Birder’s Notebook; Pine Siskin (PISI)

Birder’s Notebook by Bob Andrini: This is a year we might call the ‘year of the siskins’. They are appearing all over our area. Pine siskins are an irruptive species – that means that they do not appear every year here, but every 1 or 2 or 3 years (sporadically).

Irruptive species come south when their food source has been depleted (due to drought or some other event). Other irruptive species are also showing up in unusual numbers. The scientific name for the pine siskin is carduelis pinus: carduelis comes from the Latin word carduus for thistle (of which they eat a lot), and pinus also from the Latin meaning pine, which is a favorite nesting place for them.

Some of the field marks for the pine siskin are: heavily streaked underparts, yellowish tail and wings, forked tail and tiny bill.

In past years we have had small number of Pine Siskins, but this year we have had consistently 26 – 35 birds. They gather at the thistle feeders, and often are seen bickering with one another over feeding location.

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