The Red Siskin (Carduelis cucullata), is a member of the finch family and is a resident breeder in tropical South America in northern Colombia and northern Venezuela. The introduced population on Trinidad is believed to be extinct, with no sightings since 1960. It is commonly found in open country, forest edges and grassland with trees or shrubs.
The Red Siskin is about 4 inches long. The male is mainly deep red, with black on the head, throat, flight feathers and tail tip, and a whitish lower belly and undertail. The female is gray on the head, breast, and upperparts, apart from a red rump and upper tail. The breast is gray with reddish flanks, and the rest of the underparts, the wings and tail resemble the corresponding areas of the male. Immature females are paler than the adults, and immature males are brown rather than red. The call is a high-pitched chitter and sharp chi-tit like Indian Silverbill, and the male’s song is a musical goldfinch-like melody with twitters and trills.
Red Siskins eat seeds, and are highly gregarious. When they were more numerous they formed semi-nomadic flocks. The female is believed to lay 3 greenish white eggs in a grassy cup nest in a tree. It was common in the early twentieth century, occurring throughout the foothills of northern Venezuela but has now become extremely rare in a fragmented range.
There are only an estimated 600 to 6000 pairs of this species left in the wild. The downfall of this siskin has been massive illegal trapping for the cage bird trade. This is an attractive finch with a pleasant song, and its unique coloration for a small finch (most are predominantly yellow) has led to it being used for interbreeding with domesticated Canaries to produce varieties with red in the plumage.