Pine Siskin

Carduelis pinus

The Pine Siskin’s breeding range stretches across almost the entirety of Canada, Alaska and, to a more variable degree, across the western mountains and northern parts of the United States. Normally a bird that lives at elevation, some of those shown below I found in my Poway yard (elevation 512 feet).

Their nomadic lifestyle is driven by the abundance or absence of seed crops. We can see sizable flocks in an area one year and not the next. These birds are adapted to survive in cold climates by an ability to fire up their metabolism on frigid nights and using seeds collected and stored in their crops as an additional energy source through the coldest the night’s coldest hours. Females will remain sitting on a well insulated nest taking food from her mate to protect her eggs and young from extreme cold.

I always enjoy meeting these birds, but my favorite encounter happened at Mono Lake north of Lee Vining (California) when I found a mixed flock of Cassin’s Finches and Pine Siskins feasting on the blooms of a large Siberian Elm tree at a roadside picnic area.

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