SISKIN (Spinus spinus)


This beautiful yellow bird is one of our smallest finches, even smaller than a goldfinch, which is a specialist in pine forests where its bright plumage makes it relatively easy to spot. Our breeding populations are resident in the UK but during winter the population is inflated by migrants from Europe. During this time they form feeding groups with other birds such as lesser redpolls. They are widespread in forests and gardens throughout the UK.

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Alert Status:

Green 35% increase

Estimated number of breeding pairs: 445,000

Listen to siskin song:


These stunning birds are quite easy to differentiate from other finches with their bright yellow plumage. Male siskins have bright yellow breasts with some black streaking visible, yellow cheeks, and a black cap and bib. The females have similar colouration but are much paler with more streaking and no black cap or bib. Both males and females have yellow and black wings, a visibly forked tail, and a long slender bill.

Average Length: 12 cm

Average Lifespan: 2 Years

Average Wingspan: 20-23 cm

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Siskin diet

Siskins mainly eat seeds, especially from conifers, but they will supplement their diet with insects during the summer.

How to feed: Using a tube feeder or garden table.

What to feed: Siskins are particularly attracted to nyger seeds and sunflower hearts.

Siskin breeding and nesting information

The Siskins breeding season depends on the availability of conifer cones, but it can begin as early as late February. The nest is a small ball made from conifer twigs, bark, and a range of other materials and placed up to 20m above the ground. Between 2 to 6 eggs are laid and incubated for 11-14 days by the female alone while the male provides food. Chicks are then fed in the nest for another 13-15 days before they leave, then the parents will look after them outside the nest for about a month before they fledge.

Threats to siskins

Siskins are doing well in the UK and have increased over the last 25 years, however, they may still face threats in the future. The loss of conifer forests through plantation harvesting or deforestation can drive a decrease in available food. Climate change also drives changes in the crop of conifer cones which further reduces the food availability, however, the use of garden feeders by siskins may help them survive with a decreased natural food supply.

How you can help

Provide food throughout the year for these birds.

Provide clean water throughout the year.

Petition to protect conifer woodlands throughout the UK.

Fascinating Fact

German and Swiss legend tell of how siskin guards a magic stone in their nest which makes them invisible to predators.
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BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Spinus spinus. Downloaded from Accessed: 28/09/2023.

British Trust for Ornithology (no date) Siskin | BTO - British Trust for Ornithology. Available at: Accessed: 28/09/2023.

Harvey, J. E., Smiljanić, M., Scharnweber, T., Buras, A., Cedro, A., Cruz-García, R., Drobyshev, I., Janecka, K., Jansons, Ā., Kaczka, R., Klisz, M., Läänelaid, A., Matisons, R., Muffler, L., Sohar, K., Spyt, B., Stolz, J., van der Maaten, E., van der Maaten-Theunissen, M., … Wilmking, M. (2020). Tree growth influenced by warming winter climate and summer moisture availability in northern temperate forests. Global Change Biology, 26(4), 2505–2518.  

Pascual, J., & Carles Senar, J. (2014). Antipredator behavioural compensation of proactive personality trait in male Eurasian siskins. Animal Behaviour.  

Pascual, J., Senar, J. C., Domènech, J., & Domènech, D. (2014). Plumage brightness, vigilance, escape potential, and predation risk in male and female Eurasian Siskins (Spinus spinus). The Auk, 131, 61–72.

Redmond, M. D., Forcella, F., & Barger, N. N. (2012). Declines in pinyon pine cone production associated with regional warming. Ecosphere, 3(12), art120.

RSPB (no date b) Siskin Bird facts: Carduelis Spinus, The RSPB. Available at: Accessed: 28/09/2023.

Watts, H. E., & Hahn, T. P. (2012). Non-photoperiodic regulation of reproductive physiology in the flexibly breeding pine siskin (Spinus spinus). General and Comparative Endocrinology.  

Woodward,I., Aebischer, N., Burnell, D., Eaton, M., Frost, T., Hall, C., Stroud, D.A.& Noble, D. (2020). Population estimates of birds in Great Britain and theUnited Kingdom. British Birds. 113: 69–104.

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