Pine siskin Carduelis pinus
Winter is a great time to watch for different birds to visit your yard. The pine siskin is a 4- to 5-in. brown or tan bird with white and yellow breast and wing markings. Often mistaken for a type of finch or sparrow, this energetic bird lives year-round in the Rockies, Pacific Northwest and Canada, and summers in Alaska and northern Canada.
Food and shelter Pine siskins nest in open forests and suburban areas. They prefer seeds of pines and other conifers and also eat tender buds of some trees and seeds of grasses and dandelions. To attract them to your feeder, set out thistle, millet and hulled sunflower seeds. They occasionally eat suet.
Winter migrations Every couple of years pine siskins make what’s called “an irruption,” a large migration to areas where they’re not typically found. They’ll do this when food is scarce in their native regions, so you see them farther east and south at feeders and on seedheads. Irruptions are unpredictable and the timing and distance the birds travel vary from year to year.