Pine Siskin: Cole’s Bird of the Month for December

The Pine Siskin is a gregarious, unpredictable little bird with an amazing ability to withstand very cold weather. The interesting thing about Pine Siskins is that you never know where you’ll find them during the winter. These little finches, with brown streaking on their wings and a touch of subtle yellow from head to tail, travel in flocks. You may find them inundating your feeders one winter and nowhere to be found the following year. These nomadic creatures vary their migration year to year.

Pine Siskins can be found in Canada during the breeding season. During the winter, some flocks might stay, and some will fly south to the United States. Researchers believe the erratic winter movements – which are sometimes east-west and not north-south – are influenced by the pine cone crop year to year.

As you might guess by the name, Pine Siskins have a fondness for the seeds of pines. They also like other conifers including cedars, larch, hemlock, and spruce. You can sometimes spot them hanging upside down as they feed in seed-bearing trees or drinking from sap wells drilled by sapsuckers. Surprisingly, in addition to the normal bird diet of insects and spiders, they commonly feed on mineral deposits including ashes, road salt, and fresh cement. Most often, you’ll see them flitting about in the tops of trees while making a wheezy sound as they call out and make their presence known to competing flocks.

Male Pine Siskins love to sing from high perches.  They also attempt to impress the females by singing as they fly in circles. Once paired, the female builds the nest, getting some help from the male who stays nearby and contributes nesting material. The female incubates the eggs the entire time. Since she never leaves the nest, the male makes sure she is fed.

This bird is among the most adaptable when it comes to weathering the cold days of winter. Pine Siskins are able to ramp up their metabolic rates to survive harsh, cold nights when temperatures dip as low as 90 degrees below zero. They also put on only half as much winter fat as their relatives – the Common Redpoll and the American Goldfinch. Pine Siskins can temporarily store seeds in a part of their esophagus called the crop. The energy in the stored seeds could get them through five to six hours of subzero temperatures.

Pine Siskins are always on the lookout for seeds. They prefer small, easy to open seeds like Niger Seed, so if you want to attract them to your backyard put out a specialized Niger Seed feeder and they will literally flock to it. Sunflower Meats and Suet Kibbles are another good choice. Pine Siskins also hang around feeders with whole sunflower seeds, hoping larger billed birds will drop a few of the seeds after opening them.

Pine Siskins are beautiful, adaptable little birds with a social spirit and acrobatic moves. They are the types of guests that many people hope will drop by for the winter! Here’s a video of a Pine Siskin singing.

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Cole’s Wild Bird Products is a family-owned company that distributes wild bird feed and suet products. The company is known for offering the highest quality products on the market. Cole’s also specializes in chile infused seed products designed to make your feeder a bird’s only “hot” spot. Cole’s started in the garage of mom and pop entrepreneurs Richard and Nancy Cole back in the early 1980’s. Today it distributes to retailers nationwide. Cole’s is located in the metro Atlanta area. For more information, visit www.ColesWildBird.com.

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