Bird for April – Siskin

SISKIN (Carduelis spinus)

The siskin is the smallest of our native British finches, roughly comparable in size to the blue tit. The plumage is predominantly greenish-yellow, with a yellow stripe on the dark wing. The lower flanks are streaked. The male bird has a black crown and yellow “eyebrows”, breast and rump.

The siskin is essentially a bird of coniferous or mixed woodland, mainly in northern or western parts of Britain, although it has bred in some sites in the south. Like all finches, it is a seed-eater, feeding largely on tree-seeds, especially those of the birch or alder. In winter, it tends to migrate southwards. It is gregarious and is often seen in mixed flocks with redpolls. In recent years, it has increased in numbers, largely because it has discovered the food put out in gardens for other birds. In this area, it seems to be mainly from mid-winter onwards that it can be seen swinging acrobatically, sometimes upside down, from the nut-feeders. It has also taken a fancy to nyjer seed put out for the goldfinches.

Its pretty twittering song led in the past to its trapping, to spend the rest of its life in a cage. Fortunately, this undesirable custom is now illegal.

Text by George Metcalfe

Picture by John Sheppard.


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