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NFSS Article - the African Citril

Africas unknown Emerald Gem of a Songster

The African Citril (Serinus citrinelloides hypostictus) is an African Serin thats range is from southern Kenya , Tanzania to Malawi, Zimbabwe and northern Mozambique.Its a common and widespread species and is found at edges of lakes and forests,clearings,bush and scrubland. Usually found in small groups even in the breeding season. In the wild they feed on the ground and low growing vegetation, primarily on black jack, sunflowers, thistles, various flowerheads and grass seed.               


Both males and females are a luminous greenish yellow with black streaking on the back and flanks, bright yellowish chest and belly and black wings and tail that are edged with thin yellowish/green outter webs. Both may have a thin yellowish line over the eye sometimes absent. Males tend t o have a deep dark grey black face cheeks and chin area while hens have silver/grey green replacing the dark grey/black of the males. Juveniles resemble females but are more buff with a brownish wash to them. Bill is thin and pointed, Goldfinch like, legs and feet brownish tinged with pink.  


Males and females have a 3-4 clean piping whistle sounding like "tweee-ti-tu" with the last note falling. Males in full song are quite loud and to my ear resemble the European Goldfinch but conitnuous with many metalic and sweet trills combined. Males usually sing in concert with one another and during courtship males sing with head pointed upwards dancing with wings quiverring to the hens. Young males start to twitter a "baby" mumbled song once seperated from parents and are easily identified from the silent hens.


These birds are usually overlooked in the market as when kept in crowded cages look rough and dull and usually beat up by other bully species. They are peaceable among themselves and others. I prefer to keep them pairwise in 3 ft standard canary double breeder box cages as they feel more secure in a closed enclosure compaired to all wire cages. These birds usually come into breeding condition by late December all the way through to March. They are cup nesters and with a little camoflage , fake pine, flowers, greenery take to canary nests quite readily and weave a beautiful smaller cup in them using fine hairs,fibers and burlap. The females get very confiding and tame at this stage and usually lay 3-4 creamy white eggs with a few small beige brown dots and scrawls.

During incubation the hen is constantly fed by the attentive male and the young hatch at 14 days and are fed primarilly by the hen the first week with the male joining in after. I use size "E" nfss bands when they are 7 days old and the hens do not take notice to the bands. African Citrils are very good parents and do NOT need any fosters to raise their young. Usually the young fledge at 15-18 days of age and are self supporting at 30 days of age. I keep them in double breeders as mentioned before and seperate them at 30 days of age with a wire partition as the parents are going for a 2nd round and the male usually feeds them through the wire divider for a few more weeks. They moult slowly in the course of the year usually finish by 4-5 months of age. The young are a little nervous at this time but settle in quickly on their own.


Through trial and error I have found my African Citrils to do well on a good quality canary mixture with added millet spray and a treat cup of wild seeds/condition seed recomended for Goldfinches/Siskins. They take dry eggfood quite readily and relish soaked/sprouted seeds and also greens: romaine lettuce,broccoli and dandelion. This is one species of African Serin that I do not give any live animal/insect protien and do well without it.


This is one type of Carduelan finch that I suggest to other breeders as its a very good natured bird, calms down very quickly,luminous coloring, easy to cater for, fairly easy breeder and a superb song that makes you stop in your tracks and smile every time you hear it. What more can you ask for? ...Im hooked!

Charles Loukeris

NFSS member# 4161