Pine Siskin, April 17.
Is this our last visit from our winter visiting siskins?
Time to go back north to the conifer forests. Safe travels!
Pine Siskins persist.
Audubon Field Guide: Pine Siskin
Although it is patterned like a sparrow, its shape, actions, and callnotes all reveal that this bird is really a goldfinch in disguise.
Pine Siskins feeding with American Goldfinches during Winter Storm Juno.
After nesting in the conifer woods, Pine Siskins move out into semi-open country, where they roam in twittering flocks. They often descend on fields of thistles or wild sunflowers, where they cling to the dried flower heads, eating seeds. In winter they sometimes invade southward in big numbers, with flocks coming to feeders along with American Goldfinches.
Courtship and formation of pairs may begin in winter flocks; male displays by flying in circle above female, with wings and tail spread widely, while singing.
Very erratic in its winter occurrence, coming south in huge numbers some years, very scarce in others. After big invasion winters, a few may remain to nest south of normal range.
That would be nice.
Here are five Pine Siskins at the thistle/ niger feeder with two of their finch cousins, American Goldfinches. Photos taken this morning around 9:30 a.m.
From Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds…
Flocks of tiny Pine Siskins may monopolize your thistle feeder one winter and be absent the next. This nomadic finch ranges widely and erratically across the continent each winter in response to seed crops. Better suited to clinging to branch tips than to hopping along the ground, these brown-streaked acrobats flash yellow wing markings as they flutter while feeding or as they explode into flight.
Very pointy beak for a finch.
Pine siskins are brown and very streaky birds with subtle yellow edgings on wings and tails.
Their Latin name is Pinus spinus.
Pine Siskins often visit feeders in winter (particularly for thistle or nyjer seed) or cling to branch tips of pines and other conifers, sometimes hanging upside down to pick at seeds below them. They are gregarious, foraging in tight flocks and twittering incessantly to each other, even during their undulating flight.
I am feeding them Wagner’s 62053 Nyjer Seed Bird Food from Amazon.
Every couple of years, Pine Siskins make unpredictable movements called irruptions into southern and eastern North America. Though they’re erratic, these movements may not be entirely random. Banding data suggest that some birds may fly west-east across the continent while others move north-south. For more, see this post from Project FeederWatch.
Pine Siskins get through cold nights by ramping up their metabolic rates—typically 40% higher than a “normal” songbird of their size. When temperatures plunge as low as –70°C (–94°F), they can accelerate that rate up to five times normal for several hours.
Pine Siskins can temporarily store seeds totaling as much as 10% of their body mass in a part of their esophagus called the crop. The energy in that amount of food could get them through 5–6 nighttime hours of subzero temperatures.
It was 8 degrees when I woke up at 5 a.m. It’s 20 now. A cold day, but obviously pine siskins can handle it!
(Autocorrect does not believe in the existence of pine siskins and wants to correct siskins to sissiness. How incorrect!)