The winter of 2008-09 was a huge year for Pine Siskins. Their irruption covered much of the United States, as seen on this map from the 2009 Great Backyard Bird Count.
Click on the map to view a multi-year animation of 2000-2009 GBBC reports.
Pine Siskins are considered an uncommon breeder in New York, but as a result of the massive winter irruption, we have heard reports of some birds staying behind and not returning to their Canadian breeding grounds. Following a large irruptive year, siskins have been known to stay and breed far south of their normal breeding range if there is a good food supply available.
If you still have Pine Siskins in your area, here's some information about their breeding and nesting behaviors from Kenn Kaufman's book, "Lives of North American Birds":
- Siskins breed mostly in coniferous and mixed forests, often around edges or clearings, though sometimes in deciduous woods and isolated pine groves.
- May nest in loose colonies or in isolated pairs.
- Courtship and formation of pairs may begin in winter flocks; males display by flying in circle above female, wings and tail spread wide, while singing. Male often feeds female during courtship.
- The nest site is well hidden, on a horizontal branch well out from trunk, 10-40 feet above the ground.
- Nest is built by female and is a large but shallow open cup of twigs, grass, strips of bark, rootlets, lined with moss, animal hair, and feathers.
- There will be 3-4 eggs, sometimes 2-5. Eggs are pale greenish blue with brown and black dots often more at larger end.
- Female incubates eggs for about 13 days. Male feeds female during incubation.
- After eggs hatch, the female may brood more at first with male bringing food, but later, both will feed nestlings.
- Young leave nest about 14-15 days after hatching.
If you are still seeing siskins in your area, keep an eye out for these signs of nesting siskins. And please let us know if you see evidence of breeding. Be sure to include your location.
From Sue in Edinburg NY: I live in Edinburg and had more than 3 dozen pine siskens over-winter here. I'd guess about 10 stayed and I believe I am seeing their fledglings this past week!! (they have different calls and are paler in markings.) They fly around as a flock from tree to tree and feeder to feeder.
From Nancy in Ticonderoga NY: I have at least 2 pine siskins visiting the feeders and hanging about here on the northern end of Lake George in this past week since I have been here. When I was in here at Easter-time, I observed a Pine Siskin pulling at some yarn strands I had put out (nesting behavior). I had also observed, even in February, Pine Siskins feeding each other (or at least the male feeding the female).
From Brian in Averill Park NY: We've had a few pine siskens hanging around our thistle feeder in Averill Park here as well. I suspect their nesting here somewhere, but don't know that for sure.
From Barb in Gansevoort NY: Had a pair of siskins back at the feeder today.