SAFFRON FINCH (Sicalis flaveola) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Saffron Finch is a small songbird with a yellow head, an orange crown and yellow-green upper parts. The undersides are yellow. The bill, legs and feet are grey and the eyes are black. Females have duller colors and juveniles have dark stripes. The bird is about 6 inches (15 cm) long.
NAME: The English name refers to the bird’s color and to its genus. The Latin genus name ‘Sicalis’ is from Greek and refers to a small bird, and the species Latin name ‘flaveola’ means ‘yellow’.
HABITAT: In their native range, this species is found in semi-arid brushlands. Also found in urban environments such as parks.
DIET: Seeds and insects. Outside the breeding season they forage on the ground in flocks.
NESTING: Saffron finches build their nest in a hollow space either in a tree or a rock crevice. An average of four white eggs are laid. Male are aggressive during the breeding season.
DISTRIBUTION: This species is widespread in South America and has been introduced in other parts of the world such as Puerto Rico in addition to Hawaii.
ON HAWAII: The saffron finch has been introduced from South America in the 1960s, and there is now an established population on the Kona coast of the Big Island. Some individuals have also been observed on Oahu.
CONSERVATION: This finch is listed as of ‘least concern’ by the IUCN.
NOTES: The Saffron finch is a Tanager and is not related to the Canary. Tanagers are a family native to the New World, whereas canaries are from the Old World. Saffron finches are a popular cage bird (see reference below).
SIMILAR SPECIES: Orange-fronted Yellow Finch, Yellow Warbler
Saffron finch foraging on the lawn on the Kona coast of the Big Island:
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