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Red Siskin Carduelis cucullata
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This species qualifies as Endangered because it is undergoing a very rapid population decline as a result of trapping for the cagebird trade (Collar et al. 1992). Its population is now severely fragmented in much of its historic range, although the recent discovery of a new population in Guyana has resulted in a revision of its overall population size.

Taxonomic source(s)
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #

10 cm. Small, red-and-black finch. Male red with black head, bib and tail. Black wings with broad red bar across flight feathers. Female mainly brown, but more dusky on wings and tail. Red rump, wing-bars and primary bases. Red wash to flanks, but otherwise greyish below. Voice Song a twittering series of trills and chatters. Raspy jut-jut call.

Distribution and population
Carduelis cucullata was common in the early 20th century but has become extremely rare in a now fragmented range. It once occurred throughout the foothills of northern Venezuela (15 states), but recent sightings are restricted to just seven states (Rodríguez and Rojas-Suárez 1995, C. J. Sharpe in litt. 2000, Rojas-Suárez et al. 2008). It has disappeared from Trinidad, where it was never anything other than rare, and a small population persists in Norte de Santander, Colombia, where a record in February 2000 (López-Lanús 2000) was apparently the first since 1986. A population in Puerto Rico (to USA), derived from escaped cage-birds, has undergone a marked decline and there are very few recent records (J. Clinton-Eitniear in litt. 2000, R. Perez Rivera per J. Clinton-Eitniear in litt. 2000). In 2000, a new population was discovered in southwestern Guyana, c.950 km from the nearest Venezuelan locality, is estimated to number in the low hundreds to low thousands (Robbins et al. 2003, Janki, M. in litt. 2005). The remaining population elsewhere has been estimated in the high hundreds or low thousands, but the paucity of recent records indicates that this may be an overestimate. In Venezuela its distribution and population are estimated to be less than 20% of the original sizes (Rojas-Suárez et al. 2008).

Population justification
A previous estimate of a population in the low thousands in Guyana, based on the observation of 127 individuals, may be too high, with the actual population potentially numbering in the low hundreds (M. Janki in litt. 2005). The Venezuelan population is likely to be 250-1,000 individuals, although there are more optimistic estimates of up to 4,000 birds. The total population is best placed in the band 2,500-9,999 individuals, equating to 1,667-6,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 1,500-7,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
There is no new quantitative information on population size and trend, but this species's prevalence in the illegal wild bird trade, together with the rarity of sightings in the wild, suggest a very rapid and continuing population decline.

It is found between 100-1,500 m (Rojas-Suárez et al. 2008), moving semi-nomadically and altitudinally (seasonally and daily) between moist evergreen forest, dry deciduous woodland and associated edge habitats, shrubby grassland and pastures. The main breeding period is from April to early June, with a secondary period in November and December. The nest is placed in clumps of Tillandsia bromeliads in tall trees and, in Guyana, in dense terminal clusters of leaves in the crown of Curatella trees (Robbins et al. 2003). Breeding territories in Guyana were densely packed, apparently due to a superabundance of fruiting mistletoe (Robbins et al. 2003). The diet also includes fruit (e.g. Ficus spp.), flower buds, and seeds of grasses and herbaceous plants (Robbins et al. 2003).

It is subject to enormous, long-term (and since the 1940s, illegal) pressure from trappers, primarily because of its capacity to hybridise with canaries. Although trappers are active in the area of the Guyanese population, they claim that there is no active market for the species (Robbins et al. 2003). Intensive agriculture continues to reduce the extent of available habitat. Captive-breeding programmes are hampered by disease and hybrid stock (J. Clinton-Eitniear in litt. 2000). It is considered nationally Critically Endangered in Venezuela (Sharpe 2008).

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I. It is legally protected in Venezuela, and has recently been declared legally protected in Guyana. The Environmental Protection Agency in Guyana has designated South Rupununi Conservation Society (SRCS) the lead agency for protection and conservation of the species. SRCS is currently conducting research on red siskins in partnership with members of local communities. Much of the known Guyanese range is on a cattle ranch, the managers of which are conservation-minded (Robbins et al. 2003). In Venezuela, it is reputed to have occurred in Guatopo and Terepaima National Parks but there have been no records for many years (J. Clinton-Eitniear in litt. 2000). A planned reintroduction project on Trinidad has been suspended because of disease problems (J. Clinton-Eitniear in litt. 2000). Some education and control programmes undertaken in the past have led to an increase in pressure from trade (Rodríguez and Rojas-Suárez 1995). A captive breeding project exists in the US (American Federation of Aviculture 2003), now run by the National Finch and Softbill Society (NFSS) under the Finch Save Program. The NFSS maintains an on-line database of captive bred birds for for private breeders, and conducts an annual on-line census of private captive breeding stock (P. Hansen in litt. 2012). It has been identified as one of the four highest priority bird species for conservation in Venezuela (Rodríguez et al. 2004).
Conservation Actions Proposed
Assess current status in national parks (Rojas-Suárez et al. 2008). Survey known range in Venezuela (Rojas-Suárez et al. 2008), Colombia and Puerto Rico, as well as intervening areas of suitable habitat. Coordinate captive-breeding efforts internationally (Rojas-Suárez et al. 2008). Raise public awareness (Rojas-Suárez et al. 2008). Improve the legislation for the protection of this species (Rojas-Suárez et al. 2008). Investigate the possibilty of captive breeding and reintroduction programmes (Rojas-Suárez et al. 2008). Develop an effective management plan to ensure the protection of the Guyanese population (Robbins et al. 2003).

Collar, N. J.; Gonzaga, L. P.; Krabbe, N.; Madroño Nieto, A.; Naranjo, L. G.; Parker, T. A.; Wege, D. C. 1992. Threatened birds of the Americas: the ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book. International Council for Bird Preservation, Cambridge, U.K.

López-Lanús, B. 2000. Carduelis cucullatus aún sobrevive en Colombia. Boletín SAO 11: 89-91.

Robbins, M. B.; Braun, M. J.; Finch, D. W. 2003. Discovery of a population of the endangered Red Siskin (Carduelis cucullata) in Guyana. The Auk 120: 291-298.

Rodríguez, J. P.; Rojas-Suárez, F. 1995. Libro Rojo de la fauna Venezolana. Provita, Caracas.

Rodríguez, J. P.; Rojas-Suárez, F.; Sharpe, C.J. 2004. Setting priorities for the conservation of Venezuela’s threatened birds. Oryx 38(4): 373–382.

Rojas-Surez, F.; Sharpe, C.J.; Gonzlez-Zubillaga, D. 2008. Cardenalito Carduelis cucullata. In: Rodríguez, J.P. and Rojas-Surez, F. (eds), Libro Rojo de la fauna Venezolana. Tercera Edición, pp. 147. Provita & Shell Venezuela, S.A., Caracas, Venezuela.

Sharpe, C.J. 2008. Aves. In: Rodríguez, J.P. & Rojas-Suárez, F. (ed.), Libro Rojo de la fauna Venezolana, 3rd edition, pp. 122-157. Provita & Shell Venezuela, S.A.,, Caracas, Venezuela.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from the Threatened birds of the Americas: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 1992). Please note taxonomic treatment and IUCN Red List category may have changed since publication.

Detailed species account from the Threatened birds of the Americas: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 1992). Please note, taxonomic treatment and IUCN Red List category may have changed since publication.

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Recuento detallado de la especie tomado del libro Aves Amenazadas de las Americas, Libro Rojo de BirdLife International (BirdLife International 1992). Nota: la taxonomoía y la categoría de la Lista Roja de la UICN pudo haber cambiado desde esta publicación.

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Gilroy, J., Harding, M., Pople, R., Sharpe, C J

Clinton Eitniear, J., Sharpe, C J, Hansen, P.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Carduelis cucullata. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Red siskin (Carduelis cucullata) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Endangered
Family Fringillidae (Finches and Hawaiian honeycreepers)
Species name author Swainson, 1820
Population size 1500-7000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 11,300 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species