Joining together individuals who share a common interest in breeding Carduelan species in captivity
is difficult identifying the 3 subspecies C.c.paropanisi, C.c.caniceps and
the C.c.subulata, firstly because, both in captivity and in the wild these
birds hybridize. If you are like me who likes to see nothing but the
purest of the purest, identifying them in the wild would be the region
where the subspecies is said to occur using the information we already
know about each race.
we can only go by their colour and the size of the bill.
SUBSPECIES OF SPINUS PSALTRIA
I have received several inquiries from breeders asking me how to identify subspecies of Spinus Psaltria. These birds are better known as the American Lesser Goldfinches or as also known in Europe the Mexican Siskins, but I prefer to call them the Colombian Siskins. The name Mexican Siskin is also often used for the Black headed Siskins (Spinus Notatus) and should I mention that the same name is at times referred to the South American Hooded Siskins (Spinus Magellanicus).
There are five subspecies of Spinus Psaltria:
Spinus p. hesperophilus: native to South West Canada and Northern California in the U.S.A. These birds are often called Greenbacks; they are one of the two larger subspecies about the size of the Spinus psaltria psaltria or better known as the American Lesser Goldfinch. S.p. hesperophilus is easily identified by its olive green back, and its green and black mottled wings. This specie has a yellow patch under the eyes.
Spinus p. psaltria: or as known in America the American Lesser Goldfinches are native to Central and South California U.S.A. and often reported in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, also along the border in Northern Mexico. These birds are the other large Spinus Psaltria (about the size of S. p. hesperophilus). Spinus p. psaltria has totally black back and wings, this sub-specie also has a yellow patch under the eyes.
Spinus p. jouyi: native to South East Mexico and Yucatan. S. p. jouyi are a little smaller than the S. p. psaltria and they also have a totally black back and wings. The yellow breast is more orange yellow, where as in the S. p. psaltria it is more like a lemon yellow. These birds are easily identified, as they do not have a yellow patch under the eyes.
Spinus p. witti: are native to the Mexican islands of Tres Marias and Islas Mujeres. This is a specie I have not seen until this year when Jorg Nitschky (ICC President) had a surprise for me at the International Carduelan Show in Germany 1999. He had a pair in his collection which were exhibited at the show. S. p. witti are smaller than the S. p. psaltria or abut the size of the S. p. jouyi. They are easily identified they have green rump and mantle when in fresh plumage. They have totally black cheeks without the yellow patch under the eyes.
Spinus p. colombianus: reported from Southern Mexico to the Eastern Andes of Northern and Central Colombia, coastal mountains of Northern Venezuela, North-West and West Ecuador and the Andes of Northern Peru. In this specie the under tail feathers are all black where as in the other four sub-species these feathers are white. S. p. colombianus are about the same size as S. p. jouyi and S. p. witti but they have much less white in their wing feathers, yellow feathers under the eyes are also absent.
All of the five sub-species females are very difficult to distinguish from each other so I would suggest when buying these birds that you should only buy from reputable Siskin breeders who know Siskins well and who do not hybridize. One should not buy birds from breeders who are known to hybridize, these people do not have any respect for wild birds, so you'll never know what you are purchasing from them. Remember, you should do all that you can to preserve these birds in captivity and in the wild.
I have received an e-mail from Dr. C. Ortega who claims that the birds from Western Venezuela particularly the area of the Venezuelan Andes are S. p. jouyi to the contrary of what the breeders believe that all the S. psaltria from Northern South America are S. p. colombianus. As you can see on these photos below from Dr. Ortega and his team's recent field research, these birds also have white under tail feathers. S. p. jouyi were also reported in Cuba. Dr. C. Ortega claims that the S. p. colombianus are found in all other states of Venezuela.
Question from Juan Manuel Perez:
John I have a question. I own a pair of Shelley's seedeaters (Serinus sulfuratus) which are in breeding condition. I placed a nest in a well-hidden place with nesting material in it, plus I had nesting material in different locations in the aviary. For the moment I thought the female accepted the nest, but what happened is, the female emptied the nest and started building a nest in a seed dish where she also laid an egg. The next day I found the nest destroyed with a broken egg in it. Every time I place nesting material in a Canary cup she quickly destroys it. Today I found her sitting in the nest with one egg, without any nesting material in it. What should I do?
Answer 1. by:Joerg Nitschky Germann
by:Jean Michel Eytorff
Answer 3 by:John Quatro
Reply by Manny: I fostered three eggs just as you told me to a canary hen, she hatched and raised two beautiful youngsters now weaned and closed banded. I decided to observe the birds and I discovered that it was the male who was eating the eggs, just after the hen laid them and left the nest to feed. . I decided to remove the male and leave the female alone. She laid and hatched the last egg but did not feed the young chick.
Answer by John Quatro:
When the birds start eating their own eggs there is not much anyone can do except trying to collect them every morning as they are laid, then fostering them to other Carduelan birds as you've done. An alternative would be to buy another pair and try your luck with them
As for the young not being fed by the hen; you can foster them as well to another nest with young of about the same size or you can try and hand feeding them, which is a very tedious job. (Read the article on page one "Hand-feeding young Carduelan Birds").