Description 4 1/2 - 5" A dark, streaked finch
with notched tail and small patches of yellow in
wings and tail. Usually seen in flocks, which have a
distinctive flight pattern: the birds undulating flight.
Habitat Coniferous and mixed woodlands, alder
thickets, and brushy pastures.
Diet Small seeds, especially thistle, red alder,
birch, and spruce seeds, make up the majority of
the Pine Siskin's diet. They are also fond of salt,
and can be found along highways that have been
salted to melt snow.
In summer, they will eat insects, especially aphids,
which they feed to the young, but seeds dominate
Nesting Pine Siskins are monogamous, and
pairs form within winter flocks and their breeding
activity is more closely tied to the abundance of food
than to season.
The female incubates 3 or 4 pale green eggs, lightly
speckled with dark brown and black, in a shallow
saucer of bark, twigs, and moss lined with plant
down and feathers and placed in a conifer.
Incubation is for about 13 days.
The male brings her food while she incubates, and
while she broods the young for the first few days
after they hatch. After that, both parents bring food.
The young leave the nest after 13 to 17 days, and
the parents continue to feed the young for about
three more weeks.
Range Breeds from southern Alaska, Mackenzie,
Quebec, and Newfoundland south to California,
Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Great Lakes region,
and northern New England. In winter wanders
southward throughout United States.
Voice Distinctive rising, bzzzzzt. Song like a
Discussion Siskins, redpolls, and goldfinches
are a closely related group of seed specialists. All
have short, conical beaks; short, slightly forked tails;
bright wing markings; and "nervous" behavior.
They feed in flocks, which, after breeding, may
contain hundreds of birds. They are all acrobats,
often hanging upside down, like titmice and
chickadees, plucking seeds from hanging
seedpods and cones.
The Pine Siskin's winter visits to the United States
occur mainly in years when the seed crop has failed
in the boreal forests. In some years large flocks
may appear as far south as Florida.
The Pine Siskins were the stars of the Summer of 2008. They came in droves to the feeders.