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Black-headed Canary - BirdForum Opus

Revision as of 23:35, 1 November 2017 by Deliatodd-18346 (talk | contribs) (Picture of subspecies. Imp sizes. References updated)
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Photo by Twinspot
Tankwa Karoo National Park, Northern Cape Province, South Africa
Serinus alario

Alario alario, Crithagra alario
Includes Damara Canary


Damara Canary, subspecies leucolaemus
Photo by max1
West Coast Nat Park, Cape, South Africa, October 2017

Length 12–13 cm (4¾-5 in), mass 11-13 g. A striking canary with bold colouration.
Adult male (S. a. alario): Head, neck, chin, throat and centre of upper breast black, extending in an inverted 'V' to the lower breast; belly, centre of lower breast, flanks, and sides of the upperbreast white; back, rump, tail and wing coverts chestnut.
Adult female: Grey head, throat and breast, and white belly; chestnut back, tail and wing coverts.


South Africa, Namibia and Lesotho.


This species has two subspecies:1

  • S. a. alario
  • S. a. leucolaemus
  • Range overlaps with S. a. alario, but extends further north in Namibia, and not as far south or west in South Africa.
  • Male has a pied (rather than black) head, with a white eyebrow, cheeks, chin and throat; female has a faint whitish head pattern similar to that of the male.

Some authorities2,3 consider S. a. leucoleamus a separate species, the Damara Canary, Serinus leucolaemus.
This species was formerly placed in genus Alario by Clements.


Arid to semi-arid shrublands and grasslands; also weedy road verges, croplands and gardens.


Found in pairs or family groups when breeding; when not breeding, forms flocks of up to several hundered birds.


Forages on the ground and in shrubs, trees and grasses for seeds; also eats buds, petals, fruit and termites.


Probably monogamous and territorial. The nest is a cup built by the female using dry grass, twigs and bark and lined with plant down; placed within a metre of the ground in a shrub or small tree. Two to five eggs are laid; incubated for 13-14 days by the female.


  1. Hockey, PAR, WRJ Dean, and PG Ryan, eds. 2005. Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa. 7th ed. Cape Town: John Voelcker Bird Book Fund. ISBN 978-0620340533
  2. Sinclair, I and P Ryan. 2003. Birds of Africa South of the Sahara. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0691118154
  3. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2017. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2017, with updates to August 2017. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/

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