The nature of things
HIGH up in the conifer trees, the siskin makes her nest, a handy fork in the branches making the foundation for a neat little cup of twiggy bits and woven grasses, smoothed off with pieces of lichen and lined with a cosy duvet of downy feathers. Scotland, Wales and northern regions are the siskin’s stronghold, wherever conifers are abundant, but Mrs Siskin will also nest in mixed forest elsewhere. They’re also increasingly residing year-round in southern counties, wherever there’s woodland that suits their requirements.
Some three to five eggs will be laid about now: small, pale blue with pinkish speckles, they hatch in two weeks. Only the female incubates them, but both parents will assist in feeding and another brood is likely to be raised later, if conditions are fair.
Siskins are small, sociable finches, the males being especially colourful in the breeding season, having much yellow and greenyyellow in the plumage, flashed with black and wearing a jaunty black cap. They might be confused with greenfinches, but are smaller all over and the greenfinch has a noticeably chunkier bill and different song. Siskins relish tree seeds—those of alder, birch, pine, spruce, larch and plane all attract them, especially in winter, but hanging bird feeders with nyjer and other seeds or peanuts also fit the bill, as well as dandelion—which are plentiful right now. KBH
Illustration by Bill Donohoe