The Pine Siskin of the Pacific Northwest
The pine siskin was a winter visitor to our feeders for years but in the winters of 2010 and 2011 they did not come back.
I have heard from birders up and down Vancouver Island who confirm that they have had no or very few returns of pine siskin. I am hopeful that we will see them return this winter.
They belongs to the finch family of birds. This bird is very social all throughout the year. They fly in large flocks with a distinct undulating flight. They are a small bird measuring in at up to 14 cm, with a wingspan up to 22 cm and a weight up to 18 grams.
They are generally brown all over but with heavy yellow streaking in the wings. Its belly and chest are a bit paler than its back. The pine siskin’s bill is sharp and slender while its tail is notched.
The male and female pine siskin look alike. The males usually have more yellow markings, though. The immature pine siskin is similar to the adult bird as well.
As can be gathered from the name, they like to inhabit pines and other coniferous trees. As such, when it comes to nesting, they prefer to build its nest on a horizontal branch of a coniferous tree, far from the trunk. The female bird chooses the location of the nest as well as builds the nest herself. The nest is shaped like a saucer and is made up of grass, rootlets, and twigs. It is lined with finer rootlets, feathers, fur, and moss. The pine siskin’s nest is usually concealed quite well.
The mating and breeding habits of the pine siskin is unlike most other birds which depend on the season. Their reproductive activities are more closely linked with the food supply available. If there is abundant food then this bird will start breeding.
They are monogamous birds and a pair usually stays together for a long period of time. When mating, pine siskin’s can either stay together as a loose colony or separate as individual pairs. This habit extends up to the nesting period.
They are basically a seed eater. In the forest it eats the seeds off pine trees and other coniferous tree. The pine siskin also eats the seeds of deciduous trees and grass. Aside from seeds, they are also known to eat floral buds and tree nectar.
They are also known for its preference for thistle seed. If you want this bird to visit your feeder, you should never run short of thistle seed.
Update, we have had pine siskin’s return this year in great numbers and from what l am hearing from other birders is the same. Welcome back my little friends.
They are very susceptible to getting salmonella infections and it is very important to keep your feeders clean to insure that they are safe from this deadly affliction.