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(Eurasian) Siskin

Male Siskin
Male: Yellowish-green upperparts, yellow below and in wing. Black crown and bib.
Female Siskin
Female: Like male but without black crown and bib.

The Siskin is a small finch, about the size of a Blue Tit and with similar agility.

They are generally yellowish-green and yellow with a dark streaked belly and striking yellow rump, wing bars and sides of the forked tail. The legs and bill are dark brown.

The male has a black cap and bib and bright yellow cheeks. The female does not have a black crown or bib and is more heavily streaked.

Juveniles have browner upperparts and are even more heavily streaked than the female.

Winter Male
Winter Male

The Siskin, particularly the female, is often confused with the Greenfinch, but the latter is bigger and lacks the dark streaks.

Scientific Name Carduelis spinus
Length 12 cm  (4½")
Wing Span 20-23 cm  (8-9")
Weight 12-18 g  (½ oz)
Breeding Pairs 300000
Present All Year
Status Green

Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.


The sweet twittering of a flock of Siskins feeding among the trees is a pleasant sight and sound in the winter.


© Jean Roché,

© Jean Roché,

© Jean Roché,


Siskins are seed eaters and have smaller bills than the other finches and this reflects in their diet, which is mainly 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.


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 eggs, which are smooth and glossy, pale blue with lilac and pink spots, and about 16 mm by 12 mm in size. Both parents feed the young.

Breeding Starts Clutches Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
mid-March 2 2-6 11-14 13-15


Many British birds remain close to their breeding sites unless food is in short supply and then they move south, but they tend to be nomadic and so rarely visit the same areas in subsequent years.

Continental birds from the BENELUX countries, Germany, Scandinavia and even eastern Europe spend the winter in Britain.


Coniferous forests were not well surveyed before the 1990s and so the long term trend in the Siskin population is not well known, but it appears that their numbers may have decreased in recent years.