Endangered by its genes and the bird trade
In celebration of National Bird Day 2015, Barry Kent MacKay, Senior Program Associate for Born Free USA and lifelong bird enthusiast, is writing a special eight-part blog series in December and January where he will describe some interesting avian species. Below is the first installment.
Most people have never heard of, or seen, a Red Siskin. Related to our familiar goldfinch, and the same size, the Red Siskin's entire native range is restricted to a few locations in northern Colombia, Venezuela, and southern Guyana. A small population of escaped cage birds exists in Puerto Rico, but even they went into decline and may not survive. The Red Siskin is endangered for reasons that are most unusual, and have everything to do with human greed, the commercial bird trade, and our desire to always "improve" what nature gives us. It's a sad tale, worth knowing.
The Red Siskin (Carduelis cucullata) is one of the rarest and least known members of a family of birds, the Fringillidae (finches), which has given us one of the most abundant and best known of birds: the canary. The canary is one of the world's most popular cage birds, derived from a species called the Island Canary (Serinus canaria), which is naturally found across the Atlantic, on the Canary Islands, in the Azores, and in Madeira, with wild populations established in Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii. The wild Island Canary is colored in modest shades of yellow and drab greenish, streaked with brown. In its domesticated form, the same species can occur in a variety of colors, with some breeds having bizarre shapes and misshapen feathers. The most common color is yellow.