Pine Siskin Nest

by Carl Strang

(This is a cross posting from the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County’s Observe Your Preserve website’s Nature Notes). Pine siskins are northern relatives of our familiar goldfinches. In some winters, including this past one, many come south to find food when their northern coniferous trees are stingy with the seed production. Given the many coniferous trees belonging to several species at Mayslake Forest Preserve, I expected to see plenty of siskins here, but such was not the case until Leap Year Day, when two made an appearance. After that siskins became a fixture around the mansion, to the point where I thought some might nest. That seemed even more likely when I witnessed a territorial squabble on April 9. Yesterday morning when I arrived at the Mayslake mansion I heard nestling calls that sounded very much like the “beer-be” calls of goldfinch fledglings. Those calls led me to the nest.

Not much to see from below, the nest is well concealed among the spruce branches. It is slightly larger than a goldfinch nest but made of coarser material, and perhaps 4 inches in diameter.

The nest branch is visible from my office window, and every once in a while through the morning I lifted the binoculars in hope of seeing an adult siskin coming to the nest. As I returned from my lunchtime walk on the preserve I paused by the nest, just in time to see an adult siskin rise and then resettle itself to brood its babies.

The parent’s tail extends from the upper right edge of the nest.

There are precedents for pine siskins nesting in northern Illinois, but it is an uncommon event.

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