Monday, April 12, 2010

Something different

This interesting fellow showed up today .

(click on photos to enlarge)
Eurasian Siskin (left) and Pine Siskin (right)

It took a few minutes and a few field guides to sort him out. Very few Eurasian Siskins have been reported from around the western Great Lakes in the last decade. A quick on-line search turned up these:
  • May 5, 2004 - Whitefish Point, Michigan
  • Apr 14, 2005 - Bay Co., Michigan
  • May 10, 2005 - Red Lake, Ontario
  • Jan 10, 2006 - Iron, Wisconsin.
I didn't come upon any EUSI reports for Minnesota.

Julie Craves has documented a "rash" (HT to Darrin) of Old World "cage birds" - European Goldfinch, Chaffinch, European Greenfinch & Great Tit - sightings in our region. These observations increased markedly after 2002 when, it's been alleged,  an importer of cage birds released his stock from a facility north of Chicago. That's only 730 km south of here and thus a very plausible origin for this and other European finches sighted along the north shore of Lake Superior. It may surprise some to learn that feral populations of European Goldfinch and Great Tit are now nesting in Illinois and Wisconsin.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Some other Old World finch sightings from the north shore

Last month (March 24, 2010) Ron Lacey photographed this European Goldfinch (south Asian form) at his feeder in Murillo (west of Thunder Bay).
Courtesy of Ron Lacey.

A year ago (April 15, 2009), K. Drake photographed a European Goldfinch at his feeder here in Marathon.
European Goldfinch in Marathon. Photo courtesy of K. Drake.

Courtesy of Bill Climie, here's a Chaffinch photographed on May 4, 2004 at Silver Islet, on the Sibley Peninsula, east of Thunder Bay.
Chaffinch at Silver Islet. Photo by Bill Climie.

A second Chaffinch was seen on May 4, 2009 (five years later, to the day) at the nearby Thunder Cape Bird Observatory.
Photo by James Barber.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Request for sightings of other Old World songbirds

If you know of other occurrences in northwest Ontario of European Goldfinch, Brambling, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Great Tit, Eurasian Siskin or other Old World songbirds, please contact us through the "comments" button below.

Related Resources:
  • Craves, J. A. 2008. Current status of European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) in the western Great Lakes region. North American Birds 62:2-5. (PDF)
  • McLaren, I. A., J. Morlan, P. W. Smith, M. Gosselin, and S. F. Bailey. 1989. Eurasian Siskins in North America - distinguishing females from green morph Pine Siskins. American Birds 43:1268-1274. (PDF)

  • Thanks to K. Drake and Ron Lacey for permission to use their EUGO photos. Visit Ron's photography site here. Thanks also to Bill Climie and James Barber for the use of their Chaffinch photos.


  1. Thanks for posting these cool photos and the link to my site.

    I actually believe that the Chicago-area releases are not related to the bundle of European-origin birds that are reported from Thunder Bay and the UP of Michigan. The dispersal pattern from Chicago is pretty distinct; in general slowly along the Lake Michigan shoreline (but almost exclusively on the west side), and some points north or west. They have not moved much south or east, and seem loathe to cross the water.

    For the numbers of reports I have gotten from your area, I would expect more reports from "in between" and more dispersal in Ontario. I believe there was some sort of separate release in Ontario. I guess it's time to start compiling those reports, send out a request for more, and write it up for Ontario Birds.

    Feel free to drop me a line with sightings of any European bird species, with date, location (lat-long especially appreciated): jac.rrbo AT gmail DOT com.

  2. Whitefish Point has had a number of these birds over the last 10 years inlcuding the Siskin you mentioned. Chaffinch has been regular with several every year including 5 at one time a couple of years ago. They are almost certainly breeding somewhere. The Whitefish Point birds are usually seen for a couple weeks in the spring suggesting they are ''migrants". They have had Linnets and Euro Goldfinches as well. Lots of other sightings of these birds in the UP of Michigan including a Blackbird and I think a European Jay.There are some websites documenting many of these birds. The "Chicago Theory" for the orgin of these birds seems pretty well accepted by Michigan birder's. They had a Chffinch in Quebec last year that may well have been from this feral population. We have had several Euro Goldfinches in the Sault Area outside of Whitefish Point as well. Kirk Zufelt

  3. Thanks for spreading info on origins and breeding of European passerines in Ontario. More will likely show up. Nice website too.
    Paul Mackenzie, Kingston

  4. They are more species of finches and Europe, than in America and there are more species of buntings in America than in Europe.
    Sp, some European finches can be introduced to North America without harming native birds and some American buntings to Europe.
    Chaffinch have no analogue in America, so can establish and wouldn't pose threat.
    European goldfinch is analogue of American, but previous unsuccessful introduction show that American goldfinch will win compettition and European will be rare and not widespread even if establish.