Dec 12, 2018 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, December 2014

Look for Pine Siskins

Pine siskins are year-round residents of the Rocky Mountains and west-central Canada, but throughout most of the United States, pine siskins are a winter-only visitor. Because they resemble more familiar feeder birds, many backyard bird enthusiasts might be hosting them without realizing it.
Share:

Are there pine siskins at your thistle feeder? They're easy to overlook, since they are streaky brown, like female house and purple finches, but have wing bars like an American goldfinch. They often turn up in flocks with their finch cousins, and blend in, unnoticed. Keep an eye out for a small, finely streaked finch with yellow at the base of a notched tail. That's unique to pine siskins, as is its slender bill—much smaller than that of its cousins. The yellowish wing bars are sometimes difficult to see when the bird is perched. When it flies, look for a flash of yellow in the wings.

Pine siskins are year-round residents of the Rocky Mountains and west-central Canada, but throughout most of the United States, pine siskins are a winter-only visitor. Because they resemble more familiar feeder birds, many backyard bird enthusiasts might be hosting them without realizing it.

They are partial to thistle seed at bird feeders, but in the wild, have a varied diet that includes pine nuts (inside pine cones), the seeds of ash and other trees, and weed and flower seeds. Pine siskins will be grateful if you leave your flower stalks standing throughout the winter.

Siskins are an "irruptive" species, one that turns up in huge numbers some winters, but is scarce in others. Their travels depend more upon food availability than on weather. Siskins are highly nomadic and unpredictable in winter, too, so if you spot them at your feeder one day, don't be confident that they'll be there the next—although they might be!



What do you think? Tell us!

comments powered by Disqus

New On This Site

The Latest Comments

  • This is exactly my experience. The local feed store had some on sale so I thought I'd try some. Actually I was shocked at how it is avoided, and I've been feeding birds for more than 40 years. I suppose I've never had it out as the ONLY food source, but when I put it out along with the blackoil, peanuts, cracked corn and suet cakes, absolutely nothing would touch it. Even when I dumped some on the ground the rabbits wouldn't eat it, nor would the squirrels. Eventually some turkeys and deer ate some--when they could find nothing else underneath the other feeders. But even they left plenty on the ground which they NEVER do with cracked corn, sunflower, etc.Every person should try some if they're inclined and decide for themselves since every situation may be a bit different, but for me/my species, safflower is a big no.
    by Colin Croft, Sun, 03 Mar 2019
  • I have questions about the Zick Dough? It says not to use in cold weather. It is still in the 40s here. Too soon? How long should I expect a supply to last? And, use a tray feeder? Thanks.
    by martindf, Sun, 25 Nov 2018
  • Glad I found this. I'm a snowbird and was worried about all the birds that come to feed at my birdfeeder. I have Cardinals, sparrows, doves, Blue Jays, chickadees. I hope they'll find food elsewhere while I'm gone.
    by Donna, Sat, 03 Nov 2018
  • I had a pair nesting for the first time this year at our farmstead in South Dakota. Boxes put out for Bluebirds which didn't come, but these were a very pleasant consolation.
    by fluffypeanutcat, Tue, 25 Sep 2018
  • This is a good point. While cleaning mine, I kinda got the impression the cheep cheeps were waiting on me since they started chirping as soon as I brought it outside again. I swear they are so smart. Within five minutes of filling the feeder up, they are there to feast.cheers Cheep cheeps!
    by Kimber timbers, Fri, 20 Jul 2018