learn about the fascinating eurasian siskin, a sociable bird known for its presence in alder trees. discover its unique behaviors and characteristics.

Eurasian Siskin: The Social Bird of the Alders

GardenBy Jun 24, 2024

Eurasian Siskin: The Social Bird of the Alders

The Eurasian Siskin (Spinus spinus) is a small passerine bird often observed in flocks. Known for its vibrant colors and acrobatic nature, this bird is a member of the Fringillidae family. Often mistaken for the Serin (Serinus serinus) due to their similar coloration, the Eurasian Siskin stands out with its yellow and olive plumage. Let’s explore more about this colorful and agile bird.

A Delightful Appearance

The Eurasian Siskin measures between 11 and 12 cm in length and weighs only 10 to 14 grams. The males boast striking plumage, with a yellow belly streaked with black and a yellow and green mantle. Their wings and tail are adorned with yellow markings on an olive base. Their heads feature a black cap and bib, while their cheeks shine with a bright yellow hue. With a pointed cone-shaped bill in horn color, these birds are perfectly designed to extract seeds from conifers. Their legs are rosé or brownish in color. Interestingly, the size and clarity of the black bib indicate the bird’s position in the group’s hierarchy.

On the other hand, the females have a duller plumage, lacking the black cap and bib. Their markings are less pronounced, but their rump is a brighter yellow compared to the males. Juveniles have even duller and more striated plumage.

A Gregarious and Acrobatic Bird

The Eurasian Siskin is highly sociable and often forms flocks with other passerine birds such as the European Goldfinch, Redpoll, and European Greenfinch. Their social nature helps provide protection against predators, such as the Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus). These birds are highly active and can be seen adopting acrobatic postures in trees, including hanging upside down to access hard-to-reach seeds.

During the breeding season, however, these active acrobats become surprisingly discreet. According to an ancient Germanic legend, this sudden change in behavior was attributed to a magical stone in the Eurasian Siskin’s nest, rendering it invisible. Furthermore, their flight is graceful and aesthetically pleasing, appearing like a dance with undulating movements, especially during courtship displays.

Habitat and Distribution

The Eurasian Siskin is widely distributed, but its range is divided into two zones. There is a lowland population in the northern parts of Europe and western Russia, while a southern population occupies coniferous forests in the mountains of southern Europe.

Partially migratory, the Eurasian Siskin can be found throughout France, preferring woodlands, forests, and tree-lined hedges. They particularly favor alders, birch trees, and conifers. In winter, they may visit urban parks and gardens, especially if there are bird feeders available. However, they do not nest in these areas.

A Granivorous Diet

The Eurasian Siskin primarily feeds on tree seeds from both conifers and deciduous trees. They also consume seeds from low-growing plants like thistles and dandelions. In winter, they readily visit bird feeders filled with poppy seeds, canary seed, millet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts. Additionally, they consume buds, small fruits, insects, invertebrates, larvae, worms, and spiders.


The breeding season for the Eurasian Siskin extends from late February to August, with the peak occurring in March and April. Males court females by performing aerial displays above their chosen nesting territory. They fly rapidly and sing their melodious yet metallic-sounding songs. Once they have won over their chosen mate, the female constructs the nest at the top of a conifer, usually on the edge of a branch or against the trunk, approximately 20 meters above the ground.

The female builds the nest using twigs, lichens, moss, roots, grass, and various plant fibers brought by the male. This carefully constructed cup-shaped nest is then lined with hair, horsehair, and feathers to provide a warm and cozy environment for the family.

The female lays 3 to 5 bluish-white eggs, lightly speckled with reddish-brown. She undertakes the incubation process alone for 12 to 14 days. Once the chicks hatch, the male and female share the responsibility of feeding them with larvae and insects for approximately two weeks. The young fledge quickly, allowing the pair to potentially raise a second brood if conditions are favorable.

The Eurasian Siskin as a Garden Ally

The Eurasian Siskin is a delightful garden ally, as it does not cause damage to plants. In fact, it helps control garden pests by feeding on spiders and various insects. To attract these birds to your garden, provide bird feeders and consider planting trees and hedges that they prefer, particularly those with conifers. It’s important to note that the Eurasian Siskin is a common species and is not currently considered threatened. However, populations in the southern regions may face challenges due to summer droughts. Offering water sources in your garden can help quench their thirst and provide them with a place to bathe. Lastly, refrain from using toxic chemicals in your garden, as they can harm both the birds and your own health. By embracing the Eurasian Siskin’s natural pest control abilities, you can enjoy their presence and benefit from their ecological role.

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I'm Jennifer. My hands are often covered in soil, and my heart is full of passion for nature. Through my writings, I share my personal gardening journeys, tips, and the joy of cultivating both plants and a community of fellow garden lovers. Every plant I grow adds a story to my life, and I love sharing those tales with my readers.