Justification of Red List Category
This species is classified as Vulnerable because the small population, which was once thought to be stable, appears to have declined at key sites since 1996, principally owing to the effects of a drought exacerbating the threat from grazing pressure.
The population is placed in the band 2,500-9,999 mature individuals, equating to 3,750-14,999 individuals in total, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.
The breeding population in Israel is likely to be stable (Y. Lehnardt in litt. 2016), but in general the species is suspected to be in decline at a moderately rapid rate, owing to the synergistic effects of drought and grazing, while the war in Syria threatens the population there.
Serinus syriacus has a restricted range, breeding in mountains (900-1,900 m) in Lebanon, Syria, Israel (Mount Hermon) and Jordan (Evans 1994, Baumgart 1995, Khoury 1998, Ramadan-Jaradi and Ramadan-Jaradi 1999). The small population comprised 1,000 mature individuals in Jordan in 1999 (down from 600-650 pairs in 1996 due to drought; Khoury 2000) with the entire national population restricted to 15km2; and 100-360 in Israel (Evans 1994); but there are no national population estimates for Lebanon (described as very common with an estimate of 3,500 pairs in total at Qammouha, Horj Ehden, Tannourine and Arz Al-Chouf protected areas [Ramadan-Jaradi and Ramadan-Jaradi 1999, 2002]), and there is a lack of information regarding the species in Syria (N. Asswad in litt. 2016) (described as local [Baumgart 1995]). 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).
Based on ringing data, the population in Israel is likely to have been stable between 2012-2016 (Y. Lehnardt in litt. 2016). However, the Jordanian breeding population has undergone a decline, the Al-Barrah population in the Dana Nature Reserve declined by c.20% between 1996 and 1999 and their area of occupancy decreased by 25%. In addition, marginal areas of their breeding distribution in 1996 were unoccupied in 1999 (Khoury 2000). This suggests a decrease in population size and the population was estimated as 500 pairs, with 480 in Al-Barrah in the 1999 breeding season (Khoury 2000). During the 1999 breeding season no Syrian Serins 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 in the range 1,200-1,300 mature individuals (Khoury 2000) and the 1999 estimate therefore represented a decline of c.20%. However, the population size in 2011 remained at 500-700 pairs (Qaneer et al. 2013).
It breeds 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). 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).
The species is potentially seriously affected by excessive tree-cutting, grazing 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). This decline is likely to be partly due to reduced survival rates following a severe drought in the winter 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. The apricot plantations that 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 be a potential threat in some parts of the range.
Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix I. The main breeding locations in Jordan and Israel, and three such areas in Lebanon, are protected (Evans 1994). 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). 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
Mahood, S., O'Brien, A., Khwaja, N., Symes, A., Ekstrom, J., Westrip, J., Benstead, P.
Lehnardt, Y., Murdoch, D., Asswad, N.
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Serinus syriacus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 19/10/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 19/10/2019.