Pine Siskin

@ Jay McGowan

Pine Siskin Spinus pinus (Wilson 1810)

Appearance: – Both sexes streaky with pointed bills and short, notched tails. Bill is more slender than that of most finches and in flight look for their forked tail, pointed wingtips and flashes of yellow in the wings, which is most noticeable in males.

Irruptions Winter 2020-21: Modest numbers will push southward into the northeast and Great Lakes and then they will move southward into the southern and Plains states.

Natural History: – Generally an inhabitant of coniferous or mixed coniferous-deciduous across much of North America except the High Arctic. Seeds of variety of annual plants, notably composites and grasses, and small seeds of various trees, including an assortment of conifers (i.e. spruce, hemlock, cedar, and some pines) and deciduous species such as alder (Alnus spp.) and birch (Betula spp.). By itself or with redpolls and goldfinches, the Pine Siskin will visit nyjer or sunflower seed feeders of all shapes and forms including nyjer seed socks.

Taxonomy:S. p. pinus (Wilson, 1810): widespread across North America.

S. p. macropterus (Bonaparte, 1850): Resident in montane w. Mexico from s. Sonora south to and across the Trans-volcanic Belt

S. p. perplexus (van Rossem, 1938): Resident in highlands of s. Chiapas and w. Guatemala

Object of study: mimicry in song

Flight call: – Calls of this species generally characterized in terms such as “rasping” and “throaty” or “harsher than similar calls of redpolls or goldfinches. A grating call with rising inflection is one of the most familiar sounds produced by Pine Siskins. –this call is described as a zree-e-e-e-e-eet, zwee-e-eeet, or shr-reet. Most common flight call is a quick tee-u, which cannot be confused with goldfinches or redpolls. 

Irruptions: – Irrupts in numbers southward into the southern States and appears to be irrupting at least in small numbers across parts of east this year. 

FiRN Needs: Recording of song from the entire distribution area would be appreciated.

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