Justification of Red List Category
This species has a small population that is inferred to be undergoing a moderate decline, primarily due to overgrazing and droughts, as well as emerging threats. As such, the species is assessed as Vulnerable.
In Israel, 100-360 mature individuals have been estimated (Evans 1994). Across Lebanon, 3,500 pairs have been estimated in protected areas (Ramadan-Jaradi and Ramadan-Jaradi 1999, 2002), which roughly equates to 7,000 mature individuals. In 1999, 1,000-1,250 mature individuals were estimated in Jordan (down from 600-650 pairs in 1996 due to drought with the entire national population restricted to 15km2; Khoury 2000). More recently for the Jordanian population, 500-700 pairs were estimated in 2011 (Qaneer et al. 2013), and in 2022, 440-490 breeding pairs were remaining in Dana in SW Jordan (F. Khoury in litt. 2022), equating to 880-980 mature individuals. Although there is lack of information for Syria, the species is considered to be very local (Baumgart 1995, N. Asswad in litt. 2016, Clement and de Juana 2020). Given localised declines of the species, the overall population is therefore estimated to fall into the band of 7,000-9,999 mature individuals, roughly equating to 10,500-14,999 individuals.
The species is inferred to be undergoing a moderately rapid decline.
The breeding population in Israel has been assumed to be stable, based on ringing data between 2012-2016 (Y. Lehnardt in litt. 2016). Recent deforestation analysis has also shown that tree cover loss equated to <5% over 10 years within the species range (Global Forest Watch 2021). This suggests that habitat loss by wood-cutting may be relatively low. However, the species is severely impacted by the synergistic effects of drought and grazing (Clement and de Juana 2020), whilst conflict within parts of the species' range could also threaten the population.
The Jordanian breeding population has previously undergone a decline, with the Al-Barrah population in the Dana Nature Reserve having declined by c.20% between 1996 and 1999 and their area of occupancy having decreased by 25%. In addition, marginal areas of the breeding distribution in 1996 were unoccupied in 1999 (Khoury 2000). This suggests a decrease in population size, as the national population was estimated as 500 pairs, with 480 in Al-Barrah in the 1999 breeding season (Khoury 2000). During the 1999 breeding season no individuals were recorded in other areas of south-west Jordan (e.g. Al-Hishi woodland) or northern Jordan (Mediterranean woodland) that would have been suitable as alternative feeding sites to avoid the drought. The decline in population size therefore did not seem to represent a shift in population distribution. Previous population estimates in Jordan were also in the range 1,200-1,300 mature individuals (Khoury 2000) and the 1999 estimate therefore represented a decline of c.20%. Additionally, the habitat across the Dana Reserve in Jordan is considered to be much more degraded now, with the breeding area having decreased severely in recent years due to a combination of mining activities and wind farms, droughts, overgrazing, and human activities; the population found is now considered unviable (F. Khoury in litt. 2022).
Similarly in Lebanon, recent count surveys have found the species' numbers to have dropped in many sites (F. Itani in litt. 2022). However, a 2021 study of four sites (previously analysed by Ramadan-Jaradi and Ramadan-Jaradi ) showed that the mean densities of two sites (Chouf Cedars Biosphere Reserve and Horsch Ehden Nature Reserve) had remained the same, with mean densities increasing for the Qammouha Nature Reserve and only Tannourine Nature Reserve showing declines (G. Ramadan-Jaradi in litt. 2022). Albeit, declines in the number of pairs have been observed in Anjar between 2016-2020 due to emerging threats by invasive species (G. Ramadan-Jaradi in litt. 2022). Given previous, moderate rates of declines as well as observed declines across numbers and densities at specific sites due to ongoing and emerging threats, the population is thought to be tentatively declining at a rate of 20-29% over 10 years.
Serinus syriacus has a restricted range, breeding in mountains in Lebanon, Syria, Israel (Mount Hermon) and Jordan (Evans 1994, Baumgart 1995, Khoury 1998, Ramadan-Jaradi and Ramadan-Jaradi 1999). The species also winters in Egypt and Palestine.
It breeds at 900-1,800 m in rocky tracts of open or semi-arid Mediterranean woodland, usually dominated by conifers such as Cedrus, Pinus, Abies and Juniperus (Evans 1994, Baumgart 1995, Khoury 1998, Ramadan-Jaradi and Ramadan-Jaradi 1999, Clement and de Juana 2020). It is a tree-nester that feeds on the seeds of low annual and perennial grasses and herbs and requires daily access to drinking water (Khoury 1998). In non-breeding seasons, it occurs at lower levels near acacias (Acacia) and thorn-scrub habitats across desert and semi-desert areas, as well as in vegetated wadis, Artemisia steppe, and edges of cultivated land and orchards (Clement and de Juana 2020). The species breeds from mid March to mid August (Clement and de Juana 2020).
In winter, birds in Jordan disperse locally (Khoury 1998), while the breeding grounds in Lebanon, Syria and Israel are completely vacated (Evans 1994, Baumgart 1995, Ramadan-Jaradi and Ramadan-Jaradi 1999) for wintering grounds that probably comprise desert and semi-arid country at lower altitudes (near water) throughout the Levant and Egypt (Sinai and Nile valley) (Evans 1994, Baumgart 1995, Ramadan-Jaradi and Ramadan-Jaradi 1999). There had been reports that it may have wintering grounds in Iraq but these proved to be a mis-identification of European Serin S. serinus (Porter 2014).
The species is potentially seriously affected by excessive tree-cutting, grazing (creating severe habitat erosion) and water abstraction. Breeding numbers in 1999 were low, and the population was estimated to have decreased by c.20% since 1996 to 500 breeding pairs (Khoury 2000). Declines between 1996-1999 are likely to have been partly due to reduced survival rates following a severe drought in the winter of 1998-1999, which caused a decline in seed production and in the number of water pools. The drought conditions further enhance declines in habitat quality caused by grazing pressure and wood cutting.
Apricot plantations which are a major part of its habitat in Lebanon are fast disappearing, and its Syrian distribution is currently threatened by the conflict in that country (D. Murdoch in litt. 2015). Hunting may also be a potential threat in some parts of the range and the species may be subjected to illegal international trade, particularly due to illegal entry of the species into the European Union (S. Bruslund in litt. 2022). Tree cover loss is however low across the species' range (<5% over three generations; Global Forest Watch 2021), which suggests that impacts by tree-cutting alone is minimal. The species' food may be short-lived and heavily consumed by livestock, which may displace it from traditional breeding areas to less favourable ones (G. Ramadan-Jaradi in litt. 2022). The use of herbicides are also thought to be increasing across the species' range (G. Ramadan-Jaradi in litt. 2022). A decline in Syrian Serin pairs have additionally been observed in Anjar as a result of intrusion by the European Serin Serinus serinus and Common Myna Acridotheres tristis (G. Ramadan-Jaradi in litt. 2022). Other emerging threats include mining activities, wind farms, recreational human activity, and construction of roads (F. Khoury in litt. 2022).
Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix I. The main breeding locations in Jordan and Israel, and three such areas in Lebanon, are protected (Evans 1994, Clement and de Juana 2020). Monitoring at the Jordanian breeding area (the only well-studied site) started in 1995. Awareness-raising activities have been carried out around the Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve IBA in Lebanon (Dakdouk et al. 2005). The Association for Bird Conservation in Lebanon (ABCL) have additionally assisted in fundraising for two research projects in Jordan and Egypt (with similar assistance for projects in Syria and Palestine), with plans to gather update data for all range countries (F. Itani in litt. 2022). In Lebanon, plans are in place by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL) to monitor the species in Anjar in 2022 (E. El-Haddad in litt. 2022). It is listed as Endangered in the regional Red List of breeding birds of the Arabian Peninsula (Symes et al. 2015).
12 cm. Small, rather long-tailed and "open-faced" canary. Rather unmarked pale olive-yellow-grey plumage which largely lacks streaking (except mantle). Forehead and eyering bright yellow as are greater coverts and fringes of inner flight feathers and tail. Similar spp. Easily distinguished from European Serin S. serinus by larger size and lack of prominent streaking. Voice Long trilling, chirping, twittering and jingling refrains.
Text account compilers
Asswad, N., Benstead, P., Brusland, S., Ekstrom, J., El-Haddad, E., Itani, F., Khoury, F., Khwaja, N., Lehnardt, Y., Mahood, S., Murdoch, D., O'Brien, A., Ramadan-Jaradi, G., Symes, A. & Westrip, J.R.S.
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Serinus syriacus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 03/02/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 03/02/2023.