Around the middle of January bird enthusiasts began to notice increasing numbers of Pine Siskins at their thistle feeders. This small brown heavily streaked member of the finch family normally resides in Canada. However, when seed production of natural winter food sources is low, the birds will venture south. Such was the case with reduced cone production of the White Spruce, a major food of the siskin.
Thus, we here in NE Michigan have experienced thousands of these birds in our area seeking food. Scientists refer to this vast influx as an “irruption.”
AuSable Valley Audubon member, Peggy Ridgway, sent out a request to birders from Tawas to Mackinaw City requesting that they report to her the numbers of siskins visiting their feeding stations. “The numbers started rolling in,” stated Ridgway. She received over 50 replies. “Many stated that they had as many as 50-150 feeding daily and folks were going through the thistle like crazy,” she added. Ridgway also noted that a few individuals were hosting 400 and 500 birds daily ! (Click on the map for a larger view.)
A few reports came from the West side including Traverse City, Petoskey, Harbor Springs, and Charlevoix. However, observers were only seeing 10-15 at feeders.
“We probably won’t experience an irruption like this for many years to come! So, we might as well enjoy the show. One day, they will just suddenly be gone as suddenly as they arrived,” concluded Ridgway.