Hey guys, welcome back. Today’s bird is a little winter finch; the pine siskin. This plucky little finch is an irruptive species. I know I’ve talked about irruption before but essentially, it means they can be very plentiful some winters, and completely absent other winters. Most migrations are spurned by food sources. Most birds fly south not because it’s cold, but because the insects they eat die out in winter. Well when you’re a bird that relies on seeds, typically you don’t need to migrate in fall at all. The pine siskin’s US relatives the American Goldfinch, for example, are present year round. But for an irruptive species like the siskin, their fall migration relies on how good a seed crop was produced that summer. If an abundance of seeds were produced, very few birds leave their Canadian breeding grounds. And, the opposite is true as well; a low seed crop means less food, and more birds heading south.
The pine siskin is a small finch. They look like a female house finch; light brown with darker brown streaks. But you can tell them apart by the yellow feathers on their wings. I remember the first time I ever heard of a siskin. It was during an irruptive year and there were a number of them being reported near the feeders in the Ramble of Central Park. What’s funny is, had I started my ebird life list (where I take all the birds for my blog posts from) a few weeks earlier than I did, this would’ve been one of the first birds we would have visited on this blog! I’ve yet to see one in Ohio. Perhaps this winter. Well, we’re heading back to the duck family next time, see you then!
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