The historic range of the Red Siskin.

Photo courtesy of the Smithson Institute.

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Red Siskin Conservation Efforts

The five goals of the Red Siskin Initiative.

Image courtesy of the Smithsonian Institute.

This crossing results in a what canary breeders call a “mule”, a canary-siskin hybrid.

To learn more about the Red Siskin Initiative visit Redsiskin.org

Red Siskin seed mix developed and used by APEC. 

When this mule is crossed with another canary, the result is a red factor canary.

Juvenile Red Siskins at the APEC facility.

The current range of the Red Siskin showing small fragmented populations.

Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institute.

In 2017, APEC began collaborating with RSI. We are organizing collaborations between private breeders in aviculture and the organizations participating with RSI. We hope to give the aviculture community an opportunity to participate in conservation by sharing their knowledge about breeding and housing these birds. 

Fresh, raw whole foods are an important component of captive reared Red Siskin’s diet. 

In 2017, APEC produced 9 Red Siskin chicks, all parent reared and in 2018, they produced 25 chicks. In 2017, APEC sent 4 siskins to Zoo Miami. In 2019, more siskins are planned to be sent to more zoos.

Have you ever seen a Red Factor Canary? The popular canary breed owes its red coloration to the Red Siskin. The male Red Siskin is hybridized with the canary to produce offspring that carry the red coloration. In fact, this is a driving force behind the continued illegal trapping and smuggling of these birds. 

Crossing a female canary with a Red Siskin male results in the gene for red color in the canary. 

What can you do to help the Red Siskins?

Once ranging through Northern South America and parts of the Caribbean, the Red Siskin (Spinus cucullatus), is critically endangered.  This small, brightly colored bird, with a pleasant gold finch like song, has been reduced to just a few hundred birds in Venezuela and Guyana. These fragmented populations are under threat from illegal poaching and habitat loss.

APEC is also helping develop protocols on nutrition and breeding for the Red Siskin along with RSI partners. Our hope is that this knowledge and our efforts to bring other institutions into the captive breeding program may lead to a Species Survival Plan (SSP) which will lead to the long-term management of this species in captivity as an arc population to insure against total extinction. Additionally, this knowledge will be used for in situ breeding efforts in Venezuela, leading to the reintroduction of Red Siskins into the wild.

This once common seed eating finch inhabits forest edges, open country and grasslands. They form semi nomadic flocks. Along with the expansion of agriculture that reduced its habitat, the bird is illegally trapped for the pet trade.

The Red Siskin Initiative (RSI) is a conservation program led by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. The program has five main goals, which include, understanding the Red Siskin, breeding more Red Siskins for reintroduction to the wild, connecting with people, protecting habitat, and halting illegal trafficking. 

Although the red gene is fixed in the Red Factor Canary, many breeders are under the false impression that they can get a more intense red if they keep adding male Red Siskins to there breeding programs. This has continued to put  pressure on the wild population. In captivity, the Red Siskin has proven far harder to breed then canaries. This difficulty in breeding and the fact that the males are the only birds used to pass on the coloration has led to wild caught birds fulfilling the demand.

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