The Yellow canary is a small bird, approximately 13 cm in length, which is near-endemic to the southern African region. It is fairly common within its preferred habitat, the semi-arid scrubland in the central and western parts of the region, and is often a visitor to gardens within this area. It has also been introduced onto St Helena Island.
The sexes are similar in size, but quite different in their plumage and the plumage of the males also varies in different parts of the bird’s range. Generally the males have an overall yellow appearance, with the birds in the south being more of an olive green. All males, though, have yellow under parts. The females have dull mottled grey upper parts, paler under parts and a bright yellow rump. In both sexes their bills are horn-coloured, with a pink base; legs and feet are dark pinkish-brown and eyes are brown.
Yellow canaries usually feed on the ground or in the canopy of shrubs, feeding on seeds, nectar and small insects. Along the coast they may also feed within the inter-tidal zone.
Like most of the canaries, the Yellow canary is an accomplished singer, and often does so from a prominent perch atop a bush, sometimes incorporating mimicry of other bird’s calls into its song.
Yellow canaries are monogamous and they build a cup-shaped nest of dry twigs which they line with softer vegetable material. The nests are usually built in small shrubs rather than in trees. The female lays a clutch of between two and five white eggs marked with brown or black, which hatch after an incubation period of approximately 16 days.
The scientific binomial for the Yellow canary Crithagra flaviventris; Crithagra from the Greek for a “barley hunter”; and flaviventris from the Latin for a “yellow belly”. Thus the name describes a bird with a yellow belly that eats barley, which is accurate if somewhat lacking in imagination.