Vancouver Avian Research Centre

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Species: Pine Siskin Carduelis pinus


The most common of the irruptive "winter finches” but nomadic. Numbers vary from year to year. Almost always in flocks sometimes with Goldfinches. Small finch brown and heavily streaked, paler underneath. Two buff wingbars, yellow in wing at base of flight feathers.


4 ½ - 5 ¼ (11 – 13 cm) Greyish-brown above, buffy fellow with dusky streaking overall, yellow on wing and tail. Sharp, slender beak with deeply notched tail. Wings with two white wing bars and yellow notch at base of primaries, base of outer tail yellow.

Adult Male: Sexes look similar but females have less yellow.

Adult female: similar to male but less yellow.

Juvenile: juvenile similar to adult but more buffy.

Similar Species: Heavy streaking on body distinguishes it from goldfinches. Goldfinches are never streaked and are much yellower: American goldfinch most alike in size and actions.
Yellow in wings, heavily streaked breast, and lack of red spot on head distinguishes it from Common Redpoll. Redpoll is paler, pinkish , streaks lighter and none on breast.
Juvenile Yellow-rumped Warbler is similar in overall streaky appearance, but lacks yellow in wings and has a smaller, thinner bill.
Female Purple, Cassin’s, House finches are larger, lack yellow and have heavier bills.

Behavior: Active, gregarious, almost always in flocks sometimes with goldfinches. They are frequent feeders found in open forest where it feeds on buds and seeds of birches, alders, pines and other trees but will also feed on small insects.
Voice In flight, a scratchy shick-shick and a thin tseee, also a rising buzzy schhrreeee.

Habitat: Conifer forests and second growth alders, aspens and broadleaf trees usually on the forest edges. Breeds in Conifer forest but erratic breeder often found in loose colonies. Ranges from southern Alaska and Canada through western United States and across the Mexico border.


Siskins, Redpolls, and Goldfinches are closely related group of seed specialist. All have short, conical beaks, short, slightly forked tails, bright wing markings and “nervous” behaviour. They breed in flocks, which after breeding may contain hundreds of birds. They are all acrobats, often hanging upside down, like titmice and chickadees, plucking seeds from hanging seed pods and catkins.

Conservation Status:

Irruptive nature makes assessing population trends difficult. May be declining in some areas.
Capture Rates

Pine Siskin capture rates (2010-2012; standardized as birds captured per 100 net hours) peak in fall and winter, especially in January, when foraging flocks are on the move and using the open areas of Colony Farm. Generally preferring to breed in coniferous or mixed forests, capture rates during the rest of the year drops off as individuals concentrate on nesting, preferring to forage on coniferous trees in their breeding territories.

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