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Crithagra totta (Cape siskin) 

[= Pseudochloroptila totta

Kaapse pietjiekanarie [Afrikaans]; Serin totta [French]; Hottentottengirlitz [German]; Canário do Cabo [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 totta (Cape siskin) 

Crithagra totta (Cape siskin) 

Cape siskin male, Citrusdal, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Cape siskin female, Citrusdal, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Endemic to South Africa, specifically occurring in the Cape Fold Mountains in the Western and Eastern Cape. It generally prefers fynbos on mountains and in valleys, also occupying clearings in mountain forest patches, fringes of succulent Karoo, edges of pine plantations and village gardens.

Distribution of Cape siskin 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.  

Movements and migrations

Resident and partially nomadic, as it may move to lower altitudes during particularly harsh Winters.


It mainly eats seeds and buds either taken from bare patches of ground or directly from grasses and shrubs. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Plants
    • seeds
      • Ficinia (sedges)
      • restios
        • Thamnocortus
        • Restio
      • Protea
      • Athanasia
      • Metalasia (blombos)
      • Dicerothamnus rhinocerotis (Renosterbos)
      • Chenopodium (misbredies)
      • Cliffortia
      • Erica plukenetti (Hangertjie)
      • grasses
      • Widdringtonia (cedars)
      • Leucadendron (conebushes)
    • flowers
    • nectar
  • Insects


  • Monogamous solitary nester, building a shallow cup of fine dry grasses and rootlets or withered Asteraceae flowers and lined with fine grass sometimes mixed with down, wool or hair. It is typically placed in a horizontal crevice, small depression or cavity in a rock face or tree, alternatively in a fern other plant on a rocky ledge.
  • Egg-laying season is from August-December.
  • It lays 3-4 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for at least 13 days.
  • The chicks are fed by both parents, leaving the nest after about 19 days.


Although it was previously thought be Near-threatened, current data suggests otherwise as it is well-represented in protected areas. 


  • 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.