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Description of the Pine Siskin

BREEDING MALE

The Pine Siskin is a goldfinch-sized finch with streaked brown upperparts, whitish underparts with heavy brown streaking, varying amounts of yellow in the wings, and a thin, pointed bill that is slightly longer and thinner that that of goldfinches.

Males have more yellow in the wings, including a broad yellow wing-bar.

Pine Siskin gb
Photograph © Glenn Bartley.

pine siskin sam
Photograph © Sam Crowe.

Female

Females have less yellow in the wings, and a whitish wing-bar.

Seasonal change in appearance

None.

Juvenile

Similar to adult females.

Habitat

Pine Siskins are found in coniferous, mixed, and deciduous woodlands.

Diet

Pine Siskins primarily eat seeds, but also some insects.

Behavior

Pine Siskins forage in trees and shrubs, and usually occur in flocks outside of the breeding season.

Range

Pine Siskins occur across most of North America, though they breed in the western U.S. and southern Canada and only occur during winter in the rest of the U.S. The population has declined in recent years.

More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Pine Siskin.

Wing Shape

The shape of a bird's wing is often an indication of its habits and behavior. Fast flying birds have long, pointed wings. Soaring birds have long, broad wings. Different songbirds will have a slightly different wing shape. Some species look so much alike (Empidonax flycatchers) that scientists sometimes use the length of specific feathers to confirm a species' identification.

Wing images from the University of Puget Sound, Slater Museum of Natural History

Fun Facts

Like many northern finches, Pine Siskins are irruptive in winter occurrence and are much more common in some years than in others.

Pine Siskins often visit bird feeders with flocks of goldfinches, both of which are fond of sunflower and thistle seeds.

Pine Siskins occasionally stay at a wintering location to breed if food supplies are plentiful, even though it may be far from the normal breeding range of the species.

Vocalizations

The song is a rapid sequence of low notes. Various buzzy or sharp calls are also given.

Attracting

Attract with suet or peanut butter.

Nesting

The nest is a cup of twigs, grass, and bark and is lined with softer materials. It is usually placed on an outer branch of a conifer tree.

Number:
Usually lay 3-4 eggs.

Color:

Greenish-blue with darker markings.

Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 13 days, and leave the nest in another 14-15 days, though continuing to associate with the adults for some time.