The pine siskin is the smallest member of the finch family that always comes to our bird feeders. They are just a little over 4 inches long but they are rather feisty and won’t let larger birds push them around. Their natural food seems to be thistle seeds, but once they discover the sunflower seeds at your feeder, they sometimes are the most numerous, with the possible exception of house finches. These birds can be found from the treeline in Canada all the way down to Baja, California and they usually winter in northeastern Mexico. They nest in groups where their nests are only a few feet apart out on the outer limbs of coniferous trees. Their nests are lined with pine needles and horse hair and they hatch two broods per season of three or four chicks. The females do all of the incubating but the males help to feed their young.
Most pine siskins live in Western Oregon, but they are sometimes quite numerous right here in Wallowa County. They also love birdbaths and we used to watch them splashing around in large groups. Even though they are not very colorful like the goldfinches, they are fun to watch as they are quite active. When nesting season is over they gather in large flocks and move about searching for food and once they discover your bird feeders, they will stay around until extreme weather drives them to warmer climates down south. So what they lack in pretty plumage, they make up for in their friendly behavior.
E.H. Van Blaricom resides in Joseph.