Have a Little Suet With Your seed

I had never heard of a Pine Siskin until earlier this autumn when there was an “irruption” of the species. An irruptive migration is when the species travels further than normal. From what I read, the Pine Siskins came farther south this fall due to a possible food resource issue in Canada. I want to make a political joke, there, but I won’t. I’m just glad it happened because it allowed me to learn about these birds.

These are photos of Pine Siskins that I’ve taken over the past couple of weeks:

The next two photos are (1) Pine Siskin and (2) female House Finch. There were both taken today.

When observing them from afar, I’ve often struggled determining the difference between a Pine Siskin and a female House Finch. Here is a photo of the two species side-by-side. The Pine Siskin is on the left. It has a sleeker built beak and a yellow hue, as well as yellow markings (wing bars) that are not always obvious. I found it very considerate of these two birds to pose for this photo.

This next photo is of a Pine Siskin (front right) facing a Goldfinch (front left.) When the Siskin’s yellow is apparent, it can be difficult to keep these two species apart! The Pine Siskin has streaking on the head and more obvious streaking on the breast, but it’s not always easy to see depending upon which way the bird is facing. What makes everything more challenging is that the House Finches, Goldfinches and the Pine Siskins all seem to like to hang out together when there’s food offered! The bird at the far back right in the following photo is a female House Finch.

This next photo shows (from left to right) a White-crowned Sparrow, Goldfinch, Pine Siskin, Male House Finch, Goldfinch, female House Finch.

Today I filmed a Pine Siskin performing a somewhat peculiar behavior – or not. I’m no expert on wild bird behavior, and especially not Pine Siskin behavior. But, I found this bird’s goings-on quite interesting. The following sequence shows a Pine Siskin at a suet feeder that is hung on a tree. The tree is just about five feet away from the feeding platform that is shown in the above photo.

The bird has a sunflower seed in its mouth. That is not at all odd. I have dozens of photos of birds carrying seeds away from the feeder. I believe that some take the seed to a more solid branch where they can crack it open in privacy. The Black-capped chickadee (or, ours might be Carolina Chickadees – that’s another post) and Tufted Titmouse often carry their seeds to a cache that they create for winter consumption. But, this Pine Siskin appears to be adding a little suet to the seed. I’m not sure what its intention might be. Perhaps, it is using the seed as a suet scoop. What ever its intention, I found it interesting enough to post here.

I have to stop here – although the bird dipped into the suet several more times before flying off with the seed still in its beak! I’m sure you get the picture.

I’m going to leave it up to the experts to shed some light (or not) on this curious little moment in time. For me, it makes perfectly good sense. After all, most of the foods we use as “dips” are pretty high in fat (sour cream or mayonnaise based dips and guacamole for chips, butter for lobster – the list goes on and on.) Why wouldn’t a bit of beef tallow be the perfect accompaniment for sunflower seeds? I’m just happy to have been able to satisfy this little bird’s craving!

3 Comments on “Have a Little Suet With Your seed

  1. Thanks so much for posting these photos. I’ve been confused about these three birds as well!!

  2. Great post on the trio of confusing birds to people in general. A little fat scooper for the Siskin, pretty interesting. Some birds do use tools, maybe this Siskin will start a trend!

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