Nov 21
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Red-breasted Nuthatch

Pine Siskin (Left), American Goldfinch (Right). Photo courtesy of Nancy Castillo.

Purple Finch, male

The day before Thanksgiving is the busiest single travel day of the year, for people; but, what about birds? This year there are many out of town birds that are enjoying being backyard guests.

It’s already been an exciting season of new birds at feeders and more backyards are being visited every week. Check out the information below on the more irregular guests showing up at feeders.

Red-breasted Nuthatch (eBird location map)
With southward movement that began in mid-summer, they are being seen in all provinces and lower 48 states. Watch for them at feeders. They prefer seed blends with sunflower, peanuts and tree nuts and they like suet products.

Pine Siskin (eBird location map)
These opportunistic nomads are still moving into many areas. Watch for them at feeders; especially visiting with goldfinches. They prefer Nyjer and sunflower chips. Click here for identification clues to quickly determine if there are any Pine Siskin on your feeders.

Purple Finch (eBird location map)
Expect strong southward movement this year. Be aware that their numbers have been declining in recent decades. Watch for them at feeders. They prefer Nyjer and sunflower. Click here for identification clues to quickly determine which finches are on your feeders: House Finch, Purple Finch or Cassin’s Finch.

What out of town guest birds are entertaining you?

Oct 24
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Every few years there is an irruption of Pine Siskin out of the Northern Boreal Forests due to a lack of natural foods. This winter is shaping up to be a great year to see Pine Siskin at backyard feeders.

Often feeding with American Goldfinches, siskin are quite attracted to finch feeders that offer Nyjer®. They can also be seen eating sunflower chips from other feeders and, as finches do, drinking from birdbaths.

Pine Siskin, at first glance, are often assumed to be American Goldfinches when visiting feeders in winter. And for good reason. They are the same size and have similar winter color patterns. However, take a closer look and you can tell them apart. Here are some identification clues for quickly telling if there are any Pine Siskin on your feeder.

Pine Siskin

  • Heavily streaked head and body
  • Yellow or buff in the wing bars, wings, and base of tail
  • Thinner, more sharply pointed bill than goldfinch

American Goldfinch

  • No streaking
  • White or buff in the wing bars
  • White rump or base of tail

Check out the photo below. Can you spot any Pine Siskin?

American Goldfinch (top left)
Pine Siskin (lower three perches)

Top photo: Pine Siskin (left), American Goldfinch (right)
Photos by Nancy Castillo (co-owner Saratoga Springs, NY WBU store)

Click here to see where Pine Siskin are being spotted this season via It is an interactive map where you can zoom in, change dates and more.

Do you have Pine Siskin at your feeders?


Jan 12
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Photo courtesy Nancy Castillo, co-owner of Wild Birds Unlimited Saratoga Springs, NY

Every year, the birding community looks forward to the Winter Finch Forecast. It is a scientific prediction / educated guess of the irruption (mass movement of birds looking for food) out of the Northern Boreal Forests. This year it looked liked Pine Siskin would not irrupt south.

Well, word must have spread to the Northern Boreal Forests about Jim’s Birdacious Bark Butter! We are getting reports of Pine Siskin and other irruptive winter finches visiting backyard feeders and enjoying this unique, tasty energy-treat.

I have been officially tracking the number of species attracted to Bark Butter since its public debut in 2008. I am excited that Pine Siskin are the newest addition as the 107th bird species added to the Bark Butter Bird List.

What’s even more exciting is that we have added three winter finches to the list this year: Common Redpoll, Purple Finch and Pine Siskin.

Bark Butter may not really be the reason Pine Siskins decided to irrupt; but, they are fun to have at your feeders. Who’s eating Bark Butter in your yard?

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