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Alex’s Bird Chirp No. 6 – Canary Family

yellow fronted canary ncwincwi bush camp

Canaries are part of a diverse group of seed-eating birds (although some occasionally eat fruits and insects), which also includes siskins and seedeaters.  Although the distinction between the three is rather arbitrary, the seedeaters can generally be identified in having rather heavy, large bills and dull overall plumage.

Fifteen species of canary occur in Southern Africa, with the Streaky-headed Seedeater, the Brimstone Canary and the Yellow-fronted Canary being found here in our reserve. (The Forest Canary and the Cape Canary are found elsewhere in Eswatini and could be possible sightings here;  however our habitat is not ideal.)   Canaries vary in size from 11cm -16cm.

Canaries build cup-shape nests in trees and shrubs.

The yellow-fronted canary (also called the yellow-eyed Canary) is 11–13 cm in length.

The adult male has a green back and brown wings and tail. The underparts and rump are yellow, and the head is yellow with a grey crown and nape and a black malar stripe.

The female is similar, but with a weaker head pattern and duller underparts. Juveniles are greyer than the female, especially on the head.

Commonly found in our estate around the lodges and open woodland where grass and seeds are readily available.

It is also smaller than the Brimstone Canary with a less heavy bill and more distinct grey rather than green on the crown

The brimstone canary (also called the Bully Canary) is 15– 16 cm in length with a heavy bill, which is short, conical and very stout at the base.

The bill is light brown with a pinkish or yellowish base. The legs and feet are pinkish-brown. It has yellow-green upper parts with dark green streaking, yellow-green ear coverts and malar stripe, and two yellow wing bars. The underparts are yellow, with a greenish wash on the flanks, and breast. The sexes are similar, but the male is brighter, with a bigger bill, better defined face pattern, brighter yellow wing bars and a greenish rump. Young birds are duller, greyer and less yellow below than the adults.

Commonly found around lodges and woodland areas where there is dry grass and brush.

The above two images of the Brimstone Canary clearly show the difference in bill and colour to the Yellow-fronted Canary

The Streaky-headed Seedeater has not yet been recorded in the reserve, my guess is mainly because of its dull colour and similarity to sparrows and female finches. It should, however, easily be seen around the lodges as the habitat is very similar to the two canaries above.

The streaky-headed canary is a seed eater, 13– 14 cm in length.
The adult has brown upperparts with some faint streaking and a plain brown rump. The head has a finely white-streaked crown, dark face, and white chin.

The underparts are warm buff. The sexes are similar, but some females show a little breast streaking. The juvenile has less head streaking, a dull supercilium, more heavily streaked upperparts, and heavy streaking on the pale grey underparts.