March 23rd, 2015. The Winter bird season is winding down fast now. The number of American Goldfinches and Chipping Sparrows coming to the feeder has decreased to a handful of each compared with the flocks we had a couple of weeks ago. A few Purple Finches still come to the feeders but they’ll be off north soon as will a few Yellow-rumped Warblers that still come by several times each day.
Pine Siskin, left; female Purple Finch, right
The Pine Siskins (Carduelis pinus) made their first appearance at the sunflower seed feeders in late January this year. At first I didn’t really notice them. They’re somewhat similar in pattern and color to, but slightly smaller than the the female Purple Finch. In addition, the Pine Siskin lacks the distinct white ‘stripes’ above the eye and on the cheek that are present on the female Purple Finch. Both the Pine Siskin and the female Purple Finch have streaked breasts.
Pine Siskin, right; American Goldfinch, left
The Pine Siskin is about the same size as an American Goldfinch.
This photo shows all three species. Pine Siskin, upper and lower left; American Goldfinch, upper right; female Purple Finch, lower right.
Pine Siskins. The bird on the right shows the cream-colored feathers that are muted in the non-breeding season but which are much brighter in the breeding season.
The Pine Siskins winter in this area but will fly north into Canada and New England to breed.
It's interesting that we didn’t see any Pine Siskins last year but All About Birds comments on the fact that these birds are nomadic and erratic in their distribution across their wintering grounds in search of seed. Thus, the fact that we didn’t see them last year is not unusual. I wonder, now that they know where we live, if we will see them sooner next Winter.