The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 15, 2002


Pine Siskin

Name: Pine Siskin or Carduelis pinus

When and where seen: Two Pine Siskins have been seen frequently throughout the winter at a location off Concord Street where they visit the thistle-seed feeder.

Distinguishing characteristics: Pine Siskins are finches about the same size as an American Goldfinch and they like to hang out with goldfinches. If you think you have seen a darker colored goldfinch with a lot of brown streaks, it is probably a Pine Siskin. You may also notice a touch of yellow on the wings and at the base of the tail. Their bills are narrower and more sharply pointed than those of other finches. Pine Siskins are frequently detected by their call, which includes a distinctive, buzzy, upward rising note - zhreeeeeee. Goldfinches speak a quite different language.

Habitat: Open coniferous forest and mixed woods. They nest high in conifers; they particularly like the more dense ornamental conifers. If it weren't so abundant in Carlisle, the Eastern White Pine might be thought of as "affordable housing."

Travel Agenda: The Pine Siskins who spend the winter in Carlisle turn up any time from September to November and stay until March or April. It is possible that some could stay in Carlisle for the breeding season but it is likely that they will go north.

Christmas Bird Counts: Since 1975 when the Carlisle Christmas bird counts started, Pine Siskins have only once been recorded in three consecutive years; 17 in 1999, 2 in 2000 and 6 in 2001. Historically, it has been common to have two or even three years in a row when none are seen.

References: David Allen Sibley, The Sibley Guide to Birds; Roger Tory Peterson, A Field Guide to the Birds East of the Rockies; Christmas Bird Count from Ken Harte.

Submissions for the Biodiversity Corner are encouraged from everyone. You can write the column or tell me what you saw and I will write it. The only requirements are that the species exists in the wild and was seen in Carlisle. Did you smell a skunk cabbage or spot a salamander? Send a note to Kay Fairweather at 392 School St, Carlisle MA 01741 or to

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito