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.
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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.
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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 Will Reshape the Range of the Pine Siskin

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate threats facing the Pine Siskin

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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