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Siskin (Carduelis spinus)

A small yet brightly coloured woodland finch, the siskin is often seen feeding in dense and coordinated flocks.

Common name: Eurasian siskin

Scientific name: Carduelis spinus

Family: Fringillidae

Appearance

Head: it has a slender bill suitable for feeding on seeds. The female has a yellow ‘C’ shape from her eye to her chin

Wings: it has long wings and can reach a 23cm wingspan.. A breeding male has two black bars running across the wing. An adult female has two black and yellow wingbars.

Body: the siskin is a very small bird, similar in size to a blue tit. At their biggest, they can reach a head to tail length of only 12cm. forked tails. 

A breeding male is a rich yellow/green colour and has a black cap. An adult female is more dull with a brown upper colour. Both sexes have a black-streaked white underside. Due to this colouration, they can often be confused with greenfinches. 

An easy way to distinguish the two is in the yellow and black wingbars: in siskins, these run perpendicular to the wing, whereas they run parallel along the edge of the wing in greenfinches. 

Where to spot

Europe forms roughly 80% of the Siskin’s natural range, although they are not seen in more northern areas such as Sweden and Norway. Siskins can be both residential and migratory, but residential breeding pairs are most common across the UK and so can be seen year-round. Whilst they are mostly a coniferous woodland bird, they can also be seen in mixed woodland and recently are becoming more popular as garden birds.

Feeding

They feed mostly on seeds of trees such as alder, spruce, pine and birch. During late winter when these are rare, they will take to feeding on river banks underneath alder trees, as well as approaching garden feeders for the high-fat, high-protein peanuts

Breeding

They return to their breeding sites in woodland for spring, and construct nests from twigs and softer materials such as moss and grass, lining it with hair and down. They lay between three and five eggs, with hatchlings starting to fledge at 13 days old.

Facts

  • Their call is often described as a musical “tsoo” sound.
  • They have good memories of foraging sites, and when migrating to the UK for occasional winters, they will often return to the same gardens they frequented previously.