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the web of life in southern Africa

Crithagra scotops (Forest canary)

 [= Serinus scotops

Gestreepte kanarie [Afrikaans]; Unotswitswitswi [Xhosa]; boskanarie [Dutch]; Serin forestier [French]; Schwarzkinngirlitz [German]; Canário-da-floresta [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Fringillidae

Crithagra scotops (Forest canary) Crithagra scotops (Forest canary)

Forest canary, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Forest canary. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

Distribution and habitat

Endemic to South Africa marginally extending into Lesotho and Swaziland, occurring from Limpopo Province south to KwaZulu-Natal and down the southern coast to the Eastern and Western Cape. It generally prefers patches of indigenous forest and coastal thicket in valley bushveld, sometimes moving into adujacent dense vegetation to forage, such as tall Protea woodland, patches of tall shrubs such as Gonna (Passerina vulgaris), orchards, well-wooded gardens and alien tree plantations.

Distribution of Forest canary in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

It has been recorded as prey of Falco peregrinus (Peregrine falcon).

Movements and migrations

Resident and sedentary, although it may make local movements in Winter in search of new food sources.


It mainly eats seeds, fruit, flowers and leaves, doing most of its foraging on the ground or in vegetation, plucking food directly from plants. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Plants
    • seeds
      • Panicum (Guinea grasses)
      • oats
      • Alyssum
      • Passerina corymbosa (gonna)
    • fruit
      • Anthospermum (jackalsstert)
      • Plectranthus
      • Ficus (figs)
    • flowers of Penaea cneorum (Penaeaceae)
    • leaves
      • Senecio (creeping groundsel)
      • Ptaeroxylon obliquum (Sneezewood)


  • Monogamous territorial usually solitary nester, although two nests were once recorded to be only two metres apart.
  • The nest is built by the female, consisting of a bulk cup of moss and fine stems, lined with fibrous lichen and typically placed in the fork of a tall shrub or small tree on the forest edge.
  • Egg-laying season is from October-March.
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 14 days.
  • The chicks are fed by the female with food provided by the male, leaving the nest after about 15-19 days.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.