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A species of the conifer forests now being seen more aften in gardens where seed dispensers are put out for birds

Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

The siskin (Carduelis spinus) is closely associated with conifers and is often seen high in pine and spruce trees where it feeds on seeds it extracts from cones. In winter they are more catholic in taste and visit alder and birch trees and are now quite frequent at garden feeding stations that provide suitable seeds, especially sunflower seeds. Not a great migratory species but certainly mobile they are resident in Dorset and do breed here in small numbers in conifer plantations or mixed woodland. As with many species of birds numbers are boosted during the winter months by incomers from further north where they are more common in breeding months.

Being resident in Dorset one would expect records for every week of the year but this is not, currently at least, the case. There are far less records in the summer months with May (weeks 20 to 24) being quiet. There is also an absence in weeks 32 to 35 in August; whether there is any significance in this is not clear to me. The peak number of reports comes in October which implies this is the time when the siskin is on the move and then there are also frequent reports in January through until March when they are more likely to visit gardens.

The distribution map shows that many sites from Purbeck, the Poole district and east Dorset report siskin and this is where the highest density of conifer plantations are in the county.These are also areas with a considerable amount of birch on the heaths and alder around Poole harbour margins. Sites along the south Dorset coast from Portland Bill to Lyme regis also report siskin in reasonable numbers in autumn and this would reflect birds on their way further south.

Adding siskin to your Dorset list should not take long; you need to visit the heaths of the Poole basin where there are conifers and birch trees in abundance and, with patience, you should find them.


Common Name Siskin
Scientific Name Carduelis spinus
Species Group Birds Finches and Buntings
Status Occasional
Interest Level
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
Look for

Small greenfinch-like bird with a dark crown

Identification Notes
  • A seed eater in coniferous woodlands
  • Will visit gardens near conifer woodlands, feed facing downwards
  • Often seen in pairs and quite aggressive to other siskins and other birds
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
Look for
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Birds Finches and Buntings