SISKIN (Dan. sidsken, Ger. Zeisig and Zeising), long known in England as a cage-bird called by dealers the Aberdevine or Abadavine, names of unknown origin, [the Fringilla spinus of Linnaeus, and Carduelis spinus of modern writers, belongs to the Passerine family Fringillidae. In some of its structural characters it is most nearly allied to the goldfinch (q.v.), and both are placed in the same genus by systematists; but in its style of coloration, and still more in its habits; it resembles the redpolls (cf. LINNET), though without their slender figure, being indeed rather short and stout of build. Yet it hardly yields to them in activity or in the grace of its actions, as it seeks its food from the catkins of the alder or birch, regardless of the attitude it assumes while so doing. Of an olive-green above, deeply tinted in some parts with black and in others lightened by yellow, and beneath of a yellowish-white again marked with black, the male of this species has at least a becoming if not a brilliant garb, and possesses a song that is not unmelodious, though the resemblance of some of its notes to the running-down of a piece of clockwork is more remarkable than pleasing. The hen is still more soberly attired; but it is perhaps the siskin's disposition to familiarity that makes it so favourite a captive, and, 'though as a cage-bird it is not ordinarily long-lived, it readily adapts itself to -the loss of liberty. Moreover, if anything like the needful accommodation be afforded, it will build a nest and therein lay its eggs; but it rarely succeeds in bringing up its young in confinement. As a wild bird it breeds constantly, though locally, throughout the greater part of Scotland, and has frequently done so in England, but more rarely in Ireland. The greater portion, however, of the numerous bands which visit the British Islands in autumn and winter doubtless come from the Continent perhaps even from far to the eastward, since its range stretches across Asia to Japan, in which country it is as favourite a cage-bird as with us. The nest of the siskin is very like that of the goldfinch, but seldom so neatly built; the eggs, except in their smaller size, much resemble those of the greenfinch (q.v.).
A larger and more brightly coloured species, C. spinpides, inhabits the Himalayas, but the siskin has many other relatives belonging to the New World, and in them serious modifications of structure, especially in the form of the bill, occur. Some of these relatives lead almost insensibly to the greenfinch (ut supra) and its allies, others to the goldfinch (ut supra), the redpolls and so on. Thus the siskin perhaps may be regarded as one of the less modified descendants of a stock whence such forms as those just mentioned have sprung. Its striated plumage also favours this view, as an evidence of permanent immaturity or generalization of form, since striped feathers are so often the earliest clothing of many of these birds, which only get rid of them at their first moult. On this theory the yellowbird or NorthAmerican " goldfinch," C. tristis, would seem, with its immediate allies, to rank among the highest forms of the group, and the pinegoldfinch, C. pinus, of the same country', to be one of the lowest the cock of the former being generally of a bright yellow hue, with black crown, tail and wings the last conspicuously barred with white, while neither hens nor young exhibit any striations. On the other hand, neither sex of the latter at any age puts off its striped garb the mark, it may be pretty safely asserted, of an inferior stage of development. The remaining species of the group, mostly SouthAmerican, do not seem here to need particular notice. (A. N.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)