Photo: Glenn Bartley/Vireo

Pine Siskin

Spinus pinus

Although it is patterned like a sparrow, its shape, actions, and callnotes all reveal that this bird is really a goldfinch in disguise. After nesting in the conifer woods, Pine Siskins move out into semi-open country, where they roam in twittering flocks. They often descend on fields of thistles or wild sunflowers, where they cling to the dried flower heads, eating seeds. In winter they sometimes invade southward in big numbers, with flocks coming to feeders along with American Goldfinches.
Conservation status Widespread and abundant. Local numbers are quite variable. Surveys suggest slight declines in overall population in recent decades.
Family Finches
Habitat Conifers, mixed woods, alders, weedy areas. Breeds mostly in coniferous and mixed woods, often around edges or clearings; sometimes in deciduous woods, isolated conifer groves. In migration and winter occurs in many kinds of semi-open areas, woodland edges, weedy fields.
Although it is patterned like a sparrow, its shape, actions, and callnotes all reveal that this bird is really a goldfinch in disguise. After nesting in the conifer woods, Pine Siskins move out into semi-open country, where they roam in twittering flocks. They often descend on fields of thistles or wild sunflowers, where they cling to the dried flower heads, eating seeds. In winter they sometimes invade southward in big numbers, with flocks coming to feeders along with American Goldfinches.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male
  • adult female
  • juvenile
  • adult male
Feeding Behavior

Forages actively in trees, shrubs, and weeds, sometimes hanging upside down to reach seeds. Usually forages in flocks (even during nesting season), often associated with goldfinches in winter.


Eggs

3-4, sometimes 2-5. Pale greenish blue, with brown and black dots often concentrated at larger end. Incubation is by female, about 13 days. Male feeds female during incubation. Young: After eggs hatch, female may spend most of time brooding young at first, while male brings food; later, both feed nestlings. Young leave nest about 14-15 days after hatching.


Young

After eggs hatch, female may spend most of time brooding young at first, while male brings food; later, both feed nestlings. Young leave nest about 14-15 days after hatching.

Diet

Mostly seeds and other vegetable matter, some insects. Feeds on seeds of alder, birch, spruce, and many other trees, also those of weeds and grasses; eats buds, flower parts, nectar, young shoots. Also feeds on insects, including caterpillars and aphids. May be attracted to salt.


Nesting

Breeding range often changes from year to year. May nest in loose colonies or in isolated pairs. Courtship and formation of pairs may begin in winter flocks; male displays by flying in circle above female, with wings and tail spread widely, while singing. Male often feeds female during courtship. Nest site is well hidden in tree (usually in conifer), on horizontal branch well out from trunk. Typically 10-40' above ground, can be lower or higher. Nest (built by female) is a rather large but shallow open cup of twigs, grass, strips of bark, rootlets, lined with moss, animal hair, feathers.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Very erratic in its winter occurrence, coming south in huge numbers some years, very scarce in others. After big invasion winters, a few may remain to nest south of normal range. Migrates by day, in flocks.

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Migration

Very erratic in its winter occurrence, coming south in huge numbers some years, very scarce in others. After big invasion winters, a few may remain to nest south of normal range. Migrates by day, in flocks.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Distinctive rising, bzzzzzt. Song like a hoarse goldfinch.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Finches Perching Birds

Pine Siskin

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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