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

  • I have the same situation. The feeder is attached to the middle of a large picture window that goes ceiling to floor w/ no ledge or sill for animals to climb or balance. Yet every morning all the sunflower seeds have been cracked open and hulls left. Any ideas what it is?
    by Liza Fox, Sun, 15 Nov 2020
  • I have a bird feeder that sticks to my window and I've been hearing noises against the window at night right now its going on. But whatever it is it is aware of me. And when I get to window it leaves.I can't imagine a squirrel or mouse or possom being able to get at it. ...So as I was reading this article im to assume no bird eats at night. Or no birds will eat at night. Why is that? Then im also thinking of a sinereo that could a lost confused bird eat at night. This eating thing is watching meI turn out the light go there noise dissappears..Thank you.
    by Nosferatu, Thu, 05 Nov 2020
  • I have metal baffles (cones) on my pole for my bird feeders. Something is still tempting them at night. What else could it be? Deer???
    by Ella Spencer Connolly, Thu, 27 Aug 2020
  • I found where he lives, then I keep him up all day by singing at full volume! Hah, that'll show the little sucker!
    by Pike Juan, Tue, 11 Aug 2020
  • I never knew feeding birds could be so confusing. I love watching the birds in my backyard even though I don't get a very big variety.
    by JustMyOpinion, Sun, 26 Jul 2020