25/02/2015
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Our Siskins are missing

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Siskins often rely on British garden feeders in hard weather or when the Sitka Spruce seed crop fails. Photo: Steve Young (www.birdsonfilm.com).
Siskins often rely on British garden feeders in hard weather or when the Sitka Spruce seed crop fails. Photo: Steve Young (www.birdsonfilm.com).
This winter has seen incredibly low numbers of Siskins in British gardens, according to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Garden BirdWatch.

The small finch that traditionally turns to our gardens for food during the winter, but the presence of most birds in gardens is dependent on food availability in the wider countryside and the weather. This particularly applies to Siskins, which rely on the seeds of Sitka Spruce. In years where there are a lot of seeds available, Siskins have less need to come into gardens in search of food, except when the weather is wet and the Sitka Spruce cones close up. Some years, such as 2012 and 2007, there have been notable influxes of the species.

So the lack of Siskins is probably due to a bumper crop of Sitka Spruce seeds, but with the recent drop in temperatures it is possible that the finch will return to gardens before the winter is out.

BTO Garden BirdWatch data show that Siskin numbers usually start to increase in gardens by the end of the year, as the amount of natural food diminishes and the weather worsens. However initial results suggest that at the end of 2014, Garden BirdWatch saw the lowest proportion of gardens reporting Siskins since the survey began in 1995. According to the Forestry Commission, 2014 looks like it was another good year for Sitka Spruce which, combined with a relatively mild and dry winter so far, could be why Siskins are missing from gardens this winter.

Clare Simm, from the BTO Garden BirdWatch team, commented: "It’s always exciting to see a Siskin in the garden, but this year fewer Garden BirdWatchers have had that treat than ever before in the survey. We wouldn’t know this without the help of the public, so if you spend a few minutes each week watching what the birds get up to in your garden, why not get involved? You can contact us for a free magazine and information pack on how to take part."

Will Siskins come back to gardens as the winter ends, or will the Sitka Spruce crop keep them away? Help the BTO find out by joining the BTO Garden BirdWatch and taking part.
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