That’s a Pine Siskin, photographed in West Seattle by Mark Wangerin in December 2019. At the time, he told WSB that they seemed to be showing up in larger numbers. That’s happening again this year, and it’s led to a health problem that has at least one wildlife-advocacy organization suggesting you temporarily take down your feeder(s) to save birds’ lives. Geoff M. emailed us to point out this alert on the PAWS website, which says in part:
We are currently witnessing one of the biggest reported irruption years of Pine Siskins in the United States. Irruptions are sudden, dramatic increases in the abundance of an animal, in this case caused by conifer cone shortages in northern North America. The large flocks we are seeing all over western Washington are incredible to witness. However, this event has caused pine siskins to gather in even larger numbers around bird feeders, which can increase the spread of Salmonella, a potentially fatal bacterium. PAWS has admitted 68 Pine Siskins in the last 60 days and the admissions staff are fielding multiple calls daily about sick siskins.
Usually, we recommend removing feeders for a few weeks when a sick bird is found nearby and cleaning the area thoroughly. However, the flocks are so large and cases so frequent right now, we recommend removing your feeders even before you detect a sick bird until the irruptive migrants move on. Learn more about how to combat salmonellosis here and check out our website for general recommendations about bird health in your yard.
Geoff says, “This is affecting West Seattle, and in the past few days we’ve noticed a few dozen sick and four dead siskins and have since taken down our feeders for the time being.”