Charlie's Song Birds



                      The Red Siskin

                                    The Red Siskin

                                                   (Carduelis cucullata)

The  Red  Siskin  comes  from  a  tropical  region  of  South America, Venezuela  and  Northern  Columbia.   It  is the only Siskin that has  natural  red  coloring  in its plumage.  Its  size  is  about  4  to  4 1/2 inchs.  Since  these  birds  come  from a tropical area they will breed several  times  and  the  whole  year  round  depending  on  the  food supply.  The Red Siskin used to  be trapped in large numbers and the reason for this is that when crossed with domestic canaries some of the   male   offspring   proved  fertile  thus  giving  colorbred  canary breeders  a  whole  pallete of colors to the canary fancy and through selective breeding a new genetically engineered red canary appeared!  Currently the  Red  Siskin is protected and is illegal to capture them from the wild  and  here  in  the  U.S. we are required a permit either federal or state issued to  keep/breed  these birds.  There  used  to  be captive  breeding  programs  here in the states in the past but I think
it  has  currently  fizzled  out.  I have seen many European Sites  and there  seems  to  be  more  captive  bred  Red  Siskins  in Europe than naturally  in  the  wild!


Males have a jet black head  to throat area resembling a hood,black flights with red wing patches and black tail feathers.  It has a white belly and under tail coverts  and  the  rest  of  the  bird  is a deep red orange.    Females  are  generally  grey  with  black  wings  and  tail,
whitish  belly  but  does  have a splash of red on the chest area,rump and red wing patches.  Youngsters  are  a  warm reddish brown with black  wing  and  tail  feathers  and  a  slightly  colored  wing patch. Others  prefer  not  to colorfeed their Siskins but I do colorfeed them as I like to see them in their full potential color.  The  bill  is  a  grey color  and  legs/feet  a  brownish  pink  coloring.

                                                       Female Red Siskin

Call is a hig pitched  "chweee"  or  common  siskin  like  "chee chee"  they seem to  be constantly chattering. Song is a mixture of repeated phrases  with  some  scratchy  squeaky  twitters  and  some  pinched Goldfinch like notes.  My  males  seem to sing year round even when moulting.  I  have  also  noticed  that  they  do mimic  birds they are housed  close  to  and  I  have  one  or  two  that  have  mastered the "kleeeeyip"   European  Goldfinch  call!

If healthy these  birds  are  not shy and you will not have  wait long for them to attempt to breed.I have had pretty good success breeding these birds over the past few  years of keeping them.   Courtship gets pretty rough  but  needs to be done to drive the hen into condition, if you have a lazy male you end up with clear eggs! The nest is built by the  hen  and  take  to  small  4  inch  open  canary  nests with a rope lining, never  use  felt  as they pick it apart and gets wrapped around their feet and it ends in losing a leg or toes.  The clutch consists of 3-4  whitish  eggs  with  small  brown s pots.  Incubation is usually 14 days and  are banded with size "C" NFSS bands at 7 days old.I have found  that  most  hens  stop  sitting /warming  the  youngsters  very early around 10-12 days.  I  think  that its because they are normally tropical  birds  that  breed  in  warm weather and the youngsters are not  harmed  by  cold  at  that  time  of year in their natural habitat. Youngsters are fed by both  parents and when fledged more so by the male and usually at  35 days of  age are safe to transfer them in their own cage,by this  time  the  hen Siskin should be on her 2nd round.  I also found there  is  no need for fosters as they raise their own young just fine.  Some males tend to be pests and pull the nests apart,pluck the hens  on  the  nest  or  eat  the  eggs so the use of a double breeder with a wire divider is needed at times.  I  have  also found that  they like  to  sleep  at  the  highest  spot  of the cage so I place the nest up high and also offer an extra high perch for the male,some being more comfortable  sleeping  while  clinging  to  the  cage  front  up  high.


I have seen a wide range of diets offered  for  these  birds , some with 80% niger  seed others with meat products and fish! and have tried a few  thus  ended  up  using  a  basic canary mix with a few sunflower hearts added  and a dry commercial eggfood.  They also love soaked/
sprouted seeds during the breeding season ,. I make my own soaked /
sprouted mix  with small black sunflower,safflower,rape and a little thistle.They also like romaine lettuce and broccoli florets . With this diet my birds are very healthy  and are not delicate needing warmth. My  bird  room  in  the  winter  reaches  in the mid 50 degrees F. and  they  are  all  happy  bouncing  along  chattering  and  singing away!


This   interesting   little   bird   that's   always   cheery  has  had  me scratching  my  head a couple years ago.  In early  2007 I borrowed a male  dilute  Red  Siskin  from  a  good  friend  and local breeder Tim Roche  to add a new bloodline /color into my own stock.  I produced one  chick  from  the  dilute  male and returned the father dilute male back to Tim. Thinking that this was a hen as that  is how the canary dilute/pastel  works  as  a  sex  linked  mutation  but  once it started moulting  into  a  deep  red  body  coloring  I  knew  something   was wrong,  it  couldn't be a female but turned out to be a beautiful male dilute!     Contacting   a   Red  Siskin  breeder  Carmelo  Zerafa  from Toronto  Canada,   he  explained  to  me  that the dilute factor works completely  different  in  Siskins  and  yes  male dilutes will give you both  male  and  female  dilute  offspring. This is one bird that I keep learning new information every year and is a shame that not enough  people are willing to tackle this breed. Although a tad expensive here in the U.S. its beautiful red plumage, calm  cheerful  ways with their squeaky  little  serenade  makes  you  laugh.




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