Sicalis Flaveola – Saffron Finch

Saffron flinch, or commonly known in latin terms Sicalis flaveol is a tanager from South America that can be found in lowland open and semi-open areas outside of the Amazon Basin. It has also been introduced in other places, such as Hawaii and Puerto Rico. They are in the family of Thraupidae.

 This bird prefers shrubland ecological systems that are subtropical or tropical, though it has been known to live in rural gardens and urban areas. It is not related to the Atlantic canary, despite the fact that it is commonly referred to as such. Previously, it was classified as a member of the Emberizidae, but it is more closely related to the Seedeaters.

Quick Overview: Sicalis flaveola – Saffron finch
Body size:  Around 6 inches (15cm) with a rough weight of 0.82 oz (23g).
Main colors: Yellow, Orange, Green
Range: South America, introduced in Hawaii and Puerto Rico
Migratory Bird: No
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: All year (January- December)
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Sicalis flaveola Description

The species is widespread and common, but its distribution is patchy. Bright yellow on the male’s body, with a saturated orange on the forehead. However, southern populations of Saffron have a duller and darker appearance above, with less brownish-olive tone on the back and wings than many other yellow finches on the back and wings. Females are duller than males, and southern populations are even browner and streakier than northern populations.

Immature Sicalis flaveola - Saffron finch
Southern Sicalis flaveola – Saffron finch that has a duller and darker appearance. Photo by: Silene Andrade

It’s possible to confuse this species with the Grassland Yellow-finch, but that species is usually duller and more heavily streaked on the upper side. The Orange-fronted Yellow-Finch is the smaller of the two species.

Close up look of this beautiful Sicalis flaveola - saffron finch
Close-up look of this beautiful Sicalis flaveola – Saffron finch. Photo by: Susan Young


These birds have a length of 6in (15cm) and a weight of 23 g (0.82 oz). Their wings could range 9-10 in (23-25 cm).


Oats are a favorite food of these finches, in particular. They primarily consume seeds and grains, but they also consume a variety of insects and plants, which is especially important during the breeding season.


In addition to agricultural land and urban areas, the Saffron finch can be found in dry open habitats. Often found in large groups.


They forage on the ground for seeds, insects, a variety of plants, and fresh green food to supplement their diet. They also come to feeders in the backyard. Oats are a favorite food of these finches, in particular.

Yellow Sicalis flaveola - Saffron finch
Yellow Sicalis flaveola – Saffron finch in Brasília, Brazil. Photo by: Silene Andrade

Sicalis flaveola Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Thraupidae
  • Genus: Sicalis
  • Species: Sicalis flaveola


There are 5 subspecies for these saffron finch namely: S. f. flaveola found in Trinidad, Colombia, Venezuela and the Guianas , S. f. valida found in Ecuador and northwest Peru, S. f. found in east Brazil, S. f. pelzelni found in east Bolivia, Paraguay, southeast Brazil, north Argentina and Uruguay and S. f. koenigi found in northwest Argentina.

Best time of the year to see

These birds are commonly seen all year round foraging in places in the United States

Distribution of the saffron finch in the USA

In the United States, the saffron finch is only found in Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Furthermore, it is found throughout the Caribbean and South America.

Sicalis Flaveola – Saffron Finch

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