Is This Bright Yellow Bird Really a Pine Siskin?

In August, I spent a lovely few hours watching the birds and animals and trying to identify the plants around Cameron Falls in Waterton National Park, Alberta.

Photo of Cameron Falls Waterton Park on naturalcrooksdotcom

The American Dippers were the most amusing as they hunted through the water. The Cedar Waxwings were the easiest to see as they often perched beside me on the handrails. An oddball collection of small birds kept me taking photos and trying to make sure I didn’t overlook any. They were landing to explore the rocky shelves and small rivulets at the one side of Cameron Falls. I particularly bright yellow bird was eye-catching and a bit puzzling.

Photo of Pine Siskin Green Morph Male Waterton on naturalcrooksdotcom

Can a Pine Siskin Have Lots of Vivid Yellow Feathers?

I’d seen small groups of “regular” Pine Siskins several times in Waterton, near the falls and in trees around the town. Like the Siskins I’d seen in Ontario, they were fairly plain birds with brown and white feathers and a little dash of yellow on the wing.

Photo of Pine Siskins 2 Cameron Falls on naturalcrooksdotcom
These are two of the “regular” Pine Siskins

Then a bird landed near me on the rock shelves that had quite a bit of yellow on it.

Photo of Pine Siskin Green Morph Back lightened on naturalcrooksdotcom

At first, I thought it would be warbler. When I looked at it, though, I could see its bill looked like a Siskin. So did its shape and its behaviour. Was this a regular Pine Siskin, or is there a different yellow type in the Rockies? I didn’t have a field guide with me, so I took as many photos as I could and hoped to id it later.

When I did check my books, I found no sign of a yellow siskin. An internet search, though, brought up an interesting article by Don and Lillian Stokes (of the Field Guides fame) about Pine Siskins that are brightly yellow.

What Is This Colour of Pine Siskin Called?

Photo of Pine Siskin Green Morph Male on naturalcrooksdotcom

To my amusement, this type of bird has a special name: It’s a Green Morph Pine Siskin. Green. Really? Who names these things?! According to the Stokes article, it’s the male Siskins who are this colour variation. These Siskins are yellow all over. According the article, even the undertail coverts are yellow, not white.

Photo of Pine Siskin Regular Waterton on naturalcrooksdotcom
Another “regular” Pine Siskin

The website quotes an estimate that only 1% of Pine Siskins are this colour variation. So I feel lucky that I was in the right place at the right time to see this one.

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Do Pine Siskins come to your feeder? Have you seen one of these “Green-morph” yellow ones? Please share your sighting with a comment.

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