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Pine Siskin is Adapted for Winter

By Kelly Milewski; Photo by Art Weber

The pine siskin is a small finch that visits northwest Ohio in the winter.  It is the most common “irruptive” winter finch, meaning the birds move south in the winter from Canada to find food.

As their name suggests, the pine siskin (Carduelis pinus) prefers seeds from pines and other conifers such as hemlock and cedar.  They will also eat tree buds and catkins from alders and birches, as well as insects, spiders, and seeds.  They love thistle seed and will visit your thistle feeder along with goldfinches. 

The siskin is a small songbird with a sharp pointed bill and a short, notched tail.  Their bill is more slender than other finches, so look for that field marking when you are trying to identify these finches.  They are brown and streaky with subtle yellow edgings on the wings and tail.

This little bird is very well adapted to winter and surviving in cold temperatures.  The pine siskin has a very high metabolic rate, higher than other songbirds, and can raise that rate up to 40 percent higher than other birds.  They also have a specially adapted pouch in their throat that is able to store food weighing up to 10% of its own weight.

Hopefully you get to see these visitors from the North this winter. You can view pine siskins at several of our Window on Wildlife feeding stations including Oak Openings, Pearson, Secor, Swan Creek and Wildwood.

Happy birding!