More Pine Siskins

Thistle seed has been flying off the store shelves, and then off our deck railing as scores of Pine Siskins have elbowed their way through our usual flocks of goldfinches, titmice and chickadees to take advantage of feeders that have replaced their failed cone crop in the boreal regions they call home. Some of us suckers who have spent grocery money on seed are starting to wonder, like houseguests who have stayed too long, ummmm…when are they going to go home?

The following is a wonderful commentary by fellow Jersey birder, John Workman, whose warmth, sense of wonder comes through in everything he writes. With John’s permission, the following is a post from the NJ Listserv about Pine Siskins:

“…day or two ago, Susie R. asked if siskins were “stocking up reserves” for
the trip back north. They do beef up whenever and wherever they can, even
though siskins might not all fly north for a while yet. These highly active
birds eat a lot because they have to in order to survive in the harsh, cold

In fact, research done in the ‘70s and 80s in Michigan on cardueline
finches showed that Pine Siskins have an amazing ability to withstand extreme cold.
If they are able to remain dry and out of the wind, they can endure
temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees below zero Centigrade (which, if my math is
correct, would equal 76 to 94 degrees below zero Fahrenheit).

This is because Pine Siskins have a metabolic rate that is about 40% higher
than expected for a bird of this small size. Hence their appetites and
their ability to endure nights colder than anything we’ve experienced in NJ
since, say, when the ice was a half-mile thick over Sussex County.

In Quebec, Pine Siskins have been reported feeding at 2:30AM under
floodlights. Survival isn’t easy for a boreal bird.”

Oops…running low on thistle. Gotta run to my local Weiss Ecology Center and pick up more….

This entry was posted in Pine Siskins, thistle seed, Weiss Audubon. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to More Pine Siskins

  1. Your friends the Pine Siskins are probably very happy you are a ‘sucker’ and spend your grocery money on some feed for them. Hope this weather stops soon and warms up for everybody’s sake.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Gorgeous photos, Di – especially the first one…so moody and atmospheric!K

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hi Diane- just letting you know that the “pineys” as I call them have been at my thistle feeder for several weeks now. The seed is in a bucket I would like to get back for farm use, so I’m just shoveling it their way!nina

  4. RevMomVt says:

    Hi Dd — we have had many, many, many pine siskins hanging out at our feeders lately so they are making their way north. Didn’t put out thistle for them, but they seem to be managing by emptying out the black oil sunflower seeds.Love, Cc

  5. Sparverius says:

    I am amazed that any of the little birds – siskins, chickadees, even the slightly larger finches – can survive at all in this cold, cold weather. Those survival adaptations are amazing.

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