Pine siskin (Carduelis pinus ) - local seasonal appearance

Based on 67 observations in Seymour township, Northumberland county, southeast Ontario, 1999-2021.

The pine siskin is, to say the least, an erratic visitor to our area, preferring the more reliably coniferous areas a little to the north! For the most part a winter visitor, this bird has been noted in just 3 years of the last 23. Furthermore, 62 of the 67 sightings were in just three months, from 16 January- 31 March 2009, when the siskin was an almost daily visitor, solo or in flocks of up to 100 birds. The peak flocks that year were about 50 birds (22 January) and 100 birds (22 February). Small numbers were seen from 15 February to 21 March 2011. A departure from these dates, a male-female pair were seen at feeders in Campbellford on 16 May 2021, on the same day that an individual was identified just to our east, in western Rawdon Township. The birds may appear on their own, or in mixed feeding flocks with other winter visitors such as American goldfinch and common redpoll.

In New York state (Levine, 1998, pp.569-571) the pine siskin is noted as a rare to uncommon breeder, especially in the Adirondacks. It is an "extremely erratic" migrant, as shown in an abundance chart for 1960-1989. The cause of their periodic irruptions remains a mystery.

Across Ontario, the last two provincial censuses of bird breeding (Cadman et al., 1987, pp.498-499; 2007, pp.622-623) indicate that the siskin breeds predominantly on the Canadian shield, not in the far north nor the southwest of the province. The precise breeding range is difficult or impossible to map accurately, given the siskin's nomadic, irruptive behaviour. During the second bird census in 2001-2006, the greatest estimated abundance was in northwest Ontario, north of Lake Nipigon and then west to the Manitoba border.

In the "Greater Kingston area" (Weir, 1989, pp.481-482) the siskin is an uncommon breeding species, but more notably an autumn and spring migrant with typical passage dates of 20 October and 16 May. September to May is the prime time for siskin sightings at Presqu'ile provincial park (LaForest, 1993, pp.387-388). Breeding has been confirmed, though rarely, at the park, while breeding is suspected also in southern Peterborough county, to the northwest (Sadler, 1983, p.164; see also Cadman et al., 1987, 2007).

View the complete 22-year (1999-2021) monthly data summary (229-kb pdf file).


Cadman,MD, Eagles,PFJ and Helleiner,FM (1987) Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario. Federation of Ontario Naturalists and Long Point Bird Observatory, published by University of Waterloo Press, 617pp.

Cadman,MD, Sutherland,DA, Beck,GG, Lepage,D and Couturier,AR (editors) (2007) Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario, 2001-2005. Bird Studies Canada,Environment Canada,Ontario Field Ornithologists, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and Ontario Nature, 706pp.

LaForest,SM (1993) Birds of Presqu'ile Provincial Park. Friends of Presqu'ile Park / Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, 436pp.

Levine,E (editor) (1998) Bull's Birds of New York State. Comstock Publishing Associates, Cornell University Press, revised version, 622pp.

Sadler,D (1983) Our Heritage of Birds: Peterborough County in the Kawarthas. Peterborough Field Naturalists / Orchid Press, Peterborough, ON, 192pp.

Weir,RD (1989) Birds of the Kingston Area. Quarry Press, 608pp. plus map.

Graham Wilson, posted 22-23 May 2021

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