Nature Notes

Vol. II March-April, 1986 No. 8

WESTERN PINE SISKIN - Carduelis pinus

One cannot help but notice the presence of the Pine Siskins at Tahoma Woods and Longmire. If the birds are not actually observed in and among the trees moving as a large energetic flock, they are certainly heard for their singing is almost constant.

Pine Siskins are the classic 'little grey bird.' Their tan bodies are streaked grey and brown with just a touch of yellow visible on the wings and tail if observed at close range. They frequent the trees and forest floor eating the seeds of trees, shrubs, and various other plants.

I suspect the abundant cone crop of the trees may have something to do with the large number of Pine Siskins in the area this year. While reading about these birds in the book, Birds of Washington State, I came across the statement, "Following the unusually mild winter of 1923-24, siskins were unusually abundant in Pierce County. Families of full-grown young were flying with their parents on March 30, nesting evidently having begun in February." These notes were made by J.H. Bowles from observations apparently made in Tacoma. Bowles goes on to say that the previous year he had found nests of siskins containing young in early September. Thus the birds seem to have a very long nesting season.

From these observations it is impossible to say whether the abundant cone crop or the mild weather is more responsible for the abundance of this species this year and in 1924 or if another unrelated factor is influencing their numbers. The writer of Birds of Washington State goes on to say that, "They seem to go in cycles, and where they are found one year, or in a series of successive years, they may be quite absent when sought in the same location in subsequent years."

Bill Dengler

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