Seed Eaters

Typically small birds with conical beaks, these birds eat seed and grain and are often known either as Old World or New World Seedeaters. Their beaks are sufficiently strong to open the most difficult seeds. Seeds are the only part of plants which have sufficient nutrient value for small birds. Species of Crossbill in Europe have evolved with different beaks to take seeds from larch, pine and spruce conifers. A tremendous variety of seeds are available in many parts of the world so its hardly surprising that this group of birds are very wide-spread.

Family names (as well as genera and species names) give rise to even more confusion. One genus has birds which are obligingly called Seedeaters. Other family names are Ploceidae, Passeridae, Estrildidae, Emberizidae, Thraupidae and Cardinalidae. Again each family has genera or species names which are confusing:-

  • Passeridae – Sparrow Weavers, Sparrows and Snowfinches of Africa and Europe.
  • Ploceidae – Buffalo Weavers, Weavers, Fodies, Bishops and Widowbirds mainly found in Africa.
  • Estrildidae – Birds in this family like open grasslands, reed-beds and the brushy borders of forest edges. They tend to be ground feeders eating the small seeds of grasses and sedges as well as a few insects. Waxbills, Firefinches, Cordon-bleus, Parrot-Finches and Munias are birds of Africa and Australasia.
  • Viduidae – Indigobirds and Whydahs are only found in Africa.
  • Fringillidae – Birds in family Fringillidae forage mostly on or near the ground. They favour grasslands, scrublands, or open Woodlands. They are known by a variety of common names including Chaffinch, Brambling, Serin, Canary, Citril, Seedeater, Grosbeak, Euphonia, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Siskin, Redpoll, Linnet, Twite, Rosefinch, Crossbill, Bullfinch, Hawfinch. They are found in Europe, Africa, North, South and Middle America and Asia.
  • Emberizidae – Buntings, New World Sparrows, Juncos, Towhees, Brush Finches, and Cardinals (not the Northern and related Cardinals see below). These birds are found in Europe, Africa and the Americas.
  • Thraupidae – This large family is in a state of flux. It includes a range of Finches (including Darwin’s Finches of the Galapagos Islands) and a genus of Seedeaters. These are almost entirely birds of the Americas.
  • Cardinalidae – Grosbeaks, Cardinals (including Northern), Saltators and Buntings (Indigo, Painted etc).
  • Carduelidae - The beaks of species in this family have evolved to enable them to specialise in different types of seeds.
  • Pteroclididae - Sandgrouse are found in arid areas of Africa and Eurasia. They stay very still using their plumage to provide camouflage. Although they feed on plant leaves and shoots they are also seed foragers with different species specialising in specific seeds.