White-throated Canary (Crithagra albogularis)

Cover image of White-throated Canary by Ryan Tippett – Carnarvon district, Northern Cape – BirdPix No. 60667

Identification

The White-throated Canary is a large, robust, greyish-brown canary with a heavy bill. The Sexes are similar, but females have slightly duller plumage. The most distinctive features of the White-throated Canary are the yellow-green rump, white throat and heavy bill.

White-throated Canary (Crithagra albogularis)
Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve, Western Cape
Photo by Andrew Hodgson

The head is greyish brown with olive-brown streaks, especially on the crown. It has a distinct white supercilium and a white throat and chin. The upper parts are greyish-brown with dusky streaks. The rump is bright yellow-green and is conspicuous in flight. The breast is pale grey shading to pinkish-buff on the belly. The under-tail is white. The heavy, conical bill is horn-coloured and the lower mandible is lighter in colour than the upper mandible.

Juveniles are similar to the adults but have a duller olive-yellow rump.

White-throated Canary (Crithagra albogularis)
Stilbaai, Western Cape
Photo by Gerald Gaigher

The White-throated Canary is most likely to be mistaken for the Protea Canary (Crithagra leucoptera). The Protea Canary has a distinctive black chin, a pale pinkish-grey bill and indistinct white wing bars. It lacks the conspicuous supercilium and yellow-green rump of the White-throated Canary.

The Streaky-headed Seedeater (Crithagra gularis) is also similar but is smaller, with a more slender bill and a more prominent white supercilium. The Streaky-headed Seedeater also lacks the yellow-green rump of the White-throated Canary.

White-throated Canary (Crithagra albogularis)
Steytlerville district, Eastern Cape
Photo by Pamela Kleiman

Status and Distribution

The White-throated Canary is a common resident and local nomad. It is near -endemic to southern Africa, extending marginally into Angola where it occurs on the coastal plain as far north as Benguela. it is mainly found in Namibia and the Northern, Western and Eastern Cape provinces. There are also scattered records from the western and central Free State, North West province and Lesotho.

SABAP2 distribution map for White-throated Canary
SABAP2 distribution map for White-throated Canary (Crithagra albogularis) – March 2024.
Details for map interpretation can be found here.

There is no evidence of major changes to the range of the White-throated Canary, although it has been suggested that habitat has been lost to alien vegetation in the southern parts of the Western Cape. The White-throated Canary is not threatened.

White-throated Canary (Crithagra albogularis)
Malgas district, Western Cape
Photo by Johan Van Rooyen

Habitat

The White-throated Canary inhabits semi-arid and arid shrublands, rocky hillsides with tall shrubs, sparse woodland along seasonal drainage lines, coastal strandveld and gardens in Karoo villages and farms. It also occurs locally in Renosterveld in the Fynbos biome. The White-throated Canary needs to drink water regularly which may account for its absence from Bushmanland and parts of Namibia.

Habitat
Near Montagu, Western Cape
Photo by Karis Daniel

Behaviour

The White-throated Canary is normally found in pairs or small family groups of up to 8 birds, but is regularly seen in flocks of up to 30 at drinking sites. Drinks regularly, often flying considerable distances during the heat of day to do so. They are usually fairly quiet, except for their distinctive call-note on take-off.

White-throated Canary (Crithagra albogularis)
Near Schoombee, Eastern Cape
Photo by Derek Solomon

The White-throated Canary Forages on the ground and the tops of shrubs and small trees. They feed on a wide range of seeds and small fruits from grasses, forbs, and shrubs and trees. They also consume flowers and buds, as well as various small insects like termites, grasshoppers and fly larvae. They can crack hard seed capsules with the robust bill to access the seeds within. They first remove the seed capsule from the plant before manipulating it on the ground.

White-throated Canary (Crithagra albogularis)
Addo Elephant National Park, Eastern Cape
Photo by Gregg Darling

The White-throated Canary breeds mainly from August to December in the winter rainfall south-west, but may breed at any time of the year after rain in drier regions. At the onset of the breeding season the males sing from a prominent perch, usually on a small bush or tree.

The nest is a cup of dry plant stems, lined with plant down and bound with fine strips of grass. It is placed from 1 to 3m above the ground in the fork of a bush or small tree. The nest is constructed entirely by the female.

White-throated Canary (Crithagra albogularis)
Calvinia district, Northern Cape
Photo by Tino Herselman

2 to 5 eggs are laid per clutch and the incubation period lasts from 14 to 18 days. The female performs all the incubation and the male supplies her with food while she is on the nest. The newly hatched young are fed by both parents on regurgitated seeds and insects. The nestling period lasts a further 15 to 17 days.

White-throated Canary (Crithagra albogularis)
Albert Falls Nature Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Roelof van der Breggen

Further Resources

Species text adapted from the first Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP1), 1997.

The use of photographs by Andrew Hodgson, Derek Solomon, Gerald Gaigher, Gerald Wingate, Gregg Darling, Johan Van Rooyen, Karis Daniel, Pamela Kleiman, Roelof van der Breggen and Tino Herselman is acknowledged.

Virtual Museum (BirdPix > Search VM > By Scientific or Common Name).

Other common names: Witkeelkanarie (Afrikaans); Weißkehlgirlitz (German); Serin à gorge blanche (French); Witkeelkanarie (Dutch); Canário-de-garganta-branca (Portuguese).

Recommended citation format: Tippett RM 2024. White-throated Canary Crithagra albogularis. Biodiversity and Development Institute. Available online at https://thebdi.org/2024/03/28/white-throated-canary-crithagra-albogularis/

Bird identificationbirding

White-throated Canary (Crithagra albogularis)
Tygerberg Nature Reserve, Western Cape
Photo by Gerald Wingate
Ryan Tippett
Ryan Tippett
Ryan is an enthusiastic contributor to Citizen Science and has added many important and interesting records of fauna and flora. He has been a member of the Virtual Museum since 2014 and has currently submitted over 12,000 records. He is on the expert identification panel for the OdonataMAP project. Ryan is a well-qualified and experienced Field Guide, and Guide Training Instructor. He has spent the last 18 years in the guiding and tourism industries. Ryan loves imparting his passion and knowledge onto others, and it is this that drew him into guide training in particular. Something that he finds incredibly rewarding is seeing how people he's had the privilege of teaching have developed and gone on to greater things. His interests are diverse and include Dragonflies, Birding, Arachnids, Amphibians, wild flowers and succulents, free diving and experiencing big game on foot. With this range of interests, there is always likely be something special just around the corner!