Member of Fringillidae (Finch) family
The siskin is a small finch, about blue tit size and with similar agility. At first sight the females may be confused with their cousins, the greenfinch, but the larger size and much chunkier bill of the greenfinch makes them easy to separate.
Siskins have a dark streaked belly and striking yellow rump, wing bars and on the sides of a noticeably forked tail. The male has a black cap and bib and bright yellow cheeks.
Siskins can be found across the UK throughout the year, but are absent from central and eastern England during the summer. In some years, during harsh winters, there can be a huge influx of birds from northern Europe, creating large siskin flocks.
What They Eat & What You Can Offer Them
Siskins are seed eaters and have smaller bills than the other finches and this reflects in their diet, which consists mainly of cone seeds such as birch, alder, spruce and pine.
They visit gardens when food is harder to find in their natural habitats and are especially attracted to red coloured feeders containing peanuts, seeds or fat. Their agility and fine bill makes most birdfeeders accessible to them.
Siskins are very trusting, so if you do attract them it is often possible to get very close views.
Where They Live & How You Can Help Them
The female builds the nest, which will be high in a conifer tree. The nest is small and tidy, built from twigs covered with lichen, and lined with feathers, hair and fine roots.
The female alone incubates the 5-8 eggs, which are smooth and glossy, pale blue with lilac and pink spots, and take about 14 days to incubate. Both parents feed the young.
During the breeding season siskins become much more timid and difficult to see and for this reason there is a German legend which says that siskins guard a magic stone in their nests that makes them invisible.
Thanks to David Pitman for writing about the Top Garden Birds and John Harding for the photos