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Serinus canicollis (Cape canary) 

Kaapse kanarie [Afrikaans]; Umlonji [Xhosa]; umZwilili [Zulu]; Tšoere (generic term for canaries and siskins) [South Sotho]; Tšwere [North Sotho]; Risunyani, Vusunyani, Ritswiri [Tsonga]; Geelkruinkanarie [Dutch]; Serin du Cap [French]; Gelbscheitelgirlitz [German]; Canįrio-de-nuca-cinzenta [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

Serinus canicollis (Cape canary)  Serinus canicollis (Cape canary) 

Cape canary. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Cape canary. [photo Jeff Poklen ©]

Distribution and habitat

Endemic to southern Africa, occurring in Zimbabwe's eastern highlands and adjacent Mozambique as well as in Swaziland, Lesotho and South Africa, from Limpopo Province south to KwaZulu-Natal and west through the Free State and the Eastern Cape to the Western Cape. It generally prefers montane grassland with scattered shrubs an patches of Ouhout (Leucosidea sericea), open savanna, Protea woodland, borders between drainage line woodland and Karoo shrubland, coastal dunes, edges of cultivated land and occasionally alien thickets of Port Jackson (Acacia saligna) and Rooikrans (Acacia cyclops).

Distribution of Cape 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 (at different stages of development) has been recorded as prey of the following animals:

Additionally nestlings may be parasited and killed by the blood-sucking fly Passeromyia heterochaeta.

Movements and migrations

Resident and mainly sedentary, although it may make nomadic movements especially towards the outskirts of its distribution.


It almost exclusively eats seeds, either taken directly from plants or plucked from bare patches of the ground. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Plants
    • Seeds
      • Alyssum
      • Amaranthus (pigweeds)
      • Arctotheca (botterbloms)
      • Athanasia (geelblombossies)
      • Boerhavia (kleefbossies)
      • Casuarina (beefwoods)
      • Chenopodium (fat hens)
      • Echium (bloudisseldorings)
      • Dicerothamnus rhinocerotis (Renosterbos)
      • ericas (Ericaceae)
      • Eriocephalus (Karoo rosemaries)
      • Gnidia (aandbossies)
      • Inula (khakiweeds)
      • Lepidium (birdseeds)
      • Metalasia muricata (Blombossies)
      • Olea (wild olives)
      • Osteospermum (bitous)
      • Oxalis (suurings)
      • Poa (meadow grasses)
      • Senecio (groundsels)
      • Silene (wild tobaccos)
      • Sonchus (milk thistles)
      • Stellaria (chickweeds)
      • Stoebe
      • Ursinia
      • Venidium (Namaqua marigolds)
    • flowers
    • flower buds of Buddleia (sagewood)
    • fruit
  • Insects


  • Monogamous and usually a solitary nester, although it sometimes forms loose colonies with up to 12 nests in a few adjacent trees.
  • The nest is built almost entirely by the female in roughly 2-3 weeks, consisting of a thick-walled cup of tendrils, especially from everlastings (Helichrysum), also with lichens, leaf petioles, mosses, rootlets, small twigs, pine needles and sometimes pieces of rags, string, wool and cotton. The interior is lined with the hairy and downy pappuses of seeds, fluffy Karoo rosemary (Eriocephalus) seeds, other plant down, hair, feathers and wool. The rim of the structure is always made of rootlets, and is used by the chicks to deposit faeces (a unique behaviour of canaries). It is typically placed in a vertical fork or a horizontal branch of a bush or tree, which in the Western Cape is more frequently an introduced species rather than an indigenous one.
  • Egg-laying season is from about August-February, peaking from October-December.
  • It lays 1-5 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 12-16 days, while the male regularly feeds her at the nest.
  • The chicks are brooded by their for the first two days of their lives while the male feeds all of them, after which the female remains on the nest to protect the nestlings from rain or sun by standing with wings outstretched. They eventually leave the nest after about 15-19 days and after two days or so are able to fly, after which they still remain dependent on their parents for some time.


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.