Eurasian Siskin

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Common Name: Eurasian Siskin
Scientific Name: Carduelis spinus

Size: 4.3–4.9 inches (11-12.2 cm); Wingspan: 7.9–9.1 inches (20-23 cm)

Habitat: Europe, Asia and Africa; found across the greater part of Eurasia and the north of Africa. Its breeding area is separated into two zones, each side of the Palearctic ecozone: the east coast of Asia and the central and northern part of Europe.

These birds can be found throughout the year in Central Europe and some mountain ranges in the south of the continent. They are present in the north of Scandinavia and in Russia and they over-winter in the Mediterranean basin and the area around the Black Sea. In China they breed in the Khingan Mountains of Inner Mongolia and in Jiangsu province; they spend summer in Tibet, Taiwan, the valleys of the lower Yangtse River and the south east coast.

It is found in forested areas, both coniferous and mixed woodland where it feeds on seeds of all kinds, especially of alder and conifers.

Status: Vulnerable. Global population: 31,900,000-72,000,000 individuals. In Europe, trends since 1980 show that populations have undergone a moderate decline. The Siskin appears in Annex II of the Berne Convention as a protected bird species.

Diet: Seed, fruit, berries and insects. The Siskin is mainly a granivore although it varies its diet depending on the season. It feeds in trees avoiding eating on the ground. This species will form large flocks outside the breeding season, often mixed with redpolls.

In autumn and winter its diet is based on the seeds of deciduous trees such as birch and above all alder. They also visit cultivated areas and pasture where they join with other finches in eating the seeds such as thistles, dandelions, Artemisia, knapweeds and other herbaceous plants such as St. John's wort, meadowsweet and sorrel.

In spring, during the breeding season, they are found in coniferous forests. At this time their feeding is based on the seeds of these trees, especially on trees belonging to the genera Abies, Picea and Larix. They also feed on elms and poplars. When feeding the young they eat more insects, mainly beetles, as the proteins they contain help the chicks to grow. In summer their feeding is more varied, adding other herbaceous plants to their diet of conifer seeds: goosefoots and other Compositae.

Nesting: The male has a greyish green back; yellow rump; the sides of the tail are yellow and the end is black; the wings are black with a distinctive yellow wing stripe; its breast is yellowish becoming whiter and striped towards the cloaca; it has a black bib (or chin patch) and on its head it has two yellow auriculas and a black cap. The amount of black on the bib is very variable between males and the size of the bib has been related to dominance within a flock. The plumage of the female is more olive-colored than the male. The cap and the auriculas are greenish with a white bib and a rump that is a slightly striped whitish yellow. The young have a similar coloration to the females, with drab colors and a more subdued plumage.

Pairs are generally formed during the winter period before migration. The males compete aggressively for the females. As part of the courtship the male plumps up the feathers of the pileus and rump, making itself bigger, extending the tail and singing repeatedly. They also make mating flights from tree to tree.

They construct a nest that is generally located at the end of a relatively high branch in a conifer, such that the nest is reasonably hidden and difficult to see. They form small colonies of up to six pairs with the nests located near to each other. The nest is small and bowl-shaped. It is made from small twigs, dried grasses, moss and lichen and lined with down.

The first brood is born in mid-April. The female lays between 2 and 6 eggs. The eggs are white or light grey or light blue, with small brown spots. Incubation takes about 10-12 days and the fledging period is about 15 days. Young remain close to the nest area for up to a month when, with their plumage now complete, they disperse. The Siskin usually has a second brood, from the middle of June up to the middle of July.

Cool Facts: Their seasonal distribution is marked by the fact that they follow an anomalous migration pattern. Every few years they migrate southwards in larger numbers and the overwintering populations in the Iberian Peninsula are greatly augmented. This event has been the object of diverse theories; one theory suggests that it occurs in the years when Norway Spruce produces abundant fruit in the center and north of Europe, causing populations to increase. An alternative theory is that greater migration occurs when the preferred food of alder or birch seed fails.

They are fairly trusting of humans, it being possible to observe them from a short distance. During the breeding season, however, they are much more timid, solitary and difficult to observe. For this reason there is a German legend which says that Siskins guard a magic stone in their nests that makes them invisible.

Found in Songbird Remix Woodland Jewels

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