Family Finches (Fringillidae)

Least Concern

Cape Canary (Serinus canicollis)


French: Serin du Cap German: Gelbscheitelgirlitz Spanish: Serín dorsigrís

Crithagra canicollis


, 1838,

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa


Previously considered conspecific with S. flavivertex, but differs significantly in plumage and habitat, and in preferred altitudinal range; treatment as two separate species supported by recent studies using mitochondrial DNA. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. c. griseitergum Clancey, 1967 – E Zimbabwe and adjacent Mozambique.
  • S. c. thompsonae Roberts, 1924 – N & E South Africa S, including W Swaziland, to E Free State and S KwaZulu-Natal, and Lesotho.
  • S. c. canicollis (Swainson, 1838) – S South Africa from Western Cape E to W Free State and NE Eastern Cape.
  • Introduced (possibly nominate race) on Mauritius (now extinct) and Reunion I.

    Descriptive notes

    11·5–14 cm; 10–19·7 g (South Africa). Rather small, slim, long-tailed finch lacking wingbars. Male nominate race has forehead to most of crown and cheek deep... read more


    Song, by male only, from tops of trees or during display-flight, a loud, lively, jumbled series of... read more


    Lowland and lower montane forest edges and clearings, including juniper (Juniperus) forest... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mostly soft green seeds, including those of trees, shrubs, small plants and grasses, mainly Pinus patula, Bidens pilosa... read more


    Season mostly Aug–Feb, occasionally Dec–Mar. Monogamous. Colonial or semi-colonial nester. Male performs slow, butterfly-like... read more


    Resident, partially migratory and nomadic. Those at higher altitudes in Zimbabwe move to lower... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common to locally abundant; locally uncommon. Locally common in N of range in Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Has increased in number and range in Karoo... read more

    Recommended citation

    Clement, P. (2019). Cape Canary (Serinus canicollis). 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 10 December 2019).