Fringe Box



An Unfortunate Injury Offers A Rare Close Up View Of A Lesser Known Bird

Published on: 18 Mar, 2016
Updated on: 19 Mar, 2016
This injured siskin who was reluctant to leave my hand and garden in Merrow on Saturday last. Pleased to say it revived and eventually flew.

This injured siskin who was reluctant to leave my hand and garden in Merrow. Pleased to say it revived and eventually flew writes Dragon reader Colin Mills.

By Malcolm Fincham

A photo submitted by Guildford Dragon readers Colin and Joan Mills has prompted me to write about one of our less mentioned birds, the siskin.

Although frequently mistaken for greenfinches, siskins, one of smallest of the finch family, are unmistakable when seen at close quarters.

They have an unusual migration pattern, being are irruptive in their nature, moving in flocks to find food.

They breed mainly in the north of the UK in coniferous woodland, where they feed mostly on fir cone seeds. One of its favourite is the non native Sitka Spruce named after a place called Sitka in Alaska.

The siskin, can be mistaken for a greenfinch.

The siskin, can be mistaken for a greenfinch.

Every few years in winter they migrate southwards in large numbers, when food sources dry up. Although a few are known to breed in the southern counties, the best opportunity to see them in Surrey is during winter months. They seem to favour seed cones of the alder tree.

These trees are abundant along parts of the River Wey, so its always worth checking them for flocks of agile birds, feeding upside-down, high in the canopy.


Siskins move in flocks to find food.

When times get tough, they often depend on human assistance by arriving at feeding stations. This can offer the real treat of seeing them close up.

Identification tips: The siskin is a small, lively finch, smaller than a greenfinch. It has a distinctly forked tail and a long narrow bill. The male has a streaky yellow-green body and a black crown and bib. There are yellow patches in the wings and tail. Flashes of yellow can erupt as they take flight, flutter at branch tips, or display during mating.

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