The saffron finch is a tanager from South America that is common in open and semi-open areas in lowlands outside the Amazon Basin. They have a wide distribution in Colombia, northern Venezuela (where it is called «canario de tejado» or «roof canary»), western Ecuador, western Peru, eastern and southern Brazil (where it is called «canário da terra» or «native canary»), Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, northern Argentina, and Trinidad and Tobago. It has also been introduced to Hawaii, Puerto Rico and elsewhere

Order Passeriformes

Family Thraupidae


The size of the bird is 13.5 to 15 cm and weighs between 12 and 23.4 g. The male has slightly brownish-striped olive-yellow upperparts on the back, the anterior crown (1) is bright orange, and the rest of the head and underparts are golden yellow.

The female is like the male but more opaque, she has less orange on the crown and the cheeks and belly are whitish. The immature (2) is grayish-brown above with a yellowish-olive tint on the back and rump; below it is greyish white with some dark streaks, it has a gray head, the crown and back are streaked brown in color, and the infra-caudal feathers (3) are yellow.

(Hilty & Brown, 1986, 2001; Rising & Jaramillo, 2016)


Although commonly regarded as a canary, it is not related to the Atlantic canary. Formerly, it was placed in the Emberizidae but it is close to the seedeaters.

Geographical distribution

It is found throughout South America up to Argentina, Trinidad and is an introduced species in Jamaica and Panama; in Colombia it is from Córdoba to Guajira, Medellín, a species introduced in Cali and Buenaventura, to the East of the Andes, Arauca, Meta and Vichada. It is usually up to 1,000 m high, but it is up to 2,000 m high.


Present in savannas with the presence of scattered trees, edges of light forest or swamps, meadows and gardens, open dry forests, crops, urban areas.

Conservation status

Population density has not been quantified, but the species is listed as «common» (Stotz et al. 1996). There is no evidence of population decline or specific threats.

LC – Least Concern


It feeds mainly on seeds and small arthropods; it usually eats on the ground and perches in low bushes and trees.


Breeding has been reported between May and November in Venezuela, between April and January in Trinidad, between October and February (including May) in Bolivia.

Typically nesting in cavities, the saffron finch makes use of sites such as abandoned rufous hornero (Furnarius rufus) nests, bamboo branches and under house roofs


This species is tolerant of human proximity, appearing at suburban areas and frequenting bird tables. They have a pleasant but repetitious song which, combined with their appearance, has led to them being kept as caged birds in many areas. Males are polygamous, mating with two females during the nesting season, and territorial, which has led to the species being used for blood sporting with two males put in a cage in order to fight.


Make a musical and repetitive song «sit-siit sit-siit chitada-chinada-chitada-chiit-siit»


Hilty, S. L. & Brown, W. L. (1986). A Guide to the Birds of Colombia. Princeton University Press, Princeton. 836 pp.

Hilty, S. L. & Brown, W. L. (2001). Guide to the birds of Colombia. Cali: SAO-Universidad del Valle and American Bird Conservancy.

BirdLife International. 2012. Sicalis flaveola. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T22723346A39929366. Accessed 21 October 2016.

Cortes, O. (2010). XC42376. Accessible at

Stotz, D. F., Fitzpatrick, J. W., Parker, T. A. & Moskovits, D. K. (1996). Neotropical birds: ecology and conservation. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Rising, J. & Jaramillo, A. (2016). Saffron Finch (Sicalis flaveola). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (Consulted at on December 15, 2016).