McGILL BIRD OBSERVATORY

PHOTO LIBRARY

Pine Siskin / Tarin des pins (Spinus pinus)

NOTE: This species account has been moved to Piranga to allow for improved comparison among examples.  
The updated profile is located at:  http://www.natureinstruct.org/piranga/view.php/Canada/B48335B1DF4EF710

 Introductory notes:
Ageing and sexing of Pine Siskins is tricky as there is minimal sexual dimorphism, and feather shape and wear differ less by age than in many other species.  Confirmation of age by skull ossification, and of sex by brood patch / cloacal protuberance is preferable, when possible.  Further study of known age/sex individuals is highly encouraged.


QUICK TIPS:

1) Look at the extent of yellow on the primaries extending beyond the primary coverts - the length typically ranges from several mm on AHY/ASY males to largely absent on HY/SY females, with AHY/ASY females and HY/SY males intermediate and unreliably separated by this characteristic

2) Examine the outer rectrices - they are broad and relatively rounded on AHY/ASY birds and relatively narrow and pointed on HY/SY birds, though the difference is not as substantial as in some other species; on AHY/ASY males the rectrices also feature extensive yellow patches

3) Look at the outer primary coverts - they are typically broad and rounded on AHY/ASY birds, and somewhat narrower and more pointed on HY/SY birds, but this distinction is also subtle

4) Check for molt limits among the greater coverts or between the greater coverts and primary coverts; they can be subtle, but if distinctly present are a reliable indicator of HY/SY birds

Species account updated January 2011

Ageing and sexing overview:

January - July:

ASY - M
Extensive yellow patches on the primaries and tail; outer rectrices broad and rounded
ASY - F
Small to moderately extensive yellow patches on the primaries; occasionally some yellow on the tail; outer rectrices broad and rounded
SY - M
Small to moderately extensive yellow patches on the primaries; yellow generally lacking on the tail; outer rectrices narrow and pointed
SY - F
Yellow generally limited to small patches on the secondaries; outer rectrices narrow and pointed

-

July - December:

AHY - M
Extensive yellow patches on the primaries and tail; outer rectrices broad and rounded
AHY - F
Small to moderately extensive yellow patches on the primaries; occasionally some yellow on the tail; outer rectrices broad and rounded
HY - M
Small to moderately extensive yellow patches on the primaries; yellow generally lacking on the tail; outer rectrices narrow and pointed
HY - F
Yellow generally limited to small patches on the secondaries; outer rectrices narrow and pointed
     
 

Ageing and sexing details:

JAN - JUL:  after-second-year male

After-second-year Pine Siskins typically show distinct yellow patches on the wings even when perched; those with particularly extensive yellow are generally males.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), February 2006


The uniformly broad, rounded, and dark primary coverts indicate this is an after-second-year siskin; the particularly extensive yellow patches on the primaries suggest that it is very likely a male.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), February 2006


The relatively broad rectrices suggest that this is an after-second-year siskin; the particularly extensive yellow patches are usually present only on males.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), February 2006

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

JAN - JUL:  after-second-year female

Female after-second-year Pine Siskins typically show some yellow on the wings, but it may not always be visible when perched.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), April 2009


The uniformly broad, rounded, and dark primary coverts indicate this is an after-second-year siskin; the moderately sized yellow patches on the primaries suggest that it is likely a female, but sex should be confirmed by brood patch if possible.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), April 2009


The relatively bround and rounded outer rectrices indicate that this is an after-second-year siskin; the limited extent of yellow on most rectrices suggests that it is a female.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), April 2009

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JAN - JUL:  second-year male

Second-year siskins show little to no yellow when perched, although some along the edges of the primaries may show on males.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), February 2006


The outer primary coverts of second-year siskins are typically narrower and more pointed than those of after-second-year individuals, but as the photo below illustrates, this distinction is much more subtle than for many other species.  Note that there is only a small amount of yellow showing on the primaries beyond the primary coverts.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), February 2006
 


The outer rectrices of second-year siskins are typically more narrow and pointed than those of after-second-year siskins.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), February 2006

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JAN - JUL:  second-year female

Second-year female siskins typically show littlle or no yellow when perched.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), April 2009


Outer primary coverts of second-year siskins tend to be somewhat narrower, but the distinction is subtle in this species since coverts are always quite broad.  Molt limits may occur between the primary coverts and greater coverts, or among the median and greater coverts.  Generally there is little if any yellow visible on the primaries of second-year females.


In this example, the greater coverts appear uniformly worn, but show some contrast with the
darker median coverts, suggesting a particularly limited preformative molt. Note that overall
the wing is somewhat paler and more weathered than the after-second-year examples.

Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), April 2009


The outer rectrices of second-year siskins are typically relatively narrow and pointed, and showing a bit more wear than those of after-second-year birds.  However, differences tend to be fairly minor, and it is best to consider both tail and wing characteristics to determine age.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), April 2009

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JUL - DEC:  after-hatch-year male

  After-hatch-year male Pine Siskins typically show distinct yellow patches on the wings even when perched.


Photo by Barbara Frei, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), October 2008


The extensive patches of yellow on the primaries extending beyond the primary coverts are typical only of after-hatch-year males.


Photo by Barbara Frei, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), October 2008
 


The combination of broad and relatively rounded rectrices and the extensive patches of yellow are good indicators of an after-hatch-year male.


Photo by Barbara Frei, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), October 2008

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JUL - DEC:  after-hatch-year female

Female after-hatch-year Pine Siskins typically show some yellow on the wings, but it may not always be visible when perched; a good view of the open wing and/or rectrices is required to be confident of age and sex.


  Photo by Barbara Frei, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), October 2008
 


On after-hatch-year females there is usually a small (e.g. photo below) to moderate amount of yellow showing on the primaries beyond the end of the primary coverts. The uniformly dark and rounded primary coverts (showing little contrast with the primaries or greater coverts) separate after-hatch-year females from hatch-year individuals.


 Photo by Barbara Frei, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), October 2008
 


Broad and rounded rectrices support the identification of this as an after-hatch-year siskin, but should not be relied upon as the sole criterion for ageing, as some hatch-year birds may appear similar.


Photo by Barbara Frei, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), October 2008

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JUL - DEC:  hatch-year male

Hatch-year male Pine Siskins may show a small amount of yellow on the wings when perched, but a view of the open wing is required to be confident about age and sex.


Photo by Barbara Frei, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), October 2008 


Note the slightly narrower and more pointed primary coverts on this hatch-year wing, compared to after-hatch-year birds.  Also, the primary coverts are visibly paler than the adjacent greater coverts.  Among hatch-year birds, the extent of yellow on the primaries can be used to separate sexes in extreme cases; the individual below is near the upper end of the range and is therefore very likely a male.


Photo by Barbara Frei, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), October 2008
 


The rectrices of hatch-year siskins are typically at least a bit more narrow and pointed than those of after-hatch-year birds. Males may have some traces of yellow on the tail, as in the photo below, while females generally have entirely brown tails.


Photo by Barbara Frei, McGill Bird Observatory (QC), October 2008

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

JUL - DEC:  hatch-year female

 



 


 



 



 

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