Bird of the Week

Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the pine siskin.
In winter when seeds and insects are scarce, bird feeders are busy places. Like their goldfinch cousins, pine siskins are attracted to thistle and other small seeds without tough shells and visit feeders here. Gregarious birds, they travel in flocks, constantly chattering in buzzy calls.
With heavily brown-streaked bodies, the tiny pine siskins appear sparrow-like, but yellow patches on the wings and on the short notched tail are identifying marks. Sharp, pointed bills are well adapted for extracting the seeds of conifer cones, an important food source. Additionally, these birds eat the seeds of deciduous trees, grasses, dandelions and other plants. They love the weed we love to hate: thistle. They will also add insects and spiders to their diet in summer.
Pine siskins are year-round residents here, where they can be found in the top canopy of evergreen and mixed forests, weedy fields, backyards, gardens and along roads. They are opportunistic feeders and in many parts of the country are nomadic in their search for food, showing up in irruptions of huge flocks well outside their normal range.
Although still numerous, Partners in Flight describes the pine siskin as “a common bird in steep decline.”
For information on local bird-watching events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon.

This story was posted on February 10, 2019.