Pine SiskinCarduelis pinus (Wilson)
Status Irregularly common resident. Breeds. Nomadic in nature, its numbers fluctuate from year to year and from season to season. As a rule, wandering flocks come, remain for indefinite periods and disappear. When this bird is common or rare in any particular part of the province at any specified time, it should not be assumed that similar conditions prevail elsewhere. This bird has been noted in every month of the year but most often from April through June and from October through December, and least often in August—the largest number for that month was recorded on 27 August 1977 at Sydney Forks, Cape Breton County, and the Grand Anse River valley, Inverness County, when over 100 were counted at both localities. This was one of the years when the Pine Siskin was common throughout the province, with flocks of up to 200 from Cape Breton Island to Antigonish and down both the Annapolis Valley and the Southwestern Shore to Yarmouth.
Description Length: 11.5-13cm. Adults: Upperparts buff, streaked with blackish brown; tail deeply notched, dark brown at end, outer feathers edged with yellow at the base; wings dark brown with yellow bases on the primary and secondary feathers making yellow patches of varying brightness on the folded wing; underparts mostly whitish, tinged with buff and streaked with dark brown; bill short and sharply pointed.
Breeding Nest: Made of twigs, coarse grass or weed stems, beard lichen (when available), lined with hair or moss or both. It is usually saddled on the horizontal limb of a spruce or a large pine; if on a pine, usually high and far out on the limb. Nests are located in coniferous forests remote from habitation or, perhaps as often, in ornamental groves of conifers in towns and other settled districts, usually fairly high in the tree.
Eggs: 3-4; pale bluish white, lightly speckled with various shades of brown. Its nesting is as irregular as its occurrence, as the following dates show. A nest examined on 4 August 1898 contained four fresh eggs; two other nests, on 6 and 10 June 1910, each held fresh sets of four and three eggs, respectively; all three were in large white pines in ornamental groves in Wolfville and placed well out from the trunks at heights of 6-12 m. Three nests under construction were found on 18 April 1915 on Wolfville Ridge, saddled on the branches of medium-sized spruces in open coniferous woods; two were later robbed by a natural predator, but the third contained a full set of three fresh eggs on 27 April.
Range Breeds from southern Alaska, central Manitoba, southern Quebec, and Newfoundland, south to the northern United States and, in the western mountains, to Mexico. Winters from southern Canada to the southern United States and Mexico.
Remarks The outstanding characteristic of this bird is the general irregularity of both its comings and goings and its nesting habits. On 13 September 1968 Phyllis Dobson and Charles R.K. Allen observed one in full song at St. Andrews, Colchester County, suggesting that it was nesting or about to do so.
It is not difficult to distinguish this species in the mingled flocks of goldfinches and redpolls with which it commonly associates in winter. The goldfinch is unstreaked; redpolls have bright red caps, inconspicuous black bibs, lighter underparts and breasts less streaked than those of siskins.
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