Pine siskin, a goldfinch relative

Sunday, November 25, 2012

This bird is an adult male pine siskin. The pine siskin is a close relative to the American goldfinch with which it is easily confused.

The slender pointed beak of the pine siskin is perfect for retrieving the seeds out of the protective seed ball of the sweet gum tree. As its name implies, the pine siskin also can dig the seeds out of the cones of conifer (pine) trees. Insects are also a major food item.

The pine siskin normally breeds in Canada, Alaska and the northern United States. It is a migratory bird that may make a winter visit to Mexico, but it may not migrate far if adequate food supplies are close at hand. Cold temperatures do not seem to dictate southward migration of this little bird.

I photographed the bird shown here Nov. 18 in Scott County. It was alone, seemed unafraid of me and did not fly with a small flock of goldfinches in the area. This alerted me to take its photo and get positive identification later. It chased a male cardinal when it flew away.

Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at to order a reprint of the photo. Find more work by Aaron at The Painted Wren Gallery.

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