Posted by: atowhee | November 14, 2020


Here’s an email I wrote earlier today (Nov. 14): “I think my estimate in our small garden in SE Salem was too  conservative (a bad thing in any era)…there are more than sixty that I wrote down…closer to 100…at one time I counted more than sixty in one small area of our garden where the seeds were thick on the ground (for awhile) plus others in trees, shrubs, flitting about…our place is now Sis-city and I am studying avidly in this advanced course of Siskinology and watching how siskinship works–they share, rarely spending energy on aggression against their fellows

“Takes them about an hour eat up a quart of crushed sunflower seeds spread around…they do get some help from the cowed juncos along the edges of the flock and a few Am Goldfinches who actually mix in with the siskins…they are irruptive like waxwings, Varied Thrush, crossbills, Evening Grosbeaks and other nomadic wintering birds,,,in McMinnville each winter was lots of siskins or zero.”

Another OBOL correspondent had this report: “I’ll see your few dozen Pine Siskins and raise you at least 150 . . .

“On November 4 I watched a flock of very small birds swirl over the small wetland near my house in Canby, then they flew away.  I guessed there were about 100 birds and that they were Pine Siskins, but both of those were no more than guesses.

“This last Wednesday, the 11th, I found a huge flock of siskins feeding in a tree at the edge of that wetland.  At first I guessed there must be 200 birds, but then they flushed and I decided that number could easily be low by 200 or more.  They returned to the same tree and flushed several times.  Though I was taking a lot of video, I always seemed to have the camera off when they flushed, so I don’t have any really good shots of that, but it was quite a spectacle.

“The creek that drains the wetland drops under Territorial road at that spot, and there’s a small, new beaver dam there.  You can hear the water in the video.  I eventually noticed that the siskins found the sticks of that dam to be perfect perches for drinking and bathing.

“I’m no videographer, but for those interested here’s a link to selected clips from that amazing experience [click here].

“Kay Carter, Canby”

Some notes from my Siskinology seminar:

They share space readily on the ground. On a hanging feeder with very limited floor space they fuss and feud over place at the table.

Their flight is often patterned on a tornado, much swirling and few straight lines. There are frequent panic flights which remind me of small shorebirds.

Like many larger finches siskins will perch near the tops of trees. They do not zip into a dense thicket and hide like various sparrow family members or Hermit Thrush.

They do not sing in winter though I am familiar with their lilting notes and the signature buzzing rise of their spring song. They do chatter a bit.

They seem to have frightened off the Bushtit flock, whose members are even smaller than siskins and not nearly so aggressive and self-assured.

One will bath in muddy water even when it is raining:

This one, likely a mature male, gets first prize for wing yellow:


Please look carefully at the second Downy pic–you can see its extended, and very adhesive tongue in action. Nice shot!

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