February is a tough time for our birds, perhaps even harder than January which I’ve written about before. In the early part of winter they can live from autumn’s remaining fruits but now, as winter nears its end, these fruits are all but spent. In their search for a source of food, many unusual birds may visit your garden – especially if you have bird feeders. One of these seldom seen opportunists is the siskin.
The siskin is a small bird. It’s a type of finch which is mostly yellow in colour. Their natural food is the alder seed which grows on long ‘catkins’ but, since they discovered hanging nut feeders (which do bear some similarity to catkins) siskins have broadened their taste in food!
Siskins are very agile birds – both in flight and on their feet. If you are lucky enough to have any siskin in your garden then it’s a pleasure to watch them as they flutter around your feeders, give aerial displays of acrobatics and hang upside down from overhanging twigs or perches.
As small birds, which need to eat a lot in order to maintain their body temperature, siskins do have a very hard time in winter. However, March will soon be upon us and then comes the highlight of their year – breeding season. The female builds the nest, usually in the higher branches of a conifer tree. This she lines with soft materials such as feathers or hair – nobody wants to sit on sharp twigs after all! When this is complete she will lay up to half a dozen eggs which hatch a couple of weeks later. Dad now gets involved and both parents feed the chicks until they have fledged a further fortnight down the road.
Siskins are delightful birds. If you ever happen to come across a flock of them feeding amongst the alder trees on a frosty morning, then enjoy! It is one of the finest sights (and sounds) of winter. If you’d like to know more about these little known British birds, then take a look at the RSPB website – a great place for all bird lovers.