The 2020/2021 Pine Siskin irruption in the U.S

We are in the midst of a Pine Siskin irruption which, according to Audubon, is the greatest irruption of Pine Siskins on record. I know they are rarely seen in the upstate of South Carolina, but I’ve had anywhere from 50 to 70 in my backyard sanctuary every day since October 17th. I’m posting this, first, as a heads-up to be on the lookout for them as I’ve talked to other birders who mistook them as “just another House Finch” until they realized what was going on and began to observe more intently. Secondly, I’m wondering if there is anything being done in iNaturalist to monitor and track this momentous event?

To read about Audubon’s take on this irruption, here’s a good article on the event:


Yeah, I noticed they were all over r/birding and was wondering what was going on…( I’m not a birder myself, I just think birds are pretty)


I guess I need to put out the nyger seed this winter.


Might as well make a project about this huh?

Let me know if I should add any others (Northern shrike? the owls? etc)


I live in Northwestern Ontario, near the geographic centre of North America, and our huge Pine Siskin numbers are only one indicator that an epic winter birding season may be in store. We’ve already seen our first Pine Grosbeak on the property - this was a record-early date for us (October 23) - and we had a fairly early Northern Shrike today. Our weather has flipped from pleasant-autumn-sunshine to feeling-like-the-dead-of-winter in about 10 days flat…our recent daytime highs have been about 10 degrees Celsius below normal. So, the cold is certainly pushing any birds present towards the feeders. The Siskins are having to compete with migrating Dark-eyed Juncos and American Tree Sparrows, both of which are still present in above-average numbers. Redpolls have not appeared here yet, but it can’t be long now.

This level of activity will be quite a rebound from last winter, which had the lowest seasonal bird numbers I’ve seen in 35+ years of birding in Ontario. With the exception of the two crossbill species, winter finches were almost completely absent from the Rainy River District.


Works for me. Thank you!

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The Pine Siskins in my yard have been going after finch blend (a mixture of nyjer and sunflower chips), sunflower chips, safflower seed, and bug, nut, & berry suet cylinders - as well as hunting for insects, spiders, etc… in the trees.


My first winter in my current house in Western NC a few years ago had a pretty robust number of pine siskins mowing through my nyjer (we have year-round goldfinches, too). But after that, nothing, and I have been wondering where they went. I saw a few weeks ago that they’re back.

If it’s the result of an especially large irruption, I bet I’ll be going through a lot of nyjer this winter.


I keep reading about them, normally my county doesn’t get very many, but this year all most all of the other birders have been reporting them. I have never seen one, so I set up a few types of feeder to try and attract them.

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As a hardcore birder, I have been noticing this for the past month or so. The numbers were quite high in the beginning, but seem to have died down now, presumably moving further south (I live in Wisconsin). I have noticed an irruption of Purple Finches this year too, but no where near the numbers of siskins. Redpolls are on their way as well, reports of coming in from northern Minnesota of flocks in the 100s, I’m sure we’ll get them further south, too. Looking at eBird it seems crossbills are beginning to make minor movements as well, I can only hope they’ll irrupt, too. This is looking like it may be one of the best irruption years ever (especially great since last winter was one of the worst on record).

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They’re all over the Facebook bird ID groups like What’s This Bird?
It seems there’s large numbers moving throughout the US

Sorry, dear iNatter colleagues for my ignorance in concern of birds in general, these fascinating creatures are obviously too quick for me.
However, as i read the heading of “Pine Siskin irruption in the U.S.”, i got curious and came here. While reading about the unusual migration, i remembered on a recently noted observation of Eurasian Siskin in Austria by a colleague. I had seen it per chance, and wondered these in German: “Erlenzeisige” apparently fed on seeds of fully naturalized neophyte Common Evening-Primrose
While reading this nature talk i looked for latin name of Pine Siskin: Spinus pinus and remembered to have read Spinus spinus differing in just one “s”.
By that i learned very, very little, but about these kinds of Perching Birds.
Thanks for that!

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Oh wow, I think this might have been the bird I saw on my lunch break on Friday! I thought it was a warbler of some sort, since I only got a glimpse of it and didn’t have my camera. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for more :-D

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Oddly, Pine Siskin which are relatively abundant normally (although uncommon last year as others have noted) where I live in Ontario dont seem to really be here right now. I’ve yet to see one and only a few reports of any locally.

On the other hand Evening Grosbeak which are typically never seen locally, I’ve seen 7 of them in 5 years living back here, are everywhere. Based on the scale of reports there are thousands locally.


Here in Winnipeg we had the same weather change, but I have seen no pine siskins. The Song Sparrows, Tree Sparrows and Juncos are around, but most of them have left. We had a lot of Song Sparrows this summer.

Ah shoot, there were a few birds at my feeder recently that I thought looked like siskins but figured were probably house finches. Though, there haven’t actually been that many siskin reports on eBird around here, so maybe mine were just house finches

I would say that is the irruption in play - leaving their normal areas of concentration and heading south - further south and in larger numbers than ever before. Until this irruption I’ve not had a chance to study a colony of Pine Siskins up close and personal. But they hit my feeders, baths, and naturally occurring food sources in a frantic manner. You would think they hadn’t had a decent meal or fresh water in quite a while. Today is the tenth day since their arrival and they don’t appear to be quite as frantic as they were at first.

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There is a really good Facebook Group for irruptions called “Finches, Irruptions, and Mast Crops”. There are people that monitor the seed producing trees in Canada and predict what may come south. We (NE Ohio) are seeing red-breasted nuthatches, pine siskins and some evening grosbeaks. They also predicted a rise in white-breasted nuthatches which may go unnoticed unless a large flock is seen.

Unfortunately, all of the local park systems have had severe budget cuts. They are not stocking their feeders. So, most of the reports are coming in from private feeders. Although, we are seeing the red-breasted nuthatches and pine siskins in the parks. The evening grosbeaks seem to be coming in from the west and east going around Lake Erie. They have not quite made it to NE Ohio near the lake. But, we are hopeful that they will make it to this area.

If you want to see some of these birds, there is a live feeder cam in Northern Ontario on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It is a lot of fun to watch. And, you can move backward in time to see what birds came earlier in the day.

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If you see a flock of American goldfinches, scan them. The pine siskins often join goldfinch flocks.

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You should familiarize yourself with what Purple Finches look like, too. You can compare the House Finch with the Purple Finch on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website or the Audubon website: