Spinus pinus

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

Pine siskins (Spinus pinus) are year-round residents here in Northeastern California. Yet because of their irruptive behavior (moves around erratically following fluctuating food supplies), pine siskins are not always common visitors.

This small songbird with a sharp, pointed bill and short, notched tail is streaky brown all over with yellow edging on the wings and tail.

A gregarious bird, pine siskins often forage in flocks. They feed mainly on seeds. Insects, spiders, grubs on leaves and branches and buds round out the diet of the pine siskin.

Winters in our area can be very harsh with long periods of sub-freezing temperatures and deep snow. Pine siskins have several strategies for surviving cold periods: a) they put on more winter fat than many other birds, b) pine siskins can ramp up their metabolic rates during cold nights and c) they can temporarily store up to 10% of their body weight in their crops, using this “stored” food to get through winter nights.

This pine siskin was feeding near Crystal Lake (Shasta County CA).

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