the C.c.paropanisi is paler than the C.c.caniceps and darker than the C.c.subulata but the main difference is in the length of their thin longer bill.

Breeding and caring is the same as for the European Goldfinches.

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C.c.subulata in the wild 

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C.c.paropanisi in the wild

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This one was almost the size of a C.c.major but according to J.Verhiel
it's definitely C.c.caniceps

I would like to thank the guys from The Birds from Kazakhstan for allowing me to use the first five photos. Check this out, lots more photos there! 


By John Quatro

I have received several inquiries from breeders asking me how to identify subspecies of Spinus Psaltria. These birds are better known as the American Lesser Goldfinches or as also known in Europe  the Mexican Siskins, but I prefer to call them the Colombian Siskins. The name Mexican Siskin is also often used for the Black headed Siskins (Spinus Notatus) and should I mention that the same name is at times referred to the South American Hooded Siskins (Spinus Magellanicus).

There are five subspecies of Spinus Psaltria:

Spinus p. hesperophilus: native to South West Canada and Northern California in the U.S.A. These birds are often called Greenbacks; they are one of the two larger subspecies about the size of the Spinus psaltria psaltria or better known as the American Lesser Goldfinch. S.p. hesperophilus is easily identified by its olive green back, and its green and black mottled wings. This specie has a yellow patch under the eyes.

Spinus p. psaltria: or as known in America   the American Lesser Goldfinches are native to Central and South California U.S.A. and often reported in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, also along the border in Northern Mexico. These birds are the other large Spinus Psaltria (about the size of S. p. hesperophilus). Spinus p. psaltria has totally black back and wings, this sub-specie also has a yellow patch under the eyes.

Spinus p. jouyi: native to South East Mexico and Yucatan. S. p. jouyi are a little smaller than the S. p. psaltria and they also have a totally black back and wings. The yellow breast is more orange yellow, where as in the S. p. psaltria it is more like a lemon yellow. These birds are easily identified, as they do not have a yellow patch under the eyes.

Spinus p. witti: are native to the Mexican islands of Tres Marias and Islas Mujeres. This is a specie I have not seen until this year when Jorg Nitschky (ICC President) had a surprise for me at the International Carduelan Show in Germany 1999. He had a pair in his collection which were exhibited at the show. S. p. witti are smaller than the S. p. psaltria or abut the size of the S. p. jouyi. They are easily identified  they have green rump and mantle when in fresh plumage. They have totally black cheeks without the yellow patch under the eyes.

Spinus p. colombianus: reported from Southern Mexico to the Eastern Andes of Northern and Central Colombia, coastal mountains of Northern Venezuela, North-West and West Ecuador and the Andes of Northern Peru. In this specie the under tail feathers are all black where as in the other four sub-species these feathers are white. S. p. colombianus are about the same size as S. p. jouyi and S. p. witti but they have much less white in their wing feathers, yellow feathers under the eyes are also absent.

All of the five sub-species females are very difficult to distinguish from each other so I would suggest when buying these birds that you should only buy from reputable Siskin breeders who know Siskins well and who do not hybridize. One should not buy birds from breeders who are known to hybridize, these people do not have any respect for wild birds, so you'll never know what you are purchasing from them. Remember, you should do all that you can to preserve these birds in captivity and in the wild.

I have received an e-mail from Dr. C. Ortega who claims that the birds from Western Venezuela particularly the area of the Venezuelan Andes are S. p. jouyi to the contrary of what the breeders believe that all the S. psaltria from Northern South America are S. p. colombianus. As you can see on these photos below from Dr. Ortega and his team's recent field research, these birds also have white under tail feathers. S. p. jouyi were also reported in Cuba. Dr. C. Ortega claims  that the S. p. colombianus are found in all other states of Venezuela.

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Venezuelan S. psaltria wing feathers

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Venezuelan S. psaltria back feathers

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Venezuelan S. psaltria upper tail feathers

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Venezuelan S. psaltria: white under tail feathers
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Venezuelan S. psaltrias head feathers (note: yellow patch under the eye is absent)
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Spinus psaltria colombianus
(Note:black under tail feathers)
Photo by: Krobb/Müller-Courté

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Spinus psaltria jouyi
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Question from Juan Manuel Perez:

John I have a question. I own a pair of Shelley's seedeaters (Serinus sulfuratus) which are in breeding condition. I placed a nest in a well-hidden place with nesting material in it,  plus I had nesting material in different locations in the aviary. For the moment I thought the female accepted the nest, but what happened is, the female emptied the nest and started building a nest in a seed dish where she also laid an egg. The next day I found the nest destroyed with a broken egg in it. Every time I place nesting material in a Canary cup she quickly destroys it. Today I found her sitting in the nest with one egg, without any nesting material in it. What should I do?

Answer 1. by:Joerg Nitschky Germann
You should try and place several nesting cups in a cage or an aviary. I do not know the size of the cage but it should be big enough to offer several nesting positions, and after a nest has been built and eggs laid you should be able to divide the male and the female by using wire divider so that birds can see and feed each other. It is worth remembering that one mating will fertilize all eggs laid by the female in each clutch.
It is not uncommon that the Serins become very aggressive, they will often destroy the nest as well as kill chicks.

 Answer 2 by:Jean Michel Eytorff
To me it is a question of a nesting position, try and place several nesting cups in the cage. Or may be that the female does not like that cage. Also is the female young, if yes, then this is normal, she is too young for this year. Is she a wild caught bird or aviary bred bird? If she is from the wild stock then she needs a well hidden nesting place. I don't have the right solution; all I can suggest is just keep on experimenting.

Answer 3 by:John Quatro
I agree with Jean Michel and Joerg, you should try several nesting positions, I have three in each of my aviaries and I always provide (shade cloth) drapes around the nests, I do not use trees they often get covered with bird excrements, however you may if you wish. If nothing else works then try to collect the eggs and foster them to other birds. I know you have several other species, the young birds that are hatched in your aviary will breed just like the domesticated Canaries. If you keep your birds in an aviary then you should have only the one pair per aviary.

Reply by Manny: I fostered three eggs just as you told me to a canary hen, she hatched and raised two beautiful youngsters now weaned and closed banded. I decided to observe the birds and I discovered that it was the male who was eating the eggs, just after the hen laid them and left the nest to feed. . I decided to remove the male and leave the female alone. She laid and hatched the last egg but did not feed the young chick.

Answer by John Quatro:

When the birds start eating their own eggs  there is not much anyone can do except trying to collect them every morning as they are laid, then fostering them to other Carduelan birds as you've done. An alternative would be to buy another pair and try your luck with them

As for the young not being fed by the hen; you can foster them as well to another nest with young of about the same size or you can try and hand feeding them, which is a very tedious job. (Read the article on page one "Hand-feeding young Carduelan Birds").

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