Family Tanagers (Thraupidae)

Least Concern

Saffron Finch (Sicalis flaveola)


French: Sicale bouton-d’or German: Safrangilbtangare Spanish: Chirigüe azafranado

Fringilla flaveola


, 1766,

no locality = Suriname


Races form two possibly specifically distinct groups, “flaveola group” and “pelzelni group”, differing dramatically in female and immature plumages and less so in male plumage; also, former group exhibits weak and latter strong sexual dimorphism; further research required. Disjunct trans-Andean valida possibly also a distinct species, meriting detailed assessment. Birds of higher areas of S Bolivia currently included in race pelzelni, but may belong in koenigi. Proposed taxon S. striata (described from Buenos Aires, in Argentina) invalid, based on a specimen regarded as a breeding male of race pelzelni in immature plumage. Five subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. f. flaveola (Linnaeus, 1766) – Saffron Finch – N & E Colombia (S to Meta), Venezuela S to R Orinoco (also NW Amazonas) and Trinidad. Status unknown in the Guianas#R#R.
  • S. f. valida Bangs & T. E. Penard, 1921 – coastal slope in Ecuador (Guayaquil) S to NW Peru (Ancash).
  • S. f. brasiliensis (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) – E Brazil from Maranhão, Tocantins, Goiás#R, Minas Gerais and São Paulo E to Atlantic coast.
  • S. f. pelzelni P. L. Sclater, 1872 – Pelzeln's Finch – Bolivia E of Andes (S from S Beni), SE Brazil (S from Mato Grosso and Santa Catarina), Paraguay, E Argentina (S to E Mendoza, La Pampa, Buenos Aires and Río Negro) and Uruguay.
  • S. f. koenigi Hoy, 1978 – NW Argentina (Salta and Jujuy).
  • Introduced (probably nominate race) in Panama, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Peru (Lima, Puerto Maldonado#R), SE Venezuela (Santa Elena de Uairén#R) and Hawaiian Is. Race pelzelni introduced in W Brazil (SE Acre#R) and SC Chile (Los Ríos and Los Lagos)#R.

    Descriptive notes

    13·5–15 cm; 12–23·4 g. A medium-sized and well-proportioned yellow-finch with rather short wing and tail, and relatively large bill. Male nominate... read more


    Song lively and pleasant, notes spaced enough to give calm and pleasing whistled nature, “... read more


    Wide variety of habitats, usually semi-open with scattered trees or shrubs, including open dry... read more

    Food and feeding

    Seeds, also small arthropods. Forages on ground, often on lawns in urban areas. Found in pairs and in small flocks.


    Season late May to Nov in Venezuela, Apr–Jan in Trinidad, Oct–Feb in E & S of range (“pelzelni group... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common to abundant throughout its very large range. Recently found in SC Chile (Los Ríos and Los Lagos), but unclear whether this due to... read more

    Recommended citation

    Rising, J. & Jaramillo, A. (2020). Saffron Finch (Sicalis flaveola). 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 21 February 2020).