General Notes about the Avian Systematics and Classification of the Genus Spinus (Siskins)
Dieser Vortrag wurde gehalten während
"First Triennial Finch And Seedeater Convention"
im Juli 2002 in Brisbane, Australien.
Siskins are a very close related systematic group within the family Carduelidae according to the Phylogenetic Systematic from Hans Edmund Wolters (1975-1982). Some former Systematic Ornithologists (Peters, Moore) put as "lumbers" a lot of different species like Goldfinch, Greenfinches, Linnet and Redpoll into the same genus. Looking at that big genus we see that there is less homology, only the yellow wing marking. The differences are much more: shape of the Greenfinch as one of the biggest and Redpoll as one of the tallest. The form of the beak also varies from cone to sharply pointed. But the main differences are found in song patterns and courtship behaviour. That brought the leading Phylogenists to a "modern" group of different genera: Chloris, Linaria, Acanthis, Carduelis and Spinus. My presentation will deal with the genus Spinus sensu stricto like shown above. The genus Spinus belongs to the family of Carduelidae which is the closest family to Fringillidae. Both were put together (see Peters Checklist) but again - there are some phenomena which can distinguish the two families: Species of the family Carduelidae have "pouches" where they store food for the nestlings during breeding season. But - I will not hold a lecture about Avian Systematics - I will show the results of European breeders with species of the genus Spinus.
Siskins in Captivity Keeping Siskins (especially the Eurasian) has a long tradition and was formerly a fancy for the poor craftsmen like shoemakers or taylors. Some liked to keep a quartet: Linnet, Siskin, Greenfinch and Chaffinch. With begin twentieth century fancy turned to breeding. Also few foreign birds came to the 'normal' people. Birds like the Red Hooded Siskin were the most wanted species and some breeders were successful to breed them. During the last two decades there was an increasing interest for the different species of the family Carduelidae and within the genus Spinus. The initiative came from breeders of hybrids who were anxious to loose their partners for hybridisation. In the seventies we had lots of imports from Middle and South America (with Siskins) and also from Africa (with Canaries and Serins). Asia with the Himalayan region followed in the nineties. The year of the foundation of the group "Mischlinge und Cardueliden" (= Hybrids and Carduelian Finches) was 1977 during World Show in Bocholt/Germany. The German Canary Breeders Association (DKB) gave a home for that group. Today we see nearly 80 different species, some in different subspecies at the German National. Among them there are also 11 species in different subspecies of the Siskins.
That already shows that Siskins are easy to care for when you think about the essentials: food and housing.
Food. Siskins are mostly birds which exist from a bit mote than "nothing". Recognising the mistakes we made in the beginning we had seed mixtures which were too fat and had too much energy. In the seventies we changed our formulas and added lots of grass seeds (especially Dactylis) and lots of small seeds like "A lot to husk but less to digest". But diet does vary from species to species in a small amount. The best mixture I will tell within the monographies.
Housing. Siskins can be kept and bred in cages from 70 or 80 cm on. In opposite to Rosefinches and Bullfinches they do not need big aviaries. Different perches in different diameters or natural twigs will complete the cages. Nesting takes place in simple canary nestpans or in "Sabelklötzen" (Foto). The nests are built with grass, sisal or hemp. A good addition is also small twigs, hair of dogs/cats and small roots. The inner nest is built with white sharpie and feathers.
But now let us see the different species of Siskins.
I will begin with the rarest species in captivity.
Lawrence's Goldfinch Spinus lawrencei (Cassin, 1852) German: Maskenzeisig
Distribution and Habitat The Lawrence's Goldfinch lives in the southwestern regions of North America, southern California, western Arizona and northwest Mexico. The breeding area is found in the dry grass areas or open pine and oak woods. The movements make it to a bird of erratic occurence. In winter it wanders southwards.
General notes The Lawrence's Siskin is monotypic. Sexual dimorphism is present. The length is about 11 cm.
Avicultural notes Has been kept in a small number in Europe. Two breeders didn't give any informations except that this species is very difficult to keep. They seem to be extremely social and die very soon when kept single.
American Goldfinch Spinus tristis (Linné, 1758) German: Trauerzeisig
Distribution and Habitat The American Goldfinch lives in open woodlands and also along the roads in North America from southeastern Canada and New Foundland south to north Baja California, Colorado, north east Texas and south Carolina, if there grow thistles.
Subspecies/Geographical Variations tristis, jewetti, salicamans, pallidus Today we have two different subspecies in Europe, salicamans from California is the smaller with brighter darker colours and tristis from the North is larger and paler.
General notes There is no confusion to other species. The American Goldfinch has two moulting periods per year. The summer plumage of the male is much brighter with brilliant yellow except for the black cap, tail and wings. The winter plumage is very similar to the plumage of the female. Then the male has a yellow throat and yellowish shoulder feathers. Sexual dimorphism is present. The length is about 11,5 - 14 cm.
Avicultural notes First import to Europe was end of the nineteenth century but the bird was told to be difficult (Russ, 1892). It needs cages which are a bit longer than the cages for other species. Acclimatisation is a critical time especially for wild caught birds. Mostly they die with Coccidia. The same is for moulting time. It is a social bird which can live in bigger aviaries in company with other peaceful species. The song is like the European Goldfinch a sequence of melodious trillers with some metallic elements.
Food Basic food shall be a mixture of small seeds of Conifers, seed mixture for Siskins and millet spray.
Breeding Since 1985 the species is regularly bred. Bock (1974) describes the first complete breeding cycle. Essential for the result is a lot of different half ripe plants like dandelion and Senecio with all known plants for food and a rearing food with animal content (like 'shrimps'). Larvae of Flies and Beetles and greenflies guarantee healthy youngsters.
Lesser Goldfinch Spinus psaltria (Say, 1823) German: Mexikozeisig
Distribution and Habitat The Lesser Goldfinch is distributed from western North America through Middle America to northwestern Peru and north Columbia. It lives in dry open countries, brush, woodlands, orchards and gardens from lowlands between 500 up to 3.100 meters.
Subspecies/Geographical Variations There are two different groups of subspecies: Groupe 1 h e s p e r o p h i l u s , monotypic; is not black but green with striations at the back. In the last 5 years were few imports. Most other and earlier imports brought immature psaltria which changed their green to black during second moult. Groupe 2 p s a l t r i a : psaltria, witti, jouyi, columbianus, Subspecies columbianus is in Europe known as Columbian Siskin and can be distinguished with the extreme small white edges of the outer wings in both sexes. Subspecies psaltria shows more and broader white edges. The third form in Europe is jouyi with similar colouration like psaltria but jouyi is smaller with a well defined ring around the neck.
General notes There is no confusion to another species because the Lesser Goldfinch is the only species with a total black upper side (except hesperophilus) and a total yellow under side. Sexual dimorphism is present. The length is about 9,5 - 11 cm.
Avicultural notes The Lesser Goldfinch was first imported 1886 (Russ 1892). It should be housed in a larger cage or small aviary. Newly imported birds can cause problems. Bigger problems can occur during moulting times and other stress situations. Temperature shall be above 16 °C to avoid sudden deaths. The melodious song is very variable and sounds like the Goldfinch.
Food A well balanced seed mixture special for these Siskins shall also contain small seeds of Conifers, grass seed and poppy seed. Rape and spray millet is also favoured by the birds. All seeds are accepted dry and also soaked/sprouted. Animalic additives are necessary.
Breeding Breeding results are recorded over years also in smaller breeding cages. Wacknitz (1989), a German breeder decorated his cages with fresh and cleaned twigs of pine. He stated that most difficulties are in different moulting times from male and female. Often they only moult partial which will work against breeding condition. Wacknitz gave also dandelion, chickweed and endivie. Nitschky-Germann (1992) used softfood, sprouted rape and Lettuce seed. During weaning period he fed cracked seed. All green plants known for birds can be added.
Yellow-rumped Siskin Spinus uropygialis (Sclater, 1862) German: Kordillerenzeisig
Distribution and Habitat The Yellow-rumped Siskin is distributed in altitudes of 2.000 und 4.000 m of the Andes from south Peru and southwest Bolivia to middle Chile, western Argentinia and lives in open grassland with bushes. It often is seen in small flocks; feeding is in bushes or at the floor. The Yellow-rumped Siskin lives in the same geographical region as the Black Siskin but in different habitats and altitudes.
Subspecies/Geographical Variations The Yellow-rumped Siskin is monotypic. There is no subspecies described.
General notes Confusion can be with Yellow-bellied Siskin (S. xanthogaster) but it can be distinguished by its yellow rump. The sexes are very similar but all colours are much paler in the females. The length is about 12,5 - 13 cm.
Avicultural notes There were only few imports to Europe during the eighties. The Yellow Rumped Siskin needs a bit more place and should be housed in larger cages. The problem of keeping is the same as in the Black Siskin. Parasites like Coccidiae are very common and mostly they cause death.
Food The German breeder Blattner (mdl.) fed his own seed mixture, now available under "Blattner Zeisig-I" with mostly small seeds. Sprouted seed and soft food complete the diet as also several green plants do.
Breeding Since 1985 Blattner (mdl.) reported breeding success in two generations. During nesting period he mixed his soft food with sprouted seed.
Black Siskin Spinus atratus (Lafresnaye & d'Orbigny, 1837) German: Schwarzzeisig
Distribution and Habitat The Black Siskin lives in the Andes from southern Peru, west Bolivia to north Chile and west Argentinia in altitudes between 3.500 and 4.500 m. The habitat is Puna (Grassland) and also near villages. Normally they live in pairs and seldom you can see small flocks (families?).
Subspecies/Geographical Variations The Black Siskin is monotypic. There is no subspecies described. Although some imports show a lot of variations.
General notes There can be no confusion to another species. It is the only Siskin totally black except the small wing pattern and the vent. The sexes differ slightly. The colour of the male is brighter, the yellow vent reaches the breast. The length is about 12 - 13 cm.
Avicultural notes Acclimatisation must take place in larger cages from 1 meter and more. Grit during that time can kill them. Long term housing must take place in larger flight cages or aviaries. Deep temperatures are to avoid but in opposite the Black Siskin should kept not too warm. The Black Siskin was recognised for one of the most difficult birds for the fancy. But that made it more attractive. The fault was to feed a diet which had too much energy and too much fat. Former imports were fed to death when the breeders worked with Nigerseed only. Today we can report from positive results, birds aged 6 and more years and still breeding. One of the breeders now works with the 8th generation own breed. Some points are necessary. That is a basic food with only small seeds and a permanent look for Coccidia. In total that means the Black Siskin is only for the experienced breeder. Blattner found it essential not to mix the old stock with freshly imported birds. The Black Siskin can be kept together with other birds. Aggression will only occur during breeding time against other Black Siskins.
Food A well balanced diet is more essential as in other species. Basic mixture contains seeds of pine, perilla, poppy seed, seed of Oenothera, Cichorium, Lettuce, thistle, grass sesame, small amount of Niger and Canary seed. Half ripe seeds and plants of dandelion, thistle, Senecio, Chenopodium and Poa annua complete the diet.
Breeding Breeding results of the Black Siskin are common since 1985. The Black Siskin needs a larger cage or better a small aviary. Twigs of pine are a good decoration. The Black Siskin nests in wire nests as in the "Sabel'sche Nistklotz" but needs an underground in sisal. The nest is built of cocos, sharpie, small roots and twigs and hair of animals. The nestlings are fed with chickweed, dandelion and grass. Older nestlings get half ripe thistle. Animalic softfood was not given by Glanzner (1992), but some other breeders do it with positive results.
Yellow-bellied Siskin Spinus xanthogaster (Du Bus, 1855) German: Gelbbauchzeisig
Distribution and Habitat The Yellow-bellied Siskin lives in Costa Rica and west Panama, north Venezuela and Columbia, southwest Ecuador and north Bolivia at the edges of woodland and in open habitats with solitaire bushes and trees. These habitats are in altitudes between 1.500 and 2.500 m. The Yellow-bellied Siskin normally is found in small groups in trees. It prefers feeding in trees and only seldom at the floor.
Subspecies/Geographical Variations There is one other subspecies stejnegeri described. That subspecies is larger ad has a more slender beak.
General notes There can be a slight confusion with the Yellow-rumped Siskin (S. uropygialis) but the yellow rump is not by the Yellow-bellied Siskin (S. xanthogaster) present. Sexual dimorphism is present. The length is about 10 - 11,5 cm.
Avicultural notes In the mid eighties the Yellow-bellied Siskin was imported in larger numbers and mostly as birds out of breeds from Italy. Housing is best done in cages from 80 cm on. Keeping and breeding is as easy as in the Red Hooded Siskin (Spinus cucullatus). The Yellow-bellied Siskin still is extremely fertile. It is possible to accompany the Yellow-bellied Siskin with other finches.
Food A seed mixture for Siskins as available under "Blattner Zeisig I A" is the basic food. In addition half ripe grasses, dandelion, chickweed and other green plants complete the diet.
Breeding Soon after their appearance in Germany the first breeding results are recorded. Klages (1990) describes his results in a cage where the wooden nest with sisal underground was taken and filled only with sharpie. The parents fed additionally to the sorts above sprouted seed and half ripe grass.
Hooded Siskin Spinus magellanicus (Vieillot, 1805) German: Magellanzeisig
Distribution and Habitat The Hooded Siskin lives in South America from south Columbia, south Venezuela and Guayana to north Chile, south Argentinia and Uruguay and is found in open habitats with single bushes and trees in altitudes up to 4.000 m. Also in orchards of towns the Hooded Siskin is mostly seen in smaller flocks.
Subspecies/Geographical Variations capitalis, longirostris, paulus, peruanus, urubambensis, bolivianus, santaecrucis, tucumanus, alleni, ictericus . The great number of subspecies is hardly to distinguish. Most forms intermerge. Only the origin of the birds can give a correct answer. During the long period of breeding the species the different subspecies are mixed. Hooded Siskins in captivity have to be seen as not to determine. Only two subspecies could be saved: S. m. santaecrucis is the largest and darkest form where the black front reaches the vent and divides in two stripes touching the flanks. The feathers of the back show central black and distal olive green. The smallest form is S. m. paulus with a more brighter yellow. The vent and undertail coverts lack any white. S. m. peruanus, capitalis, magellanicus and urubambensis are of different size. All females can be distinguished only by their size.
General notes Confusion can cause the female of the Andean Siskin (S. spinescens) in colouration but the females of every subspecies of the Hooded Siskin (S. magellanicus) are much rounder. Sexual dimorphism is present. The length is about 11 - 13,5 cm.
Avicultural notes The Hooded Siskin is known in Europe since 1877 (Russ, 1892). It can be housed in larger cages or in small aviaries. New imported birds are extremely sensitive and acclimatisation is work only for the experienced breeder. Once acclimatized the Hooded Siskin is easy to keep and can be housed in outdoor aviaries the whole year (Kühnel, 1986; Wacknitz, 1988) if temperature is not too low for a long period.
Food Some formulas are given in literature for the Hooded Siskin. The best result you can get using the standard Siskin mixture with seeds of conifers and few Canary seed. During the winter fresh twigs of conifers and deciduous wood is helpful.
Breeding Russ (1892) writes: "Bred in birdroom" (originally 'Vogelstube' which describes a room for the birds with several species kept together). Today breeding results are no problem. Rearing food is apple, sprouted seed, endivie, chickweed and dandelion. Additionally animalic softfood has to be added in smaller amount.
Red Hooded Siskin Spinus cucullatus (Swainson, 1820) German: Kapuzenzeisig
Distribution and Habitat The Red Hooded Siskin is distributed from northeast Columbia to north Venezuela along the edges of the semiwet forest in altitudes between 300 and 1.200 m. Mostly seen in small flocks moving outside the breeding period in open grassland with some trees. The Red Hooded Siskin is strictly protected by law and one of the vanishing species. In the natural habitat the number now is about 400 to 600 individuals.
Subspecies/Geographical Variations The Red Hooded Siskin is monotypic. There is no subspecies described.
General notes The Red Hooded Siskin (Spinus cucullatus) is the only species with red plumage and distinctive to the other species of the Spinus group. Sexual dimorphism is present. The length is about 10 cm.
Avicultural notes The Red Hooded Siskin is another species mentioned by Russ (1892). He described the first breeding in captivity which was not completely successful. A medium sized cage already is large enough to house and to breed the Red Hooded Siskin. The cage shall be decorated with fresh twigs of spruce and pine. The Red Hooded Siskin is social and can be housed with other birds. Temperature should not be deeper as 18 °C. The song is similar to the Siskin but much melodious and fuller in timbre.
Food Basic food for the Red Hooded Siskin is again a siskin mixture with an amount of less than 30% niger. In Europe there is again a special "Blattner Zeisig" mixed seed available.
Breeding The first breeding results are recorded early after the first imports. Today the Red Hooded Siskin is bred in cages. Temperature during breeding season shall be between 22 and 25 °C and a day length about 14 hours. Food for nestlings contains half ripe seed, sweet apple and animalic food like greenflies and pupae of ants.
Black-headed Siskin Spinus notatus (Du Bus, 1847) German: Schwarzbrustzeisig
Distribution and Habitat The Black-headed Siskin lives from Mexico to north Nicaragua and inhabits the spruce-oak zone of higher altitudes. In Winter it migrates into deeper altitudes.
Subspecies/Geographical Variations notatus, forreri, oleaceus. Subspecies notatus is the largest and has a shorter and slender beak; oleaceus is similar to notatus but slightly smaller with a slightly longer beak, colouration in total darker; forreri is smaller and has a longer beak.
General notes Confusion often with Hooded Siskin (Spinus magellanicus) but best distinguished with the slender lead painted beak and the black shoulders of the Black-headed Siskin. Sexual dimorphism is present but seen at the range and intensity of the hood. The length is about 10 - 12 cm.
Avicultural notes The Black-headed Siskin needs more space and cages of minimum 100 x 50 x 50 cm or better a small aviary. An outdoor aviary is also possible when temperature is not lower than 18 °C and air dry. Decoration as in the other species with spruce and conifers. Acclimatisation of freshly imported birds is work only for the experienced breeder. The Black-headed Siskin is more restless than the other species. The song is melodious.
Food A mixture of seed of lettuce, perilla, canary seed, thistle, grass, birch, poppy seed and small tree seeds is a good basic diet.
Breeding Since the eighties we can record several breeding results. A cage like described gives place enough. A clean cage or aviary is necessary during breeding and also moulting time. Humidity of air shall between 60 and 70 %. Different methods bring success. For Wacknitz (1989) sprouted niger seed is essential, and Märzhäuser (1980) lists dandelion, softfood ('Kanariengold'). Other plants are thistle, Senecio, Filipendula, Artemisia, and Chenopodium.
Black-chinned Siskin Spinus barbatus (Molina, 1782) German: Bartzeisig
Distribution and Habitat The Black-chinned Siskin lives on the South American Subcontinent from north Chile and Neuquen in west Argentinia to Fireland and the Falkland islands in altitudes up to 1.500 m. The habitat is edge of woodlands and grasslands with single trees. It is also seen close to settlements. In winter the Black-chinned Siskin is found in larger flocks and takes food regularly from the floor.
Subspecies/Geographical Variations The Black-chinned Siskin is monotypic. There is no subspecies described.
General notes Confusion can occur between the males of Black-chinned Siskin (S. barbatus) and the Eurasian Siskin (S. spinus) but the Black-chinned Siskin is larger and the type is more rounder. Females can be confused with the females of the Hooded Siskin (S. magellanicus) but the crown of the Black-skinned Siskin is darker. Sexual dimorphism is present. The length is about 12 - 13 cm.
Avicultural notes Russ (1892) mentioned the Black-chinned Siskin but without any breeding record. It needs a larger cage or better aviary. Outdoor aviaries are also good for housing. Best decoration for an aviary is a lot of twigs of conifers. Before wintering they must be prepared. Acclimatization is essential because the Black-chinned Siskin is when freshly imported very weak. Today we don't need any imports in Europe because the Black-chinned Siskin is widespread and bred regularly. The song is similar to the other Siskins.
Food The basic seed mixture for Siskins as already described can be completed with poppy seed. Fresh twigs of conifers are welcome.
Breeding There are many breeding records. The best chance is in outdoor aviaries decorated with conifers. Engelhardt (mdl.) and also Kühnel (1985) tell that the Black-chinned Siskin begins already in February (for Europe: mid winter). Food during nestling time is the complete range of green food as known. Also berries from Liguster-, Feuerdorn- and Ebereschen and greenflies are necessary. (see Kühnel, 1985).
Yellow-faced Siskin Spinus yarrellii (Audubon, 1839) German: Yarrellzeisig
Distribution and Habitat The Yellow-faced Siskin lives in northeast Venezuela and east Brazil and inhabits the edges of the woodlands.
Subspecies/Geographical Variations The Yellow-faced Siskin is monotypic. There is no subspecies described.
General notes Confusion can be between the female of the Black-capped Siskin (S. atriceps), the Andean Siskin (S. spinescens) and the Yellow-faced Siskin (S. yarrellii). But the legs of the Yellow-faced Siskin are lighter. Also the males are of similar pattern, but the back of the Black-capped Siskin (S. atriceps) is green, the back of the Andean Siskin (S. spinescens) is yellowgreen and the back of the Yellow-faced Siskin is bright yellow. Sexual dimorphism is present. The length is about 10 -11 cm.
Avicultural notes The Yellow Faced Siskin belongs to the endangered species and is listed in the IUCN Red Data Book. That prevents imports of wild caught birds. Only few birds could be saved in Europe with help of breeders. Begin eighties the number could increase, especially in Netherlands and Italy. After hard work we now have hundreds of young Yellow-faced Siskins every year (a friend bred 28 in 2001). Housing is possible in cages and in aviaries.
Food The basic food is again the well known "Blattner Zeisig I A" mixture. Sprouted seed and green food complete the diet.
Breeding Breeding results are not as easy to get as in for example Red Hooded Siskin. The Yellow-faced Siskin has smaller clutches, mostly only two rounds and hatches not more than 3 young. An unbalanced diet will cause gout and liver damages. The breeder should avoid feeding a softfood which contents too much proteine. Also feeding the small soybean or feeding greenfood during the first week after hatching will kill the young.
Andean Siskin Spinus spinescens (Bonaparte, 1850) German: Andenzeisig
Distribution and Habitat The Andean Siskin lives in the mountain regions of Columbia and northwest Venezuela in altitudes between 1.800 and 3.700 m. It inhabits the edges of woodlands, open regions with single trees and is seen in fields. Mostly seen in small flocks. They look for their food on the floor.
Subspecies/Geographical Variations spinescens, nigricauda, capitaneus. The difference between the three subspecies is very small: Only the length of the beak decides. Subspecies nigricauda has darker upper side and less yellow in the wings.
General notes Confusion can be between the female of the Black-capped Siskin (S. atriceps), the Andean Siskin (S. spinescens) and the Yellow-faced Siskin (S. yarrellii). But the legs of the Andean Siskin are darker and nearly black. Also the males are of similar pattern, but the back of the Black-capped Siskin (S. atriceps) is green, the back of the Andean Siskin (S. spinescens) is yellowgreen and the back of the Yellow-faced Siskin is bright yellow. Sexual dimorphism is present. The Length is about 10 cm.
Avicultural notes There were only few imports of the Andean Siskin the last decade. Mostly they were hidden between other species. Housing is possible in larger cages or in indoor aviaries, again decorated with conifers. In winter they shall have temperatures above 0 °C.
Food The basic food is again the well known "Blattner Zeisig I A" mixture which contains additionally seeds of Cichorium, poppy seed, thistle and grass. Sprouted seed and green food complete the diet. The Andean Siskin accepts all greenfood which is known for the birds.
Breeding There are only few breeding records. Rennhack (mdl.) told that the first time their birds tried late in the summer. Rennhack seems to have the first record 1991. The nest was built in a small bush 2 m from the ground with cocos and grass with an inlay of feathers. Another record was from Mr. Lauck (mdl.). He tried also softfood but it was not accepted. Sprouted seed was often frequented.
Black-capped Siskin Spinus atriceps (Salvin, 1863) German: Guatemalazeisig
Distribution and Habitat The Black-capped Siskin is distributed in southwest Guatemala and southwest Mexico. There it inhabits oak and alder forests in altitudes between 2.300 and 3.000 m.
Subspecies/Geographical Variations The Black-capped Siskin is monotypic. There is no subspecies described.
General notes The Black-capped Siskin is similar in its pattern to the Andean Siskin (S. spinescens), but the back is more greenish. Sexual dimorphism is present. The Length is about 11 - 13 cm.
Avicultural notes The first import to Germany came from Italy during 1987 but declared as "Andean Siskins". Grimm (mdl.) kept his birds in larger cages from 160 cm. During acclimatization he fed ½ "Zeisig I A" and a normal mixture for seedeaters with a higher percentage of white and black seed of lettuce.
Food The basis is again "Zeisig-I-" from Blattner (Grimm, mdl.). In addition Grimm feeds sprouted seeds. The mixture for sprouting seeds he uses is 1/3 niger, 1/3 Mixture for seedeaters and 1/3 sesame, rape and thistle. Greenfood was added in small amounts.
Breeding For breeding results the bird needs a cage more than 80 cm. Nest is built in a 'normal' Canary nestpan with sharpie, cocos and flax. The basic food is also given during breeding season. Greenfood shall not be given before the birds are 8 days old. Also feeding of a softfood with a higher percentage of protein will kill the nestlings. Older birds will get liver damage and gout.
Pine-Siskin Spinus pinus (Wilson, 1810) German: Fichtenzeisig
Distribution and Habitat The Pine-Siskin lives in north and west Northamerica from south Alaska, Canada to south Labrador and Newfoundland, southwest in the mountains to north Baja California and through Mexico to southwest Guatemala, East southwards local to Cansas, north Wisconsin, north Michigan, north Pennsylvania and Connecticut. It inhabits mixed forests, alder thickets and gardens of human settlements in higher altitudes. It winters down up to 1000 m.
Subspecies/Geographical Variations pinus, macropterus, perplexus Differences between the three subspecies are mostly within the size; wing and tail measurements of S. p. macropterus are longer and striations are of less contrast. The form we keep in Europe must belong to perplexus.
General notes Confusion can take place between both sexes of the Pine Siskin (Spinus pinus) and the female of the Eurasian Siskin (Spinus spinus) but the Pine Siskin is more heavily streaked. Sexual dimorphism is slightly present, the intensity of the wing pattern is the best difference. The length is about 11 - 13 cm.
Avicultural notes Russ (1892) already knew the Pine-Siskin when he wrote about an import in the year 1877. Unfortunately the first imports were only males. During the last 15 years the Pine-Siskin is sporadic seen in imports. There are no difficulties keeping the Pine-Siskin as Nitschky-Germann (1991) published. Feeding should be adapted to the moving of the birds. That means they are best housed in large cages or aviaries decorated (again) with conifers. The Pine-Siskin is gregarious (gesellig) and can be kept in small groups. The song remains to the song from the Eurasian Siskin.
Food The basic seed mixture for Siskins with a higher amount of grass and conifer seeds is demanded. Hulled sunflowers in small quantities can be added. Green plants - half ripe - complete the diet. Nitschky-Germann recorded that the cones of fir, spruce and pine were accepted. Also sprouted seed was highly welcome.
Breeding Breeding results are recorded since 1986 from several breeders. Van den Elzen (mdl.) told that the results were abandoned from large offers of greenflies and meadow plancton. Nitschky-Germann told that animalic food is essential.
(Eurasian) Siskin Spinus spinus (Linné, 1758) German: Erlenzeisig
Distribution and Habitat
The Eurasian Siskin is the only species of the genus (sensu stricto) which has a Palaearctic distribution. It breeds in conifers and is also found in orchards of the Taiga zones (including mountain regions). It winters in deeper zones and south of the breeding range.
Subspecies/Geographical Variations The distribution of the Siskin is discontunuous and monotypic. There is no geographical variation. A former described form dybowskii is not restricted to a geographical region and must be seen as a variation without the black throat.
General notes Only the male of the Black Chinned Siskin (Spinus barbatus) can cause confusion but the Black Chinned is much larger. The Eurasian shows striations at the flancs. Sexual dimorphism is present. The length is about 11- 12 cm.
Avicultural notes The Siskin was one of the most popular seedeaters in former times as already Russ (1892) describes. Housing is possible in larger cages or aviaries, also outdoor aviaries. The Siskin accepts temperatures to minus 15 °C. A decoration with conifers is comfortable. The Siskin can be accompanied with most other European birds. Siskins will become tame also in aviaries. The song remains at the song of the Goldfinch and is a continuous twitter ending with a long 'squeeze'.
Food The basic mixture has to have a large amount of seeds of trees like alder (Erle), birch (Birke) and small seeds of conifers. Animalic food is demanded during breeding season.
Breeding Breeding of the Eurasian Siskin is one of the easiest ones. Russ (1892) already recorded breeding in second generation. A cage of 60 cm or few more is a good basis. In addition to the basic food the Eurasian Siskin needs half ripe seeds. Dandelion and animalic additions are necessary.
Tibetan Siskin Chionomitris thibetana (Hume, 1872) German: Himalayazeisig
Distribution and Habitat The Tibetan Siskin is distributed in the Eastern Himalaya from Nepal, Arunachal Pradesh, Bhutan and Sikkim to souteast Tibet and soutwest Sikang and inhabits open hillsides with coniferous and birch forest between 2.800 und 4.000 m altitude, with an understorey of rhododendron. They winter in central and western Nepal, Assam, Bhutan, Arunachal Pradesh, west and northeastern Burma and north Yunnan in altitudes between 600 and 3.000 m. They are found in flocks between 10 and 50, seldom up to few hundreds.
Subspecies/Geographical Variations The Tibetan Siskin is monotypic, no subspecies is described. The former described bieti is a synonym.
General notes The systematics of the Tibetan Siskin are not certain. Few authors set it into the (too large) group of Serinus (genus Serinus; see Peters, 1937 - 1987), others (genus Carduelis; Ali & Ripley, 1974) to the (also too large) group of Siskins. Few like Wolters (1975 - 1982) see the close relation to the Siskins but put it into a monotypic genus like I do here. That genus is settled between Spinus (Siskin sensu stricto) and Acanthis (Redpoll). Form of movement, form and shape of the beak and the green plumage remain at the Eurasian Siskin (Spinus spinus) but the Tibetan Siskin can be identified by lacking the striations at the back in both sexes. Additional the Tibetan Siskin is smaller. Sexual dimorphism is present. The length is about 12 cm.
Avicultural notes The first import to Europe was in 1994. Before there were many publications about the "Himalayan Finch" but all dealed with the Himalayan Greenfinch (Chloris spinoides). Fresh imported Tibetan Siskins are less complicated than other Siskins. They should be housed in large cages or in aviaries which are decorated with conifers. Their behaviour is very similar to the different Siskins. Within a short time they are very tame. They can be kept in small groups except breeding time. During breeding season they shall be kept only in pairs. The song remains at the Eurasian Siskin.
Food The basic food is a mixture of several small tree seeds like alder and birch. Additional it contains perilla, poppy seed and thistle. Seeds of different conifers and niger are taken in smaller amounts. The mixture should not be too "fat" and with too much energy. It is to avoid to feed too much oily seeds. The coniferous twigs for decoration were regularly chewed to pieces. From the different greenfood offered the Tibetan Siskin only accepted chickweed.
Breeding Only few breeding records are known. No one of the breeders did publish the results. In aviaries they use the same nest material as the other finches: cocos, small twigs and roots and sharpie. They begin breeding in summer according to their breeding time in natural habitat. In its natural habitat is breeding time between May und June. Form and material of the nest there is not recorded.