How you can distinguish the siskin from the greenfinch and the serpent, how you can recognize a young siskin and how you support the local songbird in your own garden – you can find out all this in our species portrait.
The Siskin is a colorful gardener [Photo: Jesus Giraldo Gutierrez / Shutterstock.com]
The siskin ( Carduelis spinus ) is a somewhat rarer garden visitor. The colorful songbird lives mainly in coniferous forests and is a fairly widespread breeding bird in Europe. It bears its name because of its particular fondness for alders and their seeds, which it can peck out of the cones with its narrow, pointed beak. Here you can find out how you can clearly identify a siskin, differentiate it from other bird species and how you can support songbirds in your own garden. Our profile offers you lots of vivid pictures and exciting information about the siskin.
Table of Contents
|size||about 12 cm|
|Breeding season||April – July|
|lifespan||about 5 years|
|habitat||Coniferous forests, parks and gardens with conifers|
|Feed preference||Tree seeds, nuts and insects|
|Threats||Decline in food and living space|
This is how you recognize the Siskin
Siskins are quite small, graceful songbirds. Their backs are of an olive green color, while the wing-coverts and the tail are quite dark and are traversed by strong and contrasting yellow bands. In flight, the lower back, also called rump, can be seen, which is also colored yellow. The belly of the siskin, on the other hand, is white and streaked with strong black dashes, which are particularly easy to see from the front.
Siskins are easy to spot [Photo: Romuald Cisakowski / Shutterstock.com]
What is the difference between siskins and greenfinches?
One can confuse the siskin with the green finch, for example, which has a similar color spectrum. Siskins, however, are much smaller and have a less powerful beak. They also differ in their almost black wing and tail feathers as well as the strong yellow elements – the greenfinch has a more washed-out, gray-green color.
For comparison: the greenfinch has fewer dark elements [Photo: hfuchs / Shutterstock.com]
What is the difference between siskins and giraffe?
The likelihood of confusion with the Giraffe is even higher than with the greenfinch. This also has dark plumage, a yellow rump and a dark dashed belly. One can distinguish the girlitz, however, by its yellow forehead, the dark, olive-colored cheek area and the narrower, yellow wing bands.
For comparison: the girlitz has a yellow forehead and dark cheeks [Photo: Mark Caunt / Shutterstock.com]
What is the difference between male and female siskins?
As with many species of birds, the male siskin is a bit more conspicuous and colorful than its female partner. He has a bright yellow chest and matching head sides that contrast with his deep black forehead and the matching throat patch. The females, on the other hand, are gray-green in color in the head area and their chest only has a yellowish tinge before it merges into the white abdominal plumage.
Female siskins (right) are much simpler than their partners [Photo: Marcin Perkowski / Shutterstock.com]
How does the Siskin singing sound?
The singing of the siskin consists of a stanza of clear whistling tones, which is mixed with trills and sometimes squeaky sounds. The song can also contain imitations of other bird species, which is not always easy to identify. Furthermore, the siskin also has several calls that are just as clear and high as the whistling tones of its song.
You can find out what the Siskin singing sounds like here:
What do siskins eggs look like?
Siskin females lay between two and six eggs per clutch. These are about 1.6 cm tall and can vary slightly in color. Some clutches are white, others gray and still others even have a slightly blue basic color. As a rule, however, they are all covered with small, delicate brown spots.
How do you recognize a young siskin?
Young siskins are still a bit inconspicuous. They resemble the females in terms of color, but are even simpler. Their back is of a gray-brown tone, the underside is plain white and the plumage is criss-crossed with fine dark stripes. The green and yellow color elements of the adult animals develop later. The fact that the young birds are siskins can already be recognized by the black elements of the wing covers and the tail feathers. For example, they distinguish themselves from young greenfinches.
Young siskins are still quite inconspicuous [Photo: Mircea Costina / Shutterstock.com]
Which habitat does the Siskin prefer?
Siskins prefer coniferous and mixed forests. But they can also feel at home in parks and gardens when they find inviting stands of conifers. Siskins are widespread and their occurrence in Europe is largely based on the availability of conifers. They feel comfortable even in higher altitudes.
Where do siskins build their nests?
Siskins build their nests in tall conifers – preferably in bushy spruce trees. The nest is hidden in high-lying branches and erected there from twigs, grass and moss. The nest hollow in which the eggs are laid is padded with soft down feathers.
Siskins like to nest in spruce trees [Photo: Vitaly Ilyasov / Shutterstock.com]
When is the Siskin breeding season?
Siskin pairs can usually be found in the winter months – long before the breeding season begins. This exciting time starts in April when the first eggs are laid. The clutch is incubated for about 13 days before the young birds hatch. These are then fed in the nest for another 15 days before they start their first explorations. After that, however, the young stay close to the nest and find support from their parents for a few more weeks before they have to cope on their own. Siskins breed in smaller colonies of up to six breeding pairs and often start a second brood around June.
Where does the siskin spend the winter?
The siskins also endure the cold winter months with us. During this time, the small breeding colonies come together to form large swarms, some of which move across the fields looking for food. These flocks are often joined by other winter birds, for example goldfinches or siskins. Those who go for a walk in winter can often see large groups flying up in front of them.
Siskins like to walk in groups in winter [Photo: Victor Tyakht / Shutterstock.com]
Support the siskin in the garden: This is how it works
Depending on the region, siskins are almost a rarity among garden birds. It is all the nicer when you can actually watch one of the yellow-black birds in your home. Find out here how you can lure the siskin into your garden and support it in its daily struggle for food and nesting places.
What do siskins eat?
Siskins feed mainly on tree seeds, such as birch or alder. However, they also use other seed-bearing plants such as thistles, dock or meadowsweet. During the breeding season, they also eat insects that they peck from trees and plants. This protein-rich diet is particularly important for the rearing of young birds.
Tree seeds are an important source of food for siskins
Siskins can also be found in gardens and on bird feeders, especially in winter. There they pick fine seeds from litter and grain feed and also make use of fat cakes and tit dumplings. So if you want to offer the little songbirds a special treat, then try our Plantura tit dumplings. These consist of high quality insect fat and rich nuts, seeds and berries. They also get by without plastic nets, which produce unnecessary rubbish and in which the birds could get tangled and injured.
Which nesting aids are suitable for siskins?
Classic nesting boxes, such as those made for blue tits or starlings, are not suitable for siskins, as these are free breeders and build their nests free-standing in trees. However, if you can serve with conifers – preferably spruce – in your garden, you have a chance of a siskin in your own green. In this case, however, be careful not to thin out the trees too much or to cut them back, as the songbirds build their nests in the protection of the dense branches.
How can you give the siskin additional support?
In addition to offering birdseed, the siskin can also be supported in other ways in looking for food. With seed-bearing shrubs and wild herbs, for example thistles or meadowsweet, you can create a natural source of food. And during the breeding season, an insect-friendly garden provides the young birds with the protein they need.
On hot summer days you can also make life easier for the siskin with a water point in the garden. A pond, a stream or a simple bowl of water can be of great help during this time and attract numerous small visitors. However, be sure to clean your watering hole regularly. Especially at high temperatures, bird baths and baths can quickly develop into breeding grounds and places of infection for bird diseases and should therefore be cleaned daily.
In summer, water points are a welcome cooling off [Photo: manfredxy / Shutterstock.com]
Another garden visitor who spends the cold winter months with us and likes to hang around in conifers is the coal tit. You can also get to know this native songbird in our species portrait.