A small canary with a large head, the Syrian serin is prettily coloured with bright yellow and pale grey feathers. The eyes are large and are surrounded by a bright yellow ring. The beak is grey and the legs are pale pinkish-grey. The Syrian serin has a long trilling call, and may also chirp and twitter (2).
This canary feeds on the seeds of low grasses and herbs, and visits water pools daily to drink (2). It is found in groups in the non-breeding season, but becomes monogamous and territorial once at the breeding grounds. Males court females with a song display and captive birds have been seen feeding each other as part of the courtship process. Each pair builds a nest in a tree once the snow has begun to melt in mid April to May. Four pale blue, glossy eggs are laid in May and June and the female incubates these for 12 – 14 days. The young fledge after just 14 – 16 days and the parents then move up to around 1,750 metres in July and August to produce a second clutch. When conditions are favourable the pair may have three broods (3).
The Syrian serin breeds not only in Syria but also in Lebanon, Israel and Jordan at altitudes of between 900 – 1,900 metres. The population in Jordan disperses locally in winter, but the birds of Lebanon, Israel and Syria migrate to wintering grounds in Egypt, Turkey and Iraq (2).
The quality of the Syrian serin’s habitat has been reduced by both natural and man-made processes. A severe drought from 1998 and 1999 resulted in poor seed production and fewer water pools, which in turn decreased survival rates and the number of breeding pairs. Compounding this problem, deforestation, grazing and drainage are being practised by humans (2).
Breeding takes place in several protected areas throughout Jordan, Israel and Lebanon, and it is monitored carefully in Jordan. However, monitoring outside Jordan is also necessary, and reversal of habitat decline throughout the range is crucial to the survival of this species (2).
For further information on this species see Cramp, S. & Perrins, C.M. (1994) Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa – Volume VIII Crows to finches. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
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