Spinus cucullatus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Passeriformes Fringillidae

Scientific Name: Spinus cucullatus (Swainson, 1820)
Common Name(s):
English Red Siskin
Spanish Cardenalito, Lúgano Cardenalito, Lúgano Encapuchado
Carduelis cucullata Swainson, 1820
Taxonomic Source(s): SACC. 2005 and updates. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #
Taxonomic Notes: Spinus cucullatus (del Hoyo and Collar 2016) was previously placed in the genus Carduelis and listed as C. cucullata following AOU (1998 and supplements); SACC (2005 and updates); Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993); Stotz et al. (1996).
Identification information: 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.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered A2d ver 3.1
Year Published: 2017
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Clinton Eitniear, J. & Sharpe, C J, Hansen, P.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Gilroy, J., Harding, M., Pople, R., Sharpe, C.J., Wheatley, H.
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.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Spinus cucullatus 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).

Countries occurrence:
Colombia; Guyana; Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of
Possibly extinct:
Trinidad and Tobago
Puerto Rico
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:611000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):YesExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:6-10Continuing decline in number of locations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:NoLower elevation limit (metres):180
Upper elevation limit (metres):1300
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: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.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:1500-7000Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:Yes
No. of subpopulations:2-100Continuing decline in subpopulations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No
No. of individuals in largest subpopulation:1-89

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: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).

Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):4.2
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): 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 [top]

Conservation Actions: 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 and undertaking educational work with local schools (SRCS 2008). 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).  A partnership of public and private institutions has established The Red Siskin Initiative to maintain and restore self-sustaining populations of the species in its natural habitat across its historic range (Red Siskin Initiative 2015), In Guyana, the Red Siskin Initiative is creating a formal system for monitoring and reporting illegal trapping (Red Siskin Initiative 2015).  Modern genomic methods are also being used to study important genetic questions and develop methods for managing captive populations (Red Siskin Initiative 2015).

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. Survey areas of Brazil close to the Guyanan population to determine whether population exists in Brazil (SRCS 2008). Coordinate captive-breeding efforts internationally (Rojas-Suárez et al. 2008). Raise public awareness (Rojas-Suárez et al. 2008). Improve and enforce the legislation for the protection of this species (Rojas-Suárez et al. 2008). Investigate the possibility of reintroduction programmes (Rojas-Suárez et al. 2008, R. Restall in litt. 2012). Develop an effective management plan to ensure the protection of the Guyanese population (Robbins et al. 2003).  

Amended [top]

Amended reason: Map revised. Edited Geographic Range and Conservation Actions Information text. Added Taxonomic Notes and associated references.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2017. Spinus cucullatus (amended version of 2016 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T22720374A111126922. . Downloaded on 20 July 2018.
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