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Black-headed Siskin Spinus notatus

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Fringillidae
  • Polytypic: 3 subspecies
  • Authors: Marîa Félix Ramos-Ordoñez, Claudia I. Rodríguez-Flores, Carlos A. Soberanes-González, Marîa del Coro Arizmendi, and Thomas S. Schulenberg


Geographic Variation

Three subspecies currently recognized:

notata, described as Carduelis notata (Du Bus 1847); type locality Mexico; Jalapa, Veracruz designated as the restricted type locality by Todd (1926)

Occurs in eastern and central Mexico, and in the highlands of Guatemala.

See Detailed Description.

forreri, described as Chrymomitris forreri (Salvin and Godman 1886); type locality near hamlet of Ciudad, Sierra Madre de Durango, Mexico

Occurs in western Mexico, from Sonora and Chihuahua south to Guerrero.

Similar to notatus, but the upperparts are more olive (less yellow), and the yellow of the rump and underparts is duller and more greenish; size larger (Ridgway 1901).

oleaceus, described as Spinus notatus oleaceus Griscom 1932; type locality Cerro Cantoral, Achaga, Honduras

Occurs in Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, and northern Nicaragua.

This subspecies is darker, both above and below, than notatus, and the sexes are almost identical. "Differing from typical [nominate] notatus DuBus of southeastern Mexico and Guatemala in being slightly smaller, with a slighter and slenderer bill; upper parts appreciably less yellowish, more olive-green; under parts strikingly dirty greenish yellow, without the rich gamboge shade of northern birds" (Griscon 1932: 62).

Related Species

The classification of the smaller cardueline finches has varied over the years. Some authors (e.g. Howell et al. 1968) recognized a broad genus Carduelis, including greenfinches, European goldfinches, serins and allies, as well as New World goldfinches and siskins. Phylogenetic analysis of DNA sequence data, however, reveals that the Carduelis of Howell et al. (1968) is highly polyphyletic, and that most New World siskins and goldfinches constitute a single clade (Arnaiz-Villena et al. 2007, Nguembock et al. 2009). This clade of New World siskins and goldfinches usually is placed in the genus Spinus, but some authors classify these species (with the exceptions of Spinus pinus Pine Siskin, Spinus atriceps Black-capped Siskin, and Spinus dominicensis Antillean Siskin) in the genus Sporagra.

Spinus notatus is identified by Arnaiz-Villena et al. (2007) as basal to the clade of New World siskins.

Recommended Citation

Ramos-Ordoñez, M. F., C. I. Rodríguez-Flores, C. A. Soberanes-González, M. d. C. Arizmendi, and T. S. Schulenberg (2013). Black-headed Siskin (Spinus notatus), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.