Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskins are an irruptive, nomadic winter visitor.  The hypothesis is that these population irruptions are correlated with the relative abundance of seeds upon which siskins feed. We have observed a few Pine Siskins at our feeders for the last couple of weeks.  Suddenly they are abundant--we banded 21 on 10 December.

During my 25 years of banding in Aberdeen, South Dakota, I banded 13,239 Pine Siskins, more than any other single species and despite their being absent during some winters.  Some summers, after abundant winters, siskins bred in the area. Two recoveries illustrate their nomadic nature--one banded in Aberdeen on 10 March 1985 was found in Connecticut on 11 March 1988; another Aberdeen siskin, banded on 12 December 1992 was recovered near San Francisco, California, on 5 January 1995.

One of my claims to fame was my discovery on 27 December 1981 of an odd bird at my feeder in Aberdeen.  Richard Zusi of the National Museum and I determined that this was the only known hybrid between a Pine Siskin and a Red Crossbill.  We speculated that this instance of hybridization suggests a common origin of the two species.  Clicking here will download a copy of the paper we wrote.

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