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Crithagra mennelli (Black-eared seedeater, Black-eared canary) 

[= Serinus mennelli

Swartoorkanarie [Afrikaans]; Zwartwangkanarie [Dutch]; Serin oreillard [French]; Schwarzwangengirlitz [German]; Canário-de-mascarilha [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 mennelli (Black-eared seedeater, Black-eared canary)   

Black-eared seedeater, DRC. [photo Neil Gray ©]


Distribution and habitat

Occurs from southern DRC and Tanzania through Angola, Zambia and Malawi to southern Africa, where it is uncommon to locally common in Zimbabwe and central, northern and south-eastern Mozambique. It generally prefers miombo (Brachystegia), Zambezi teak (Baikiaea plurijuga) and mahobohobo (Uapaca) woodland, especially on Kalahari Sands. It also occupies mixed munondo (Julbernadia) and Mountain acacia (Brachystegia glaucescens) woodland, fields and degraded coastal forest.

Distribution of Black-eared seedeater 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).

Movements and migrations

Resident and mostly sedentary, although it may make seasonal movements as it is most common in southern Zimbabwe in the period from September-March.


It mainly eats seeds, fruit and flowers, doing most of its foraging on the ground and in grass tufts, occasionally along with other canary species. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Seeds
    • grasses
      • Loudetia simplex (Common russet grass)
      • Hyparrhenia (thatching grass)
    • Helianthus (sunflower)
  • Fruit
    • Trema orientalis (Pigeonwood)
    • mistletoes (Loranthaceae)


  • Monogamous, territorial solitary nester, with males calling from perches or while gliding between trees.
  • The nest is a distinctive cup mostly made out of old-man's-beard lichen (Usnea), bound with spider web and sometimes including bark and a few twigs. It is typically placed in the fork of a thin branch near the top of a Musasa (Brachystegia spiciformis) tree.
  • Egg-laying season is from September-April, peaking from January-February.
  • It lays 2-3 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 13 days (recorded in captivity).
  • In captivity the chicks leave the nest at about 18 days old.


Not threatened, although destruction of miombo (Brachystegia) woodland in Zimbabwe is cause for concern.


  • 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.