Serinus mozambicusyellow-fronted canary

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Geographic Range

Yellow-fronted canaries are native to much of sub-Saharan Africa. They are found in most countries below their northern limit of 17˚ north latitude, including Mauritania, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Congo, Zaire, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Angola, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Botswana (Fry and Keith, 2004). They are notably absent from the arid regions of South Africa and the tropical rainforests of the Congo Basin. ("The Green Singing Finch", 2007; Fry and Keith, 2004)

Popular cagebirds, yellow-fronted canaries have been released near human settlements around the globe, establishing populations where conditions permit. Introduced birds have colonized parts of Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Sao Tomé, Mafia Island, Mauritius, and Réunion among other countries. (Fry and Keith, 2004; Sibley, 2000)

Habitat

Serinus mozambicus prefers open woodlands and grasslands below 2300 m, but may also be found in a variety of other habitats including coastal scrub, mangroves, and sand dunes. They are rarely found in tropical rainforests or arid regions. They frequent cultivated lands where they take advantage of abundant sorghum, millet, and other grains. (Fry and Keith, 2004; Sinclair and Hockey, 1996)

  • Range elevation
    0 to 2300 m
    0.00 to 7545.93 ft

Physical Description

Yellow-fronted canaries are brightly colored and average 12 cm (4.75 inches) in length. Adult males have a golden-yellow face, belly, flank, rump, and tail coverts. They have brown to black malar stripes and eyestripes continuing through to the beak, both surrounded by the characteristic golden-yellow. Their back, neck, and crown are brown to yellowish olive-green (Fry and Keith, 2004). They have sparse dark streaking on their backs, darker brown primaries and secondaries, dark to light brown tail feathers with lighter yellowish or greenish edges, and pale pinkish-brown bills. Adult females are similar in plumage to males. They are distinguished by a ring of brown feathers crossing the bottom of the throat, resembling a pearl necklace. They are generally slightly more dull brown and paler yellow, with lighter eye and malar stripes. Juveniles are similar to females, with heavy streaking. Juvenile males molt out of their necklace markings at around 6 months of age. (Fry and Keith, 2004; Sinclair and Hockey, 1996)

Eleven subspecies of Serinus mozambicus have been identified, each with subtle variations in plumage, size, wing length, and other body measurements. South African birds exhibit regional color variation, with a gradient from duller individuals in the west to the brightest yellow birds in the east. (Sinclair and Hockey, 1996)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • male more colorful
  • Range mass
    8.5 to 17.1 g
    0.30 to 0.60 oz
  • Average mass
    13.0 g
    0.46 oz
  • Range length
    11 to 13 cm
    4.33 to 5.12 in
  • Average wingspan
    21.5 cm
    8.46 in

Reproduction

Yellow-fronted canaries are socially monogamous. A pair typically defends its territory from other members of the species, although on occasion several pairs may nest in the same tree. At the onset of the breeding season, members of mated pairs frequently chase one another in a slow, stilted, level flight from branch to branch. Males feed their mates throughout the breeding season, and also sing loud, trilling songs while perched upright and swaying very slightly. (Fry and Keith, 2004)

Both birds collect plant fibers (mostly fine grasses) and other suitable material with which the female constructs a small cup-shaped nest. Nests are built 1 to 6 meters above ground in forked branches, twigs, or other supportive structures, usually shielded from view by dense foliage. (Moulton, 1993)

Serinus mozambicus breeds through the rainy season when there are sufficient food supplies to rear young. Because of the tremendous range of the species, the timing of this period varies widely depending on weather patterns. Between two and five (usually 3) eggs are laid, one per day until the clutch is complete. Incubation by the female alone lasts 13 days and (at least for captive birds) typically commences after the last or second-to-last egg is laid. During this period the male feeds his mate regularly and sings from a nearby perch. (Fry and Keith, 2004; Moulton, 1993)

  • Breeding interval
    Related birds often raise one to three broods each year, depending on food availability and weather.
  • Breeding season
    The breeding season varies throughout range but generally coincides with the wet season.
  • Range eggs per season
    2 to 5
  • Average eggs per season
    3
  • Range time to hatching
    13 to 15 days
  • Average time to hatching
    13 days
  • Range fledging age
    18 to 24 days
  • Average time to independence
    6 weeks
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    6 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    6 months

Initially after hatching the young require nearly constant brooding by the mother. As the female is able to leave the nest for longer periods, the male joins in feeding the young. The young fledge at around 18 days. The family travels and feeds as a unit until or beyond the time when the young are functionally independent, usually at the age of 6 weeks. (Fry and Keith, 2004; Moulton, 1993)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

Adult yellow-fronted canaries (older than 6 months) experience annual mortality rates of about 65%. Many birds live 2 to 3 years, although one wild individual lived at least 8.5 years. Captive birds frequently live beyond 10 years. ("The Green Singing Finch", 2007; Fry and Keith, 2004)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    8.5 (high) years
  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    16.5 (high) years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    1 to 7 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    2.5 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    4 to 15 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    8 years

Behavior

Yellow-fronted canaries forage alone or in small groups. However, flocks of up to 100 individuals have been reported and they may join other finches to form mixed-species flocks. Small groups roost together in trees and bushes. Posturing and vocal communication is common within the group. Though generally considered a resident species, Serinus mozambicus may migrate short distances to stay close to the best food sources and to avoid bad weather conditions. These seasonal wanderings are particularly pronounced in the northern limits of their range. (Fry and Keith, 2004; Moulton, 1993)

Home Range

Nesting pairs of yellow-fronted canaries are moderately territorial, but two or even three nests have been sited in the same tree on several occasions. Home range size varies. (Fry and Keith, 2004)

Communication and Perception

Posturing between individuals in a group is common. Singing competitions are frequent, and males respond strongly to potential competitors with a loud, trilling song that is repeated throughout the day. (Fry and Keith, 2004)

Food Habits

Yellow-fronted canaries feed primarily on seeds and insects. Sorghum and millet seeds are husked and eaten readily, often taken from cultivated fields. To reach seeds still attached to tip of plants, birds may land mid-stalk, pin the plant to the ground, and inch their way up until they reach the seeds. Termites, aphids, grasshoppers, and other insects are especially important during the breeding season when chicks demand a relatively high-protein diet. Other food items include leaves, fruit, petals, and nectar. (Fry and Keith, 2004)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial worms
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit
  • nectar
  • flowers

Predation

Adult yellow-fronted canaries are agile and can outmaneuver most predators. Nestlings and recently fledged birds sustain the highest rates of mortality. Likely predators of adults are agile raptors, such as falcons. Nestlings and hatchlings may be taken by nest predators such as snakes and other arboreal carnivores. (Fry and Keith, 2004)

  • Known Predators
    • falcons (Falco)
    • arboreal snakes (Serpentes)

Ecosystem Roles

Yellow-fronted canaries are important as seed predators and may act as prey for small raptors, snakes, and small, carnivorous mammals.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Yellow-fronted canaries are a popular cagebird throughout the world. Mozambique exports 10,000 birds annually. The population within this country has been estimated at over 2 million birds (Parker 1999 in Fry and Keith 2004). Yellow-fronted canaries may assist in controlling insect numbers around cultivated fields. (Fry and Keith, 2004)

  • Positive Impacts
  • pet trade
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Serinus mozambicus frequently feeds on cultivated grains. Although abundant and widespread, yellow-fronted canaries generally forage in small groups and thus never threaten to wipe out a crop, but consistent feeding in farmlands may contribute to lower crop harvests.

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

Yellow-fronted canaries are common through much of sub-Saharan Africa, They are categorized as a species of least concern on the IUCN Red List and a CITES Appendix III species. This classification is designed to "prevent or restrict exploitation" which, in this case, may result from excessive capture for the pet trade.

Contributors

Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Timothy Lambert (author), Stanford University, Terry Root (editor, instructor), Stanford University.

Glossary

Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

Pacific Ocean

body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

arboreal

Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

introduced

referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oceanic islands

islands that are not part of continental shelf areas, they are not, and have never been, connected to a continental land mass, most typically these are volcanic islands.

omnivore

an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

suburban

living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

territorial

defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

Finchinfo.com. 2007. "The Green Singing Finch" (On-line). Finch Info. Accessed May 10, 2007 at http://www.finchinfo.com/birds/finches/species/green_singing_finch.php.

Arnaiz-Villena, A., M. Álvarez-Tejado, V. Ruíz-del-Valle, C. García-de-la-Torre, P. Varela, M. Recio, S. Ferre, J. Martinez-Laso. 1999. Rapid Radiation of Canaries (Genus Serinus). Molecular Biology and Evolution, 16(1): 2-11. Accessed May 10, 2007 at http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/16/1/2.pdf.

Fry, C., S. Keith. 2004. The Birds of Africa: Volume VII. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Moulton, M. 1993. The All-or-none Pattern in Introduced Hawaiian Passeriforms: the Role of Competition Sustained. The American Naturalist, 141: 105-119. Accessed May 10, 2007 at http://www.jstor.org/view/00030147/di006367/00p0057g/0.

Sibley, D. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc..

Sinclair, I., P. Hockey. 1996. Birds of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Struik Publishers.