Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Not-So-Common Feeder Bird: Pine Siskin

Many of you might have not seen this little striped jewel, before. Since this is an irruption year many seed eating birds are exploring farther from their normal ranges to find food. So the Pine Siskin, Carduelis pinus, is showing up at feeders all over the state of Indiana. There was one at Southeastway Park the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. In the past, Eagle Creek Park has had them at their feeders. Holliday Park has had them at the feeders and I have also seen them feeding in the trees near the playground.

Photo by John Howard

Like so many birds, many times you can hear them before you see them. When in trees, Pine Siskins typically like to forage near the top. Their call is very distinctive, a buzzy Zzreeeee, that makes me look up to find them. They are closely related to and are the same size as the American Goldfinch and frequent thistle/nyjer feeders. Some, mostly the males, have yellow on the wings and tail and sometimes on the body. Many times you will see a group of American Goldfinches at a thistle feeder and notice a striped one is in the mix. If it is the same size and has a slender pointed bill, you have a siskin!

These birds have an amazing ability to store seeds in their distensible esophagus that can stretch. Researchers have found crop contents as high as 1.5 g in siskins. They are only 15 g in weight. This would be like a human carrying a whole Thanksgiving turkey around in their belly. I know some of you tried this last week, but I doubt any of you succeeded!

One bird that can be confused with the Pine Siskin is the female House Finch. Although they are striped like the Pine Siskin, they have a stouter bill and are a bit bigger. They do not have any yellow on their wings or tail.

Note stubby, slightly curved bill of the female house finch.

Keep your eye out at your feeder for this beautiful little finch!


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