Red siskin -- 黑头红金翅雀 (Carduelis cucullata)

Male red siskin
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Red siskin fact file

Red siskin description

GenusCarduelis (1)

The once common red siskin (Carduelis cucullata) is a vibrantly coloured bird that has now become extremely rare (2). The male is a brilliant red with a black head, bib and tail. It also has black wings with a red bar stretching across the flight feathers. In contrast, the female is much duller in colour, with a predominantly brown body and a red upper breast and wing-bars (2) (4).

The juvenile red siskin’s plumage is grey until it moults at three to four months of age. As the bird gets older, its red colour deepens (4). The red siskin has a raspy 'jut-jut' call and its song is a twittering series of trills and chatters (2).

Cardenalito, Lúgano Cardenalito, Lúgano Encapuchado.
Length: 10 cm (2)

Red siskin biology

The red siskin is a seasonal breeder, with the main reproductive period occurring between April and early June, and a secondary period between November and December (2). The nests of this species are cup shaped and are usually placed high up in clusters of Tillandsia bromeliads in tall trees (2). Generally 3 to 4 eggs are laid, and these take 12 to 14 days to hatch. The newly hatched chicks are relatively small and the female provides all of the food. The chicks become fully feathered 12 days after they hatch (4).

The diet of the red siskin consists of fruit, flower buds, grass seeds and herbaceous plants (6).


Red siskin range

Although it once occurred throughout the foothills of northern Venezuela, the range of the red siskin has become increasingly fragmented. Recent sightings have been restricted to just 4 states in Venezuela, compared to 15 in the past (2). A small population of the red siskin still persists in neighbouring north Columbia (5), and there is also a population in Puerto Rico derived from escaped caged birds, although sightings have recently become rare (2). In 2000, a new population was discovered in southwest Guyana (2).

The red siskin’s total distribution covers approximately 11,300 square kilometres (2).


Red siskin habitat

Found at elevations between 100 and 1,300 metres above sea level, the red siskin nests in wet evergreen forests, dry deciduous forests, or trees and shrubs found in grassland at the forest edge (2). The red siskin is semi-nomadic, meaning that it moves between different habitats both daily and seasonally (2).


Red siskin status

The red siskin is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1) and is listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered


Red siskin threats

The red siskin is under threat from illegal trapping for the cage bird industry, which has caused a rapid decline in numbers of this species over the last 150 years. Unfortunately, this bird is highly popular among breeders because of the fact that it can be successfully bred with canaries to produce a popular colourful hybrid (2).

Habitat degradation also poses a threat to this species, as potential nesting areas are converted for agricultural use. Captive breeding programmes of the red siskin have been set back by disease and hybrid stock (2).

The red siskin is also vulnerable to natural threats and, although no predation of the red siskin has been observed in the wild, 20 species of raptors living in the same habitat are thought to be likely predators of this bird. Due to the fact that its nests are located high in trees, predation by mammals is unlikely (7).


Red siskin conservation

Trapping of the red siskin in the wild has been illegal in Venezuela since the 1940s, and this species is also protected by law in Guyana (2) (4). A ban on international trade of the red siskin has also existed since 1975, when this species was added to Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (3).

A number of conservation actions have been proposed for the red siskin, which include surveying its known range in Venezuela, Colombia and Puerto Rico, and coordinating captive breeding efforts internationally. The protection of the red siskin population in Guyana is also essential to ensure the species’ survival (2).


Find out more

Learn more about the red siskin:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


Deciduous forest
Forest consisting mainly of deciduous trees, which shed their leaves at the end of the growing season.
Evergreen forest
Forest consisting mainly of evergreen trees, which retain leaves all year round. This is in contrast to deciduous trees, which completely lose their leaves for part of the year.
Flight feathers
The feathers at the end of the wing, involved in flight.
Describes a small, non-woody, seed bearing plant in which all the aerial parts die back at the end of each growing season.
The offspring produced by parents of two different species or subspecies.
Periodic shedding of (usually) the outermost body covering (such as feathers, fur or skin) during growth and development, or at specific times of the year.
A species which roams irregularly from place to place in search of food and water, without returning to a fixed location.


  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)
  2. BirdLife International - Red siskin (November, 2011)
  3. CITES (November, 2011)
  4. National Finch and Softbill Society - Red siskin (November, 2011)
  5. López-Lanús, B., Salaman, P.G.W., Cowley, T.P., Arango, S. and Renjifo, L.M. (2000) The threatened birds of the Río Toche, Cordillera Central, Colombia. Cotinga14: 17-23.
  6. Robbins, M.B., Braun, M.J. and Finch, D.W. (2003) Discovery of a population of the endangered red siskin (Carduelis cucullata) in Guyana. Auk120: 291-298.
  7. Coats, S. and Phelps Jr, W.H. (1985) The Venezuelan red siskin: case history of an endangered species. Ornithological Monographs, 36: 977-985.

Image credit

Male red siskin  
Male red siskin

© Dennis Avon /

Ardea wildlife pets environment
59 Tranquil Vale
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