Family Spindalises (Spindalidae)

Least Concern

Western Spindalis (Spindalis zena)


French: Zéna à tête rayée German: Kuba-Streifenkopftangare Spanish: Cigua cubana

Fringilla Zena


, 1758,

New Providence, Bahama Islands


Formerly treated as conspecific with all three congeners; they differ in morphology, plumage and vocalizations. Races of present species originally suggested to represent four distinct species, nominate and townsendi forming one species and pretrei, salvini and benedicti another three, but differences overlap to some extent, while on the other hand nominate and townsendi possess some clear morphological differences. Races pretrei and salvini are relatively alike, with more restricted black malar stripe (1); paler chestnut breast, hindcollar and rump (2); and paler, clearer green back (2); while race benedicti has darkest and most extensive chestnut on breast (2) and largest bill (allow 2); thus detailed study of vocalizations highly desirable to provide further evidence of difference or similarity between the taxa. Five subspecies recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. z. townsendi Ridgway, 1887 – Bahamas Green-backed Spindalis – N Bahamas (including Grand Bahama, Little Abaco, Abaco and offshore cays).
  • S. z. zena (Linnaeus, 1758) – Bahamas Black-backed Spindalis – C & S Bahamas (including Berry Is, Andros, Green Cay, New Providence, Eleuthera, Cat I, Exuma, Long I, Acklin and Mayaguana) and Turks and Caicos Is.
  • S. z. pretrei (Lesson, 1832) – Cuban Spindalis#RCuba and I of Pines.
  • S. z. salvini Cory, 1886 – Grand Cayman Spindalis – Grand Cayman I.
  • S. z. benedicti Ridgway, 1885 – Cozumel Spindalis – Cozumel I, off NE Yucatán Peninsula.
  • Occasional (several races) in Florida, USA, where has bred (2009)#R.

    Descriptive notes

    15 cm; 20·9–22·8 g (townsendi), 17–25·5 g (nominate), 11–30 g (pretrei), 20·5–31 g (salvini),... read more


    Song high, thin, sibilant and rather variable, e.g. “see-tee” doublets mixed with high... read more


    Lowlands to highlands, in wide range of fairly dry to humid regions. In Bahamas found in native... read more

    Food and feeding

    Feeds mainly on fruits and berries, also tips of soft leaves and other plant parts; once seen attempting to eat a snail (Gastropoda). In... read more


    Season Apr–Aug. In flight display, male flies up on slowly beating wings, circles above treetops while singing, then dives down to... read more


    Resident, with some inter-island wandering. Occasional records at various extralimital localities.... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Uncommon to locally fairly common. Considered common in Bahamas and Cuba, fairly common on Grand Cayman I, and in small numbers on... read more

    Recommended citation

    Hilty, S. (2019). Western Spindalis (Spindalis zena). 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 April 2019).