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

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:

Oh yeah, I’m all good with purples. I’ve just never had to bother sorting out siskins before. It does seem that all the ones in my area have been hofis though

Continuing the discussion from The 2020/2021 Pine Siskin irruption in the U.S:

They are arriving at our feeder on Sarasota Florida! I will try and get a photo. Thanks for this info!!


welcome to the forum Betsy :)

We live in Nebraska and occasionally get Pine Siskens during the late winter. We had a pair nest near by and had fledglings in our yard…last sighting June 24 2020. My husband reported this on eBird, and I noted this on iNaturalist. That sighting is close to the record for Douglas Co, NE…the last date of a sighting in Pine Siskins was June 25.
We have Red-Breasted Nuthatches this year…a pair. Some years we have them, then others we don’t.
Thanks for starting a project so I can add these 2 species to the lists. Maybe we will be lucky and get some of the others.

Whereas I’ve had almost nothing–not even my regular wrens and downy’s and such in my feeders. Just some white winged doves and house sparrows, not even as many of those as normal.

Bird patterns are so dang weird.

I don’t want to sound like an iNaturalist naysayer (I’m not), but this is the sort of project that eBird is far, far superior for in every way, since abundance and effort are recorded and far more birdwatchers use it. I put my plant and insect records here and my birdwatching on eBird (I do put good or interesting photos of birds here, as well) and I would encourage other iNat users to do so, as the data is far more useful there. I think that a broad citizen science app like iNat has its use, but the more specific ones certainly do as well.


Having used both platforms, I prefer to have my birding data shared in a collaborative (not competitive), democratic (not hierarchical) system. I also prefer transparency and accountability in the identification process, as well as flexible, user-driven terms on my contributions - especially photographs and audio recordings. Overall, I have more confidence in a platform that consults users about changes to its terms of service in advance, and rolls them back if the community supports that.

My experience of iNat is that the site is engaging users for a different purpose than eBird. So, the 2020/2021 NA Winter Bird Irruption project is very valuable if it is encouraging users like me to interact with nature.

Just my .02 worth, thank you for listening.

There was a bit on this on one of the recent episodes of Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds#802, it aired on October 18, 2020 and discussed the irruption. You can listen online via the website. It’s a great show for anyone interested in birds!

I think Bohemian Waxwing should be added to this project. And maybe Blue Jay as well.

I just learned that White-breasted Nuthatches irrupt as well - perhaps they should be added too?

I’m in Indiana and have never seen so many pine siskins as I have this fall!

Both websites have value. They are tools.

I prefer eBird for my bird lists. If I used iNaturalist I would have to make a single observation for every single bird. Today at one spot I saw 25 robins and some other species. . Uh…no…I would not want to enter 25 robins here. And, what if I went down to the lakefront and saw thousands of red-breasted mergansers flying by later in the winter?

Both websites have value. They are tools.

There is an Ohio Dragonfly Survey that uses iNaturalist. I participated in it this past summer. iNaturalist works well for that. They require a photo for a valid entry. You can easily get help from the people in that survey if you are unsure of a species ID.

I belong to a group of birders here in NE Ohio. Some are competitive. Some are not. (I am not.) We all respect what the others are doing. We like finding species and entering them into eBird. It is a tool.


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