This winter has been an exceptional one for finches in South Carolina, and that has been on display at Beidler Forest in recent weeks. The bird feeders, sponsored by Wild Birds Unlimited, located in the parking area for our grassland trails have been very active – in fact, we’ve been refilling them every 2-3 days!
One of the species consuming much of the seed is the Pine Siskin. This finch, a relative of the more easily-recognizable American Goldfinch, only visits us every few winters. Pine Siskins nest across the northern United States and Canada and usually spend their winters in places north of South Carolina.
But every few years, Pine Siskins and other finches undergo an “irruption” – moving in large numbers to southern states, often showing up at backyard feeders in large numbers. This phenomenon is thought to happen in years where trees in northern climates produce relatively low amounts of seed. In response to this, finches like Pine Siskins head south in search of food.
When you’re out birding, look for Pine Siskins feeding naturally in trees like the Sweetgum (where they often hang upside-down as they pry the tiny seeds from Sweetgum “balls”). At bird feeders, these finches feed on thistle, millet and sunflower seeds. Be sure to keep an eye out for them (and other finches, like the Purple Finch) the next time you visit Beidler!
Learn more about Pine Siskins: