The Pine Siskin is described as fairly common to locally common, or even abundant.
The breeding success may be affected by predation, nest failure, lack of food resources and brood parasitism. Human disturbance may involve desertion of the nest and nest failure. Forest clearance has also a negative impact on this species.
However, the population is suspected to be stable and the species is not globally threatened.
The Pine Siskin is currently evaluated as Least Concern.  

Fr: Tarin des pins
Ang: Pine Siskin
All: Fichtenzeisig
Esp: Jilguero de los Pinos
Ita: Lucarino delle pinete
Nd: Dennensijs
Sd: tallsiska


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Pine Siskin
Spinus pinus

Passeriformes Order – Fringillidae Family

The Pine Siskin is a North American species that breeds in coniferous forests from S Alaska, across Canada to northern USA. During winter, it can be found to N Mexico, although the winter movements depend on food resources in N North America, especially pine crops. The movements are erratic, with irruptions into central and southern parts of the continent.
The Pine Siskin typically feeds on seeds of various conifer species, as well as seeds of deciduous trees. The diet includes mainly plant material and also insects in summer.
They are monogamous. The female builds the cup-shaped nest in conifer or deciduous tree or shrub.
The Pine Siskin is fairly common and the species is not globally threatened, although habitat loss may become a threat, especially forest clearing.

Length: 11-14 cm
Wingspan: 18-22 cm
Weight: 12-18 g

The Pine Siskin adult male has pale buffish-brown upperparts with grey tinge and broad, dark brown streaking, and sometimes tinged greenish.
The uppertail-coverts are similar or darker brown with yellow bases to feathers. On the upperwing, the coverts are dark brown to blackish with paler tips, but the greater coverts show broader, yellowish tips. Alula and primary coverts are black to blackish-brown. The flight-feathers are similar but with fine, pale buff edges. We can see a small, square yellow patch at base of outer primaries, but it is often concealed. The tertials have pale edges.
The bird in flight shows the broad dark bases of the wing-coverts, and the broad, yellowish wingbar across the flight-feather bases.

The underparts are pale, usually whitish-buff with narrow, dark streaks from chin to breast. Belly to undertail-coverts is more heavily streaked.

The males, especially those of SW of the range, have greener upperparts and paler underparts, the latter less extensively streaked. Wings and tail show more yellow.
These birds are named “green morph” of the nominate race.

The sharp, pointed bill is pale brown to greyish with dark tip. The eyes are dark brown. Legs and feet are dark brown.

The female resembles male but she is slightly paler, with paler tips on median and greater upperwing-coverts, and smaller yellow patch at base of outer primaries. 

The juvenile resembles adult but with narrower streaking on paler buffish-brown upperparts. The tips of both median and greater coverts are whitish (not yellowish). The underparts are pale buffish with thinner dark brown streaking.

The Pine Siskin has three subspecies.
S.p. pinus (described above) is found in CS and SE Alaska, Canada, and W and NE USA. It winters S to N and EC Mexico.

S.p. macropterus is found in N Baja California and NW and C Mexico (E to Veracruz).
This race is slightly paler than nominate, with less conspicuous streaks above and below, especially on breast. The male shows more extensively brighter yellow at tail base.

S.p. perplexus is found in the mountains of S Mexico (Chiapas) and W Guatemala.
This race is slightly smaller, paler or grey-brown above. Face and underparts are pale greyish. Breast and flanks are faintly streaked.
The juvenile is browner than nominate juvenile, with darker streaks, pale cinnamon tips on wing-coverts and pale buffish underparts.

The Pine Siskin frequents coniferous or mixed coniferous-deciduous forests. The coniferous forests include Pinus, Picea, Abies and Larix tree species that provide cones.
The deciduous forests include Quercus, Fagus, Betula, Ulmus, Acer and Tilia tree species.  
During the breeding season, the birds move to the outer edges of the coniferous forests where they frequent brush. There, they can find insects in the nearby grasses and bushes.
In autumn and winter, the Pine Siskin leaves the woodlands to reach the open fields where it finds food, especially seeds from herbaceous plants.  They return to the forests to find shelter and protection in the trees. This species may also frequent the suburban areas if there are trees for shelter, and they can feed at numerous bird feeders.

The Pine Siskin most common call is a buzzy, rising “zreeeeeet” given among shorter calls. The flight call is an explosive “zwee” or “psee”. During the flight, a “tit-a-tit” call accompanies the undulating pattern and the wingbeats. 
While feeding or flying together in flocks, the birds give wheezy contact calls, but a single bird may call back the flock with a single note.

The song of the Pine Siskin is often more nasal than those of the other finches. Several males utter raucous, whispering trills and short rising notes into songs that last 3 to 13 seconds. It is described as “che-che-che chew zzzhreeee to ta chew” with sometimes a rolling “brrrrr” at the end.  
The adult male is known for adding continuously songs to its repertoire.

The Pine Siskin feeds primarily on seeds from several tree species, both coniferous and deciduous. However, seeds from a variety of weeds are also taken, including dandelions, sunflowers and thistles. It also uses bird feeders in suburban areas.
During summer, insects, spiders and grubs are also part of the diet, and the young are mainly fed on insects and larvae. Road salt and sap from maple, and buds, pieces of flowers, nectar and young shoots are consumed too.


The Pine Siskin forages actively in shrubs, trees and weeds. It may hang upside down to reach the seeds. It forages at all levels in trees, but mainly in the canopy by walking and hopping among the branches, searching and examining all the twigs, buds and cones.
It takes salt and grit from roads, and can be seen foraging in low vegetation and on the ground.

This species usually forages in pairs or small groups, and in flocks even during the breeding season. During winter, it is often seen with goldfinches.  

During the breeding period, the Pine Siskin becomes aggressive towards other species, and sometimes also during winter. As an arboreal species, it defends the nesting territory in conifer trees. They may nest in loose colonies, but mainly in isolated pairs.
The species is monogamous and territorial, defending a small area of up to two metres around the nest which is defended throughout egg-laying and incubation.

Courtship displays and pair formation may occur in winter flocks.
The male performs aerial displays above treetops, by flying in circle above the female with both wings and tail widely spread. This display is accompanied by song.
During the displays, when the female solicit copulation, she gives soft calls while bowing with fluttering wings and tail. She also gives a low twittering call when she solicits food from her partner.   
Once the pair has formed, the male continues to fly and sing while the female builds the nest. It feeds the female and continues throughout the incubation period. It will feed her for 8 days after egg-hatching, mainly during the morning. Then, the female feeds the chicks by regurgitation. She regularly cleans the nest between the feeding events.  

The Pine Siskin is resident and partial migrant, and also frequently irruptive. Irruptions are observed in years of reduced cone crops in N of the breeding range. In this case, the birds move in flocks of several thousands.
The southern races are mainly sedentary or altitudinal migrants, whereas the northern breeding populations migrate southwards to reach the Gulf coast and S Florida.
The species is highly nomadic in autumn and winter, with movements closely related to food availability. It is an irregular visitor to the Bering Sea islands, including Pribilof Islands and Aleutian Islands

The flight of the Pine Siskin is undulating. It alternates several rapid wingbeats with wings drawn to the body sides. The flight is high, strong and fast. 

The breeding season takes place between late February and early September, with peak in March-August. This species produces a single brood per season, occasionally two.
The nest is built by the female, well-hidden on horizontal tree branch, usually in conifer, but sometimes in deciduous tree or shrub. It is placed between 3 and 12 metres above the ground. The male usually gathers some nest material.
The female builds a compact, cup-shaped structure with twigs, grass, leaves, plant stems, strips of bark and rootlets. It is lined inside with moss, animal hair and feathers.

She lays 3-4, sometimes 2-5 pale greenish-blue eggs with dark spots at the larger end. She incubates during 13-15 days, and she is fed by her mate during this period.
The female broods the chicks during the first days of their life, while the male provides food. Later, both parents feed the chicks. The young leave the nest about two weeks after hatching. They become independent 13-17 days later.
The nest is sometimes parasitized by the Brown-headed Cowbird.