Bird Sightings : Hebrides : Siskin
(European siskin, Eurasian siskin)
Gaelic: Gealag Bhuidhe
Photography © Debbie Bozkurt
Stornoway - Isle of Lewis - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
3rd May, 2008
"14 siskins in the garden! This evening: 13: 7 males and 6 females, they are costing me more to feed than my grown up son was! A couple of days a go a hooded crow swept down into the garden and frightened all the wee birds and one of the siskins crashed into the kitchen window. I crept out...and there was the male siskin in a heap on the floor! I thought at first it was dead, I picked it up and I could see it was just breathing. I didn't want to leave it on the floor as both crows and seagulls were ahead and one of the neighbours has a cat. I sat in the cold on the step with this wee little soldier in my hand. After about 10 minutes in came around and snuggled in my hand, had a few hops about but didn't seem inclined to move, I didn't dare risk sitting indoors incase it flew away and hurt itself in my kitchen. It let me take a few photos one handed and then after 20 minutes flew away as if nothing was wrong. The siskins are quite brave and tame as they will wait on the barbed fence whilst I am filling the seed holders and are the last ones to be spooked by the large birds."
Our Siskin photographs
- Carduelis spinus
- Gaelic: Gealag Bhuidhe
- UK: Resident Breeder, Passage/Winter Visitor
- UK: 369,000 pairs summer BTO
- WI: Scarce (1-9 breeding pairs) migrant breeder, and scarce (very small numbers recorded in most years, sometimes a few more) passage visitor
- Breeds: Northern Europe - UK including Scotland, Russia, Asia
- Winters: South Europe, Central Asia (favours riverside alders)
- Habitat: Woodland treetops (prefers coniferous) (On passage here: Often tall & dense, seedy undergrowth)
- Diet: Seeds (prefers spruce & pine) alder, birch, (summer - insects)
- Small finch: Upper parts greyish-green, under parts grey-streaked white. Short, forked tail. Wings & tail have yellow patches. Male: More yellow-green body & yellower face, black cap & bib. Female & young birds greyish-green heads & no cap. Birds in flight show yellow wing bars. Gregarious out of breeding season (forms mixed flocks often with Redpolls)
- Listen to Siskin (RSPB site)
- Similar birds Greenfinch, Serin (not on the Outer Herbrides Birds Checklist)
Siskins are traditionally associated with the Caledonian Pine Forest. Although a resident breeder from Northern Scotland to Southern England, Siskins are most numerous in Scotland and Wales. In winter more birds arrive in the UK from Europe.
Siskins have done well from the massive increase in commercial plantings of conifers over the last 25 years (pine seed being their favorite food), as the amount of acreage under pine plantation has doubled, Siskin numbers in the UK have gone from 40,000 pairs to 360,000 pairs.
In previous times the Siskin was less fortunate, the combination of its attractiveness, song and tameness led to it being often taken as a caged songbird.
Siskins are renowed for feeding in an upside down position. They seem fond of peanuts, but will eat most seeds (particulary tree seeds) and insects. The Siskin has a quite longish beak for a seed eating bird, a useful tool for extracting pine seeds.
Eating at the bird table represents a major shift in behaviour for Siskins, and was only first recorded in 1961. Before then they were rarely seen in gardens. This change caught on amongst the species and helped the birds through some of the worst winters on record.
The Siskin is a little finch, only 12 to13cm long. A house sparrow is quite a lot bigger at 14 -15cm.
Male Siskin's have a black crown and smallish black bib. They also have heavily streaked olive-green backs. Green-yellow underneath going to almost white on the belly and underneath the tail. Yellow on the sides of the black tail and a yellow rump.
Females are similar but less yellow.
Siskin records in the Western Isles
Scarce (1-9 breeding pairs) migrant breeder, and scarce (very small numbers recorded in most years, sometimes a few more) passage visitor
Source: Outer Hebrides Bird Report (2001)
The chart below shows how abundant the Siskin is during a month or when you are more likely to see it.
(Source: Outer Hebrides Birds Checklist)
Debbie's online photo album
Other local bird photographs
Sources of information for the bird sightings section