While I was shooting some pictures of some American Goldfinch, suddenly a group of small birds just appeared, they were at least 100 individuals, and took possession of the deck and feeders, then about two thirds of them just took flight and left. The ones that stayed took turns to the feeders but you could see they were hungry. I was so surprised to see so many “house finches” coming like that so sudden and they all look like females! Of course when I was processing the shots in my computer I realized that they were not finches but Pine Siskins. The very first of the species in my backyard!
Adults are brown on the upperparts and pale on the underparts, with heavy streaking throughout. They have short forked tails. Their bills are conical like most finches but are more elongated and slender than those of other co-occurring finches. Variably, pine siskins have yellow patches on their wings and tails, which may also consist of white streaks on the wings. Although they can be confused by the more inexperienced (HJ?) for other finches or even sparrows, pine siskins are distinguished by their heavy streaking, relatively slender bills, notched tail, yellow or whitish patches on the wings and smallish size.
Pine Siskins often visit feeders in winter for seeds 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.
These birds forage in trees, shrubs and weeds. They mainly eat seeds, plant parts and some insects. In winter, they often feed in mixed flocks including American Goldfinches and redpolls.
Bird feeders often attract pine siskins, where they may eat fragments of heavy-shelled seeds, such as black oil sunflowers, left behind by heavier-billed bird species. In summer, they will eat many insects, especially aphids, as well as a few spiders and grubs, which they then feed to the young as a protein-rich food that contributes to their growth. By the time of winter, even first year siskins predominately eat seeds.
The Pine Siskin has been added to my List of Birds as # 204
Text and photographs © HJ Ruiz – Avian101