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Yellow-fronted Canary (& seed-eating)

Yellow-fronted Canary

Crithagra mozambica (Derivation obscure, possibly from krith = barley [Greek], mozambica = of Mozambique [Latin])


This colourful and cheerfully vocal bird is a pleasure to see and hear.  They are quite common in Harare gardens and although they are sedentary they are nomadic in winter and do move around somewhat: no doubt this is in response to their feeding needs.  They are seed-eaters, as you can see by their beaks. 

There are two main types of seed-eating birds: those that swallow the seeds whole and those that remove the seed husks first.  These canaries are huskers: it is not as easy as you might think, especially if you only have your mouth and tongue to do it with and no hand or foot to hold the seed while you do so.  These canaries are, nevertheless, expert huskers.  Look closely at the beak.  They are short and strong, like a pair of short-nosed pliers.  The shape is distinctly conical, with a sharp point for winkling out seeds from tight husks.   Both the upper and lower mandibles have a sharp cutting edge, and can be moved not just up and down in the pincer movement of pliers, but sideways in a kind of scything motion as well.  It is intriguing to watch birds like this deftly abstracting the nutritious kernel from the hard husk. 

Interestingly, canaries also feed on nectar from flowers, though they do not rely on it for their main food source. 

The other type of seed eater simply swallows the seeds whole, and presumably this requires a different kind of digestive process within.  Doves are like this.  

Stephen Buckland

Dr. Stephen Buckland – Lecturer in Philosophy but also a keen amateur bird watcher.

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