This is an exceptionally early siskin year. Hundreds and thousands of Pine Siskins were seen migrating along the coast of Long Island and were found feeding across the parks of New York City this past weekend. On Monday I spent the morning watching flocks of siskins fly past at Fort Tilden on the coast and then I had a couple of hours in the afternoon at Kissena Corridor Park where hundreds of the delightful little finches were feeding frenetically on a variety of seeds from the extensive native plants there. They seemed to especially appreciate the seeds of Evening Primrose, otherwise known as Evening Star, German Rampion, King’s Cure-All, or, more formally, as Oenothera biennis.

The yellow in the siskins wings were nicely complemented by the remaining blossoms of the primrose and I couldn’t resist doing my best to get shots of both flocks and of individual Carduelis pinus as they devoured their way through Kissena Corridor Park.

Pine Siskins feeding on Evening Primrose

It is no wonder that the siskins were chowing down on primrose seeds – they are high in gamma-linolenic acid, a fatty acid that people spend money on to use as a dietary supplement to treat a variety of ailments, from PMS to eczema. The siskins probably just like the amount of fat in the seeds which they can use to put fat on themselves as they either carry on with their irruption or try to winter over in Queens.

Whatever the reason, it was nice to see a native plant being used as a finch feeder and I hope that the siskins stick around for the whole winter.

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.