THE SOUTH AMERICAN GREEN BLACK HEADED SISKIN

This attractive little bird is very similar to the better known Venezuelan Black Hooded Siskin. The markings of the males of both species are identical. The head and neck is a deep, lustrous black. The flight feathers are also black. The ground color of the Green Black Headed Siskin is yellow, differing dramatically from the Venezuelan’s red . The hens of the Black Headed Siskin are basically a dusky green. A grey shadowing is present on the head and flights. The siskins are very similar in shape to the European Goldfinch. The males are about the same size as the Goldfinch. The hens are somewhat smaller..

The Green Siskins are very hardy cage and aviary birds. Housed singly in cages 20″ X 10″ X 12″, the birds are quickly acclimated. A planted flight is recommended for breeding. A temperature of at least 70 degrees is best, though I kept them in a room were the temperature ranged from fifty degrees at night to eighty during the day. Dowel sticks and cherry branches were used for perches. Unfortunately, especially in cages, the birds are very nervous and shy. Strangely enough, hens caged with the cocks in a large stock cage picked the feathers on their intended mates.

A mix of 40% white millet, 5% flax, 30% rape, 10% canary, 5% groats, and 10% sunflower hearts is kept before the birds at all times. A blend of soaked safflower, soaked thistle, soaked hemp, canary nestling food, and grated fresh carrots is given in small amounts to very bird, every day. Thistle is a valuable food, but it must be rationed. Fed ad lib., the birds will eat it to exclusion of all else..

This bird has been reared in both cage and aviary. In cages, they use a standard canary nest. These birds are reputed to be very steady parents. Indeed, some claim to use them as foster parents for the more temperamental Venezuelan Siskin.

The Green Siskin crosses freely with the canary. Supposedly the hybrids, both cocks and hens, are fertile. The first cross is similar to the canary in size and shape, only the beak and markings resembling the Siskin father. The canaries used in these pairings were clears. The hybrids were all variegated, marked similarly to the Siskin, with the green in the head and flights, vaguely similar to an American Goldfinch. No trace of black showed in the young. This was disappointing, for the cross was made in the hope of yielding a black canary.

I was struck with the similarity of these hybrids to the extinct London Fancy canary. If the melanin could be removed from the head, but retained in the flights, we would have a bird nearly identical to the extinct London Fancy. It would be especially interesting to attempt a Green Siskin X Lizard Canary pairing. Perhaps the markings of the Green Siskin bears some genetic relationship to the lost variety?

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