A small (4 ½ -5 inches) finch, the male Pine Siskin is most easily identified by its streaked brown body, dark wings, and conspicuous yellow wing bar. Female Pine Siskins are similar to males, but are somewhat duller and lack the yellow on the wing. This species may be separated from dull winter American Goldfinches (Spinus tristis) by that species’ plain, not streaked, body. The Pine Siskin breeds across southern Alaska, southern Canada, and the northern United States. This species’ range extends southward at higher elevations through the western U.S., continuing as far south as Mexico and Guatemala. Northerly-breeding populations may withdraw from their breeding range during the winter, and small numbers may move far south of this species’ main range during winters when food is scarce, but much of the time this species within its breeding range. Pine Siskins inhabit northern and high-mountain evergreen forests. Likewise, individuals wandering further south in winter typically associate themselves with evergreen habitats, although they also visit bird feeders as well. Pine Siskins eat seeds, particularly those of cone-bearing evergreen trees, a fact which explains this species’ habitat preferences as well as its name. In appropriate habitat, Pine Siskins may be observed perching on or hanging from seed cones while plucking out the seeds contained within. Birdwatchers may also listen for this species’ song, a series of squeaky “clee-ip” notes. Pine Siskins are primarily active during the day, although individuals may forage for food by moonlight when food is scarce.
Irregular winter visitor, sometimes common, some winters almost totally absent. Usually found from mid-October to mid-May in pine stands, floodplain and deciduous forests, and wood margins. Female has less yellow than male.