Serinus nigriceps  

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Black-headed serin, Ethiopian siskin

Serinus nigriceps

Geographical distribution and habitat

The Black-headed serin or Ethiopian siskin (Serinus nigriceps) is found on the high plateaus of Ethiopia. The scientific name is derived from niger (black) and ceps (head). The description of the bird was made in 1840 by Rüppell, who placed this species in the genus Serinus. A local tree, called Hagenia abyssinica, a plant Lobelia subspecies and Serinus nigriceps seem to have a strong relation to each other. These birds live on high altitudes, up to 4000 meters, where low temperatures prevail. According to observations of this Serin species in nature, it is noted that they mainly feed on seeds that are found on the ground. The calls of these birds are typical for Serins, the song resembles the song of our Goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis). In nature, the nests are found during the periods May / June and September / October / November.

Size 11-12 cm (4.3-4.7 inch)

Description and subspecies

Differences in sexes of adult birds are noticeable on the basis of, especially, the color of the head. The males have an extensive black or blackish / brown color, sometimes brown under the chin and on the top of the chest. The color of the head of the females is more brownish / green and the markings on the head are less pronounced and defined. Females show striping on the back feathers. Overall, males have a more yellow color on the shoulders than the females. The black color of the head becomes more pronounced with increasing age of the birds. Serinus nigriceps has no subspecies.


Black-headed serins have never been imported in large numbers. Adult males cannot be mistaken for other Serin species, because no other specieshas such a black head color, nor a very dark beak. In terms of behaviour, these birds resemble European siskin (Carduelis spinus) very much.




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