Golden stripes distinguish the pine siskin – a small finch.

Swirling siskins a dizzying sight in the air

The first time I heard pine siskins, I knew I’d be smitten for life

The first time I heard pine siskins, I knew I’d be smitten for life.

A loud, distinct buzzing sound of rising “zreeees” caught my attention and I looked up to see a large flock of them feeding at the top of a coniferous tree. It’s almost as if they’re all asking the question, “Whazzup” and never getting an answer.

Pine siskins (Carduelis pinus) tend to travel in flocks, and their combined song, once heard, is unmistakable. Few things cheer the air like a flock of siskins twittering high in the treetops, singing their zippy little tune. It’s just a thrill to see dozens of them crowding a birdfeeder while staying just a bill’s length away from one another to avoid collision. Pity this dowdy little finch, which is all too often mistaken for the slightly larger sparrow. True, its allover streaky brown colouration tends to toss it into the LBB category (little brown bird), with one exception – dashing yellow stripes on wings and tail. In birding, as in dining out, always check the bill. Members of the finch family have large upper and lower mandibles with a pointed tip, the better to open and feed on seeds, a favoured food.

When the seed supply is plentiful, the erratic siskins may stay the winter on Vancouver Island, although some flocks do migrate, and sightings can be scarce. These highly gregarious birds form winter flocks of 50 to 1000, and fly in swirling formations similar to waxwings. The flocks break into pairs only to breed.

In mating season, siskin pairs feed each other with tender gentleness, and the male’s colouration brightens considerably … the better to attract a mate, which is the way with almost all avian species.

Spotting a swirl of siskins and hearing their chatter makes any day brighter. Attract pine siskins with a niger (thistle) feeder, where they may join a flock of their finch cousins, the more colourful goldfinches, house finches or purple finches.

E-mail Christine at: wildernesswest@shaw.ca. Vancouver Island Bird Poster available at Museum and Coho Books.

Just Posted

BC Hydro increasing flow down Elk Falls to assist steelhead migration and spawning

Water flows within Elk Falls Canyon are increasing today to assist steelhead… Continue reading

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

InspireHealth workshop in Campbell River supports those with cancer

The free event takes place at Berwick by the Sea on Feb. 2

Habitat for Humanity North Island wants to keep momentum going

Organization asks City of Campbell River for more land to build homes for young families

28 townhouses on the way to 525 Dogwood

Council approves latest phase of development, but not before expressing traffic concerns

‘Our entire municipality is heartbroken’: Seven children die in Halifax house fire

A man and woman remained in hospital Tuesday afternoon, the man with life-threatening injuries

B.C. BUDGET: Income assistance raise still leaves many below poverty line

$50 per month increase included in funding for poverty and homelessness reduction

B.C. BUDGET: Indigenous communities promised billions from gambling

Extended family caregiver pay up 75 per cent to keep kids with relatives

B.C. BUDGET: New benefit increases family tax credits up to 96 per cent

BC Child Opportunity Benefit part of province’s efforts to reduce child poverty

B.C. BUDGET: Carbon tax boosts low-income credits, electric vehicle subsidies

Homeowners can get up to $14,000 for heating, insulation upgrades

B.C. man survives heart attack thanks to Facebook

A Princeton man suffered a heart attack while at an isolated property with no cell service

B.C. man sues Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party over trademark

Satinder Dhillon filed application for trademark same day Maxime Bernier announced the new party

New trial ordered over banning whales, dolphins at Vancouver aquarium

Park board’s appeal reverses previous decision that found it had no right to implement a ban

Minister says plans to fight poverty, climate change, focus of B.C. budget

The NDP said in its throne speech last week that affordability will be the hallmark of its initiatives

Most Read