Hellenica World

Carduelis spinus

Carduelis spinus (*)

Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Classis: Aves
Subclassis: Carinatae
Infraclassis: Neornithes
Parvclassis: Neognathae
Ordo: Passeriformes
Subordo: Passeri
Parvordo: Passerida
Superfamilia: Passeroidea
Familia: Fringillidae
Genus: Carduelis
Species: Carduelis spinus


Carduelis spinus Linnaeus, 1758

Vernacular names
Български: Елхова скатия
Česky: Čížek lesní
Deutsch: Erlenzeisig
Ελληνικά : Λούγαρο (Κοινό)
English: Siskin (Eurasian Siskin)
Español: Lúgano
Français: Tarin des aulnes
Italiano: Lucherino
日本語: マヒワ
Nederlands: Sijs
‪Norsk (nynorsk)‬: Grønsisik
‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: Grønnsisik
Polski: Czyż
Português: Lugre
Русский: Чиж
Suomi: Vihervarpunen
Türkçe: Kara başlı iskete
Vèneto: Lugarin

The Eurasian Siskin (Carduelis spinus) is a small passerine bird in the finch family Fringillidae. It is very common throughout Europe and Asia. It is found in forested areas, both coniferous and mixed woodland where it feeds on seeds of all kinds, especially of alder and conifers. It can be distinguished from other similar finches by the color of the plumage. The upper parts are greyish green and the under parts grey-streaked white. Its wings are black with a conspicuous yellow wing bar, and the tail is black with yellow sides. The male has a mainly yellow face and breast, with a neat black cap. Female and young birds have a greyish green head and no cap. It is a trusting, sociable and active bird. The song of this bird is a pleasant mix of twitters and trills. For these reasons it is often raised in captivity.

These birds have an unusual migration pattern as every few years in winter they migrate southwards in large numbers. The reasons for this behavior are not known but may be related to climatic factors and above all the availability of food. In this way overwintering populations can thrive where food is abundant.

This small finch is an acrobatic feeder, often hanging upside-down like a tit. It will visit garden bird feeding stations.


The Siskin is a small, short-tailed bird, 11–12.5 centimetres (4.3–4.9 in) in length[2][3] with a wingspan that ranges from 20–23 centimetres (7.9–9.1 in).[2][4][5] It weighs between 10–18 grams (0.35–0.63 oz).[2][4][6]

The bird's appearance presents a sexual dimorphism. The male has a greyish green back; yellow rump; the sides of the tail are yellow and the end is black; the wings are black with a distinctive yellow wing stripe; its breast is yellowish becoming whiter and striped towards the cloaca; it has a black bib (or chin patch) and on its head it has two yellow auriculas and a black cap.[3] The amount of black on the bid is very variable between males and the size of the bib has been related to dominance within a flock.[7]

The plumage of the female is more olive-colored than the male. The cap and the auriculas are greenish with a white bib and a rump that is a slightly striped whitish yellow.

The young have a similar coloration to the females, with drab colors and a more subdued plumage.[3]

The shape of the Siskin's beak is determined by its feeding habits. It is strong although it is also slender in order to pick up the seeds on which they feed. The legs and feet are dark brown and the eyes are black.

The Siskin is easy to recognize, but in some instances it can be confused with other finches such as the Citril Finch, the Greenfinch or the European Serin.

It has a rapid and bounding flight pattern that is similar to other finches.[6]

Song and call

This bird has two calls, both powerful but conflicting, one is descending and the other is ascending, their onomatopoeic sounds can be represented as "tilu" and "tluih".[3] On occasions they also issue a harsh rattling chirrup.[3][8]

The song is similar to the other finches, a smooth and rapid twitter and trill with a long duration and which is occasionally interrupted by a stronger of shorter syllable. Siskins sing throughout the year and often in groups.[3][8]


The Siskin was first was described by Linnaeus in 1758 as Fringilla spinus.[9] In 1760, Brisson described the genus Carduelis, where this species would finally be placed.

Despite being found across a wide area it is a monotypic species, that is, there are no distinct subspecies.[10] This could be explained by a number of factors such as:[11]

* A female which has a number of clutches of eggs in one breeding season, each in a different place.
* Interannual spatial variability of individuals in breeding areas.
* Large overwintering area which supposes a constant genetic interchange.

Distribution and habitat

This species can be found across the greater part of Eurasia and the north of Africa. Its breeding area is separated into two zones, each side of the Palearctic ecozone: the east coast of Asia and the central and northern part of Europe.[12] These birds can be found throughout the year in Central Europe and some mountain ranges in the south of the continent. They are present in the north of Scandinavia and in Russia and they over-winter in the Mediterranean basin and the area around the Black Sea. In China they breed in the Khingan Mountains of Inner Mongolia and in Jiangsu province; they spend summer in Tibet, Taiwan, the valleys of the lower Yangtse River and the south east coast.[13] The Eurasian Siskin is occasionally seen in North America.[14] There is also a similar and closely related North America counterpart, the Pine Siskin, Carduelis pinus.[7] Their seasonal distribution is also marked by the fact that they follow an anomalous migration pattern. Every few years they migrate southwards in larger numbers and the overwintering populations in the Iberian Peninsular are greatly augmented.[3][8] This event has been the object of diverse theories, one theory suggests that it occurs in the years when Norway Spruce produces abundant fruit in the centre and north of Europe, causing populations to increase. An alternative theory is that greater migration occurs when the preferred food of alder or birch seed fails. This species will form large flocks outside the breeding season, often mixed with redpolls.

It is a bird that does not remain for long in one area but which varies the areas it used for breeding, feeding, over-wintering from one year to the next.

Its habitat is forested areas at a particular altitude on a mountain side and they have a certain predilection for humid areas.[3][12] Coniferous woodland, especially Spruce, is favoured for breeding. It builds its nest in a tree, laying 2-6 eggs. The British range of this once local breeder has expanded greatly due to an increase in commercial conifer plantations. The Siskin also breeds in mixed woodland; while in winter they prefer stubble and crops and areas containing trees with seeds.

Conservation status

The worldwide population of the Siskin is estimated as between 20 and 36 million.[15] The European population is estimated as between 2.7 y 15 million pairs.[16][17] There does not seem to be a specific trend in population numbers and for this reason the IUCN has listed their conservation status as "Least Concern".[18] The Siskin appears in Annex II of the Berne Convention as a protected bird species.[19]


They are very active and restless birds. They are also very social, forming small cohesive flocks especially in autumn and winter.[20] They are fairly trusting of humans, it being possible to observe them from a short distance. During the breeding season, however, they are much more timid, solitary and difficult to observe. For this reason there is a German legend which says that Siskins guard a magic stone in their nests that makes them invisible.[21][22] It is one of the few species which has been described as exhibiting "allofeeding" behavior, this is where subordinates (of the same sex) regurgitate food for the dominant members of the group,[23] which creates a strong cohesion in the flocks and implies a hierarchical structure within the group.[24]


The Siskin is mainly a granivore although it varies its diet depending on the season. It feeds in trees avoiding eating on the ground.[6]

In autumn and winter its diet is based on the seeds of deciduous trees such as birch and above all alder.[3][8] They also visit cultivated areas and pasture where they join with other finches in eating the seeds of various Compositae such as thistles, dandelions, artemisias, knapweeds and other herbaceous plants such as St John's wort, meadowsweet and sorrel.[5][8]

In spring, during the breeding season, they are found in coniferous forests. At this time their feeding is based on the seeds of these trees, especially on trees belonging to the genera Abies, Picea and Larix.[8][25] They also feed on elms and poplars. When feeding the young they eat more insects, mainly beetles, as the proteins they contain help the chicks to grow.[25] In summer their feeding is more varied, adding other herbaceous plants to their diet of conifer seeds: goosefoots and other Compositae.[25]


Pairs are generally formed during the winter period before migration.[26] The males compete aggressively for the females. As part of the courtship the male plumps up the feathers of the pileus and rump, making itself bigger, extending the tail and singing repeatedly. [25][27] They also make mating flights from tree to tree, although they are not as eye-catching as the flights of the other finches.[8] They construct a nest that is generally located at the end of a relatively high branch in a conifer, such that the nest is reasonably hidden and difficult to see.[5][8] On the Spanish Peninsular they make their nests in afirs, Scotch pine and Corsican pine.[28] They form small colonies of up to six pairs with the nests located near to each other.[24] The nest is small and bowl-shaped. It is made from small twigs, dried grasses, moss and lichen and lined with down.[8][21][25] The first brood is born in mid-April.[25] The female lays between 2 and 6 eggs.[8][21][29] The eggs are white or light grey or light blue, with small brown spots[8][21] and they are approximately 16.5mm by 12mm in size.[5][8][21]

Incubation takes between 10 and 14 days and is carried out entirely by the female.[4][8][21] The chicks are altricial and nidicolous. They leave the nest after 15 days in a semi-feathered condition. They then remain close to the nest area for up to a month when, with their plumage now complete, they disperse.[25] The Siskin usually has a second brood, from the middle of June up to the middle of July.[8]

Structure holding cages used for listening to Siskins at the singing contest of Sagra dei Osei, Italy.

Like many of the finches the Siskin is valued by aviculturalists as a domestic species for its song and appearance. They do not require specific care and adapt well to captivity, although they do not breed well in captivity.[29] There are no specific diseases that affect the species, although they can show certain intestinal pathologies associated with a poor diet.[29] They live for between 11 and 14 years,[21][29] in sharp contrast to the 2 or 3 years it is estimated they live in the wild.[6]

They form hybrids with some other finches (for example canaries) giving rise to intermediate species.[30][31] Hybridization also occurs in nature without human intervention.[10] In some areas individuals that are found are the result of escapes or releases of captive birds.[32]
Statue of a Siskin in Saint Petersburg.


* Poland, Gibraltar, Benin and Belgium have all issued postage stamps bearing the image of the Siskin.[4][33]

* In Saint Petersburg there is a statue of a Siskin, as its colours are the same as the uniform worn by the students at an elite school in the city. These students have come to be known by the sobriquet Siskin, Russian: Чиж. This term was popularized in the Russian children's song Chizhik-Pyzhik.[34]

Alternative names

Carduelis spinus is also called 'European Siskin', 'Common Siskin' or, in Anglophone Europe, is just 'Siskin'. Other (archaic) names include 'Black-headed Goldfinch',[35] 'Barley Bird'[36] and 'Aberdevine'[36]

Further reading


* Lethaby, Nick (1997) Identification of Pine Siskin Birding World 10(10): 383-6 (covers separation of European Siskin from Pine Siskin C. pinus)


1. ^ BirdLife International (2004). Carduelis spinus. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 12 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
2. ^ a b c The Birds of the Western Palearctic [Abridged]. OUP. 1997. ISBN 019854099X.
3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Mullarney,K.; Svensson, L.; Zetterström, D; y Grant, P.J. (2003). Guía de Campo de las Aves de España y de Europa. Editorial Omega. ISBN 84-282-1218-X.
4. ^ a b c d Stamps of Israeli birds. "Carduelis spinus". http://my.ort.org.il/holon/birds/bl8.html. Retrieved 13 de octubre 2008.
5. ^ a b c d Schauenberg, P. et al. (1979). Fichero Safari Club (Lúgano). Madrid: S.A.P.E.. ISBN 84-7461-167-9.
6. ^ a b c d Hume, Rob (2002). Guía de Campo de las Aves de España y de Europa. Editorial Omega. ISBN 84-282-1317-8.
7. ^ a b Senar, J.C.; Camerino, L.; Copete, J.L.; y Metcalfe N.B. (1993). "Variation in black bib of the Eurasian siskin(Carduelis spinus) and its role as reliable badge of dominance". The Auk 110 (4): 924–927. http://elibrary.unm.edu/sora/Auk/v110n04/p0924-p0927.pdf. Retrieved 20 de octubre de 2008.
8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Pajaricos.es. "Lúgano". http://www.pajaricos.es/mas/maslugano.htm. Retrieved 12 October 2008.
9. ^ Fauna Europaea. "Carduelis spinus". http://www.faunaeur.org/full_results.php?id=97471. Retrieved 10 October 2008.
10. ^ a b McCarthy, Eugene M. (2006). Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195183238. http://books.google.es/books?id=iZhKTNkpxUIC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Handbook+of+Avian+Hybrids+of+the+World.
11. ^ Carduelis spinus en terra.es. "Carduelis spinus". http://www.terra.es/personal/sobradil/lugano/home.htm. Retrieved 23 October 2008. This reference is based on theories expounded in Payevsky, V.A. (1994) «Age and sex structure, mortality and spatial winter distribution of siskins (Carduelis spinus) migrating through eastern Baltic area» Vogelwarte 37: 190 - 198.
12. ^ a b Senar, J.C. y Borrás, A.. "Lúgano en el Atlas de las Aves Reproductoras de España". http://www.mma.es/secciones/biodiversidad/inventarios/inb/atlas_aves_reproductoras/pdf/lugano.pdf. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
13. ^ China's Species Information Service. "Carduelis spinus en China". http://www.chinabiodiversity.com/search/english/detail.shtm?cspcode=022110010. Retrieved 23 October 2008.
14. ^ Borror, A.C. (April–June 1963). Eurasian siskin (Carduelis spinus) in Maine. 80. The Auk. p. 109. http://elibrary.unm.edu/sora/Auk/v080n02/p0201-p0201.pdf. Retrieved 20 October 2008.
15. ^ Birdlife Internartional. "Eurasian siskin". http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=8813. Retrieved 12 de octubre 2008.
16. ^ Tucker, G.M. y Heath, M.F. (1994). Birds in Europe: their conservation status (BirdLife Conservation Series nº 3). Cambridge: BirdLife International. ISBN 0946888299.
17. ^ Cramp, S. y Perrins, C.M. (1994). Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Vol. IX.. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198575068.
18. ^ IUCN Red List. "Carduelis spinus". http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/149524. Retrieved 27 May 2010.
19. ^ "Boletín Oficial del Estado (España): Ratificación del Convenio de Berna". 1 October 1986. http://www.club-caza.com/legislacion/docs/europea/4-Convenio_de_Berna.pdf. Retrieved 12 October 2008.
20. ^ Copete, J.L. (1990). Observación de un dormidero de Lúganos (Carduelis spinus). 7. Butlletí del Grup Català d'Anellament. http://www.raco.cat/index.php/ButlletiAnellament/article/view/70755/89502.
21. ^ a b c d e f g Oiseaux.net. "Tarin des aulnes" (in francés). http://www.oiseaux.net/oiseaux/tarin.des.aulnes.html. Retrieved 12 October 2008.
22. ^ Pajaricos.es. "Lúgano". http://www.pajaricos.es/l/l1/lugano.htm. Retrieved 12 October 2008.
23. ^ Senar, J.C. y Borrás, A. (2004). "Sobevivir al invierno: estrategias de las aves invernantes en la Península Ibérica". Ardeola 51 (1): 133–168. http://www.ardeola.org/files/Ardeola_51(1)_133-168.pdf. Retrieved 20 October 2008.
24. ^ a b Senar, J.C. (April–June 1984). "Allofeeding in Eurasian siskin (Carduelis spinus)". Condor (The Cooper Ornithological Society) 86: 213–214. http://elibrary.unm.edu/sora/Condor/files/issues/v086n02/p0213-p0214.pdf. Retrieved 20 October 2008.
25. ^ a b c d e f g Carduelis spinus on Terra.es. "Carduelis spinus". http://www.terra.es/personal/sobradil/lugano/home.htm. Retrieved 12 October 2008.
26. ^ Senar, J.C. y Copete, J.L. (1990). "Observación de alimentación de cortejo en Lúganos (Carduelis spinus) invernantes". Butlletí del Grup Català d'Anellament 7. http://www.raco.cat/index.php/ButlletiAnellament/article/viewFile/70753/89500.
27. ^ Newton, I. (1973). Finches. London: Taplinger Publishing. ISBN 0-8008-2720-1.
28. ^ Enciclopedia Balear de Ornitología. "Lúgano (Carduelis spinus)". http://www.ausdebalears.org/isnoEnd/isnova/loadBird?lang=es&birdId=445. Retrieved 19 November 2008.
29. ^ a b c d Rednaturaleza.com. "Lúgano-Aves". http://www.rednaturaleza.com/aves_doc.asp?p=Lugano. Retrieved 13 de octubre 2008.
30. ^ Global Biodiversity Information Facility. "Carduelis spinus x Serinus canaria". http://data.gbif.org/species/browse/taxon/20104120. Retrieved 13 de octubre 2008.
31. ^ Siskin crosses en geocities. "Hibridaciones de Carduelis spinus". Archived from the original on 2007-11-06. http://web.archive.org/web/20071106172027/http://www.geocities.com/mules_hybrids/siskin_crosses.htm. Retrieved 23 de octubre 2008.
32. ^ Galarza, A. (1989). Urdaibai, avifauna de la ría de Gernika. Diputación Foral de Bizkaia. ISBN 8440450842.
33. ^ Bird Stamps. "Sellos de aves". http://www.bird-stamps.org/cspecies/19604700.htm. Retrieved 27 de noviembre 2008.
34. ^ Official website of Saint Petersburg. "Chizhik-Pyzhik". http://www.saint-petersburg.com/monuments/chizhik-pyzhik.asp. Retrieved 13 de octubre 2008.
35. ^ "Eurasian Siskin (Carduelis spinus) (Linnaeus, 1758)". Avibase. 30. http://avibase.bsc-eoc.org/species.jsp?lang=EN&avibaseid=9820CECA12EC737D.
36. ^ a b Lockwood, W. B. (1993). The Oxford Dictionary of British Bird Names. OUP. ISBN 0198661967.

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