Monday, December 22, 2008

Pine Siskin

Saturday, my neighbor and fellow birder Steven McDonald emailed me this picture of a Pine Siskin at his backyard feeder on Perthshire. I've been hearing about lots of Pine Siskin sightings in the Austin area for the past few weeks, so I was excited to hear about one in our neighborhood. Pine Siskins breed in northern or high altitude conifer or mixed coniferous forests. (I saw many of them in the mountains of Montana last summer when I visited my relatives up there.) In the winter some stay where they are and some are migratory. And they are considered irruptive -- they sometimes travel to different places in the winter from year to year depending on availability of food or on other factors. So some winters we see them in the Austin area and some winters we don't. This winter we do!

I have not yet seen a Pine Siskin in the neighborhood, so I hope to find one soon. They look very similar to female House Finches, which are common year-round residents here. Both are very streaky birds, but the streaks on a Pine Siskin are more pronounced and defined than on the House Finch. Pine Siskins also have longer and pointer bills, although both birds have the conical bills of seed eaters. And the male Pine Siskin has yellow in its wings and tail. So keep an eye open for these irregular winter visitors, especially if you have a thistle feeder.

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