Key facts

Scientific name: Carduelis spinus

Status: Resident breeding species and winter visitor

Breeding birds: 410,000 pairs

Conservation status: Green

Length: 11 – 12 cm

Wingspan: 20 – 23 cm

Weight: 12 – 18 g


Adult male siskins have yellow-green upperparts with a yellow rump. They have black flight feathers on their upperwing with yellow edges and two conspicuous yellow wing bars. Their scapulars are yellow-green with black streaks.  

They have white bellies streaked with grey, their flanks are white with black streaks, and the throat and breast is yellow. They have a forked tail which is black with a yellow patch on the outer rectrices.

Siskins have a black forehead, crown, and chin. Their ear coverts, cheeks, and nape are yellow with a pale grey wash. They have a thin, pointed bill which is horn coloured. Their eyes are dark brown and their legs and feet are dull pink coloured.

Female siskins are duller than the male and have no black on the crown. The upperparts are pale yellow streaked with grey. The underparts have heavier streaks and the wings and tails have dull brown streaks.

Juvenile siskins are similar to females but are duller overall and yellow patches at the base of the of the outer rectrices. The wing bars are pale.


Siskins breed from early April. The female builds the nest usually high up in a conifer tree. The nest is small and made from twigs, heather, grass, moss and cobwebs lined with hair, fur and feathers.

Siskins lay 2-6 pale blue or grey smooth, glossy eggs with brown, pink, or light purple spots or streaks. The eggs are incubated for 11-14 days by the female alone while the male feeds her. Chicks leave the nest at around 13-15 days and fledge at one month.


Siskins are seed eaters and are particularly dependent on spruce during breeding season as well as alders and birch. They will supplement their diet with insects.

Siskins will visit gardens in winter for food if seed crops have been poor.


Where to see them

Siskins can be seen all year round in the UK. In the breeding season  look out for them in the tops of trees across Scotland and Wales. 

During the winter they are also more widely seen in England.


Frank Holzapfel/xeno-canto

Did you know?

There is a German legend which says that siskins guard a magic stone in their nests that makes them invisible because they become so elusive during breeding season.

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Identification guides

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