Family Finches (Fringillidae)

Least Concern

Black-headed Canary (Serinus alario)


French: Serin alario German: Alariogirlitz Spanish: Serín alario

Emberiza Alario


, 1758,

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa


Race leucolaemus has previously been treated as a separate species, but intergrades with nominate in NW South Africa; suggestion that the zone of intergradation is small has been treated with scepticism and a large area mapped#R, but situation evidently unclear and research required. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. a. leucolaemus (Sharpe, 1903) – Damara Canary – S Namibia and NW & WC South Africa (Northern Cape E to W Free State).
  • S. a. alario (Linnaeus, 1758) – Black-headed Canary – W & C South Africa (C Northern Cape E to S Free State, S to C & S Karoo) and Lesotho.
  • Descriptive notes

    12–13 cm; 11–14 g. Small to medium-sized canary with chestnut upper­parts and tail. Male nominate race has head to side of neck, chin, throat and centre of... read more


    Song, by male only, a rather unmelodious jumble of liquid and twanging notes interspersed with... read more


    Lowland and lower montane dry rocky outcrops, semi-arid scrub on hills, and open grassland with... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly seeds of a variety of plants and grasses, also other plant parts, also some insects. Seeds include those of Panicum maximum... read more


    Season Jul–Apr. Monogamous. Loosely colonial. Nest built by female alone, accompanied by male when collecting material, a deep cup of... read more


    Resident, partially nomadic and irruptive. In non-breeding season (mostly Jan–Aug) nominate... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common to locally common or uncommon.

    Recommended citation

    Clement, P. (2020). Black-headed Canary (Serinus alario). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 26 February 2020).