Hail, Hail the Gang’s All Here….Pine Siskins………by Jan Runyan

Raft of Ducks

Band of Jays

Vein, Treasury or Charm of Goldfinches (truly)

Exaltation of Larks

Murmuration of Starlings

Parliament of Owls (political commentary?)

Congress of Ravens (more political commentary?)

Siege of Herons

Ballet of Swans

Banditry of Chickadees

Herd of Wrens (really?)

Descent of Woodpeckers

Slurp of Sapsuckers

Asylum of Loons (yes, really)

Many kinds of birds have a special word to designate their flock, often a word that is appropriate in a subtle (or not so subtle) way. But for the species of bird Bill and I almost always see in flocks, there appears to be no group name. That’s a shame because on our property Pine Siskins are the ultimate flocking birds. There is never just one. If we think we only see one it’s just because we haven’t checked the bushes or trees nearby.

Pine Siskin (Carduelis pinus) (c) Bill Beatty

Siskins have been especially prevalent this late fall and early winter. We hear their rising “eeeeeeep” and chatters in the tops of the spruces along the driveway. We see the flock occupying every small perch in the top of the Black Locust. We futilely try to count the number of tiny black dots as they zip across the open sky. The count sometimes reaches two or three dozen before they are out of sight.

Pine Siskin’s yellow wing patch (c) Bill Beatty

Pine Siskin’s yellow tail flash (c) Bill Beatty

 

 

 

 

 

But we see the flocking compulsion most when we have the bird banding nets open. Just as they do everything else, Pine Siskins feed together. At times they almost cover our sunflower feeders. And they don’t seem to be net wary at all. So as the flock flies in to feed, many bounce off the nets and a few get caught. After a few moments in a tree or bush, the rest of the flock returns.

Pine Siskin in net (c) Bill Beatty

Some of the birds eat, but others just perch near their netted brothers and sisters. “I’m here for you,” the free birds seem to say. Some balance on the top string of the net. Others alight on the strings which run the length of the net forming the pockets. A few even grab hold of the netting near a captured friend and just hang there. Sometimes the net sitters will fly over to feed and then return again to sit watch near their buddies.

As the free Pine Siskins remain near the flock members who can’t fly away, it is inevitable that little by little more of the birds hit the net and fall into the pockets. So we also rarely band just one siskin. Sometimes the nets have more than a dozen at one time.

Pine Siskins in mist net (c) Bill Beatty

If you are a Pine Siskin, it’s a group thing. Fly together, perch together, eat together, watch over each other, get banded together! Like the three Musketeers, it’s one for all and all for one!

So for loyalty above and beyond just the usual hanging out near each other, I think Pine Siskins deserve to have a special name for their flocks. I have searched the thesaurus extensively to find the word that truly conveys the level of closeness and concern evidenced by these birds. A word that goes beyond “acquaintance”, “familiarity” or “relationship”.  I would like to make two suggestions for consideration by those who are fascinated with birds and who would like to see Pine Siskins get their own appropriate group name:

a Friendship of Pine Siskins                             an Alliance of Pine Siskins

What do you think?

 

 

2 thoughts on “Hail, Hail the Gang’s All Here….Pine Siskins………by Jan Runyan

  1. Great post thank you! We love our lil’ Siskins which return to our feeder each winter, and we miss them when they’re gone. But based on the aggressive nature of the males who attack even their own while hanging upside down on our Nyjer seed feeder, I’d have to say you got it right with the title of this post. A “gang of Siskins”. 😉 I know the term is already used for Crows but it seems appropriate for Siskins as well despite their awesome beauty.

    Here’s another descriptive term to add to your list; A Wake and a Volt of Turkey Vultures. A group of vultures is called a wake, committee, venue, kettle, or volt. The term kettle refers to vultures in flight, while committee, volt, and venue refer to vultures resting in trees or on the ground. Wake is reserved for a group of vultures that are feeding. But I’ll bet you already knew this. Thanks again for a great and informative post!

    Like

    • Thanks for your great comment. The names for groups of birds fascinate me, too. It was hard to pare down the list to begin the article. The fact that different words refer to birds doing different things (kettle, committee, wake) shows how much our ancestors watched Nature and were aware of the different behaviors. I aspire to be that aware of Nature. We are still enjoying our Siskins although they disappeared for a couple days right after the snowstorm (we only got 8 inches). We counted 24 this morning….best guess. Although ours do fly in and displace others at the feeders, there’s nothing I would call “aggressive” here. Looks a lot like the behaviors of all the other birds. I wonder if that’s because of latitude…our closest city is Wheeling, WV; Interstate 70. Our siskins seem to prefer the black-oil sunflower seed, but will eat the Nyger seed, too.

      Liked by 1 person

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