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Red Crossbill - Completing the Experience

Published August 14, 2015
Tags: Life List Happenings, Red Crossbill, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yesterday, I finally had the full experience I had been hoping for regarding a Red Crossbill.  Celeste and I were out doing some county birding across central New York and were both able to add at least two counties to our NYS county lists.  We saw respectable numbers of species in each of these counties plus, we came upon a beautiful, adult, singing, male Red Crossbill in the process!

The crossbill announced himself with a "jip, jip, jip!" as he flew over the road we were birding along.  Celeste's skilled ears picked-up his call and it didn't take us too long to find him a little further back up the road perched atop of a tall conifer. He began singing a more complex song once on his perch, usually ending his sing-songy phrases with the "jip, jip, jip" crossbills are known for.

There are two crossbills that we might see in North America: the Red Crossbill and the White-winged Crossbill.  Members of the finch family, both species are nomadic or irruptive, and travel to wherever they might find good pine cone crops.  So, it wasn't unusual to find this bird perched at the top of a conifer.  If you look closely at the photos below, you'll notice that a few of the photos show how crossbills get their name. Note how his bill crosses at each tip, giving him a tool that works very well for extracting seeds from pine cones.

American Red Crossbills are further categorized by "types", of which there are currently ten.  Types are determined by subtle differences in size, bill size, and calls.  We recorded the call of our crossbill, but he didn't give us a flight call nor an excited call while we were observing and recording him, a requirement for determining his type.  Because of his location, we're assuming he's a Type 1, but that's only a guess.

Prior to yesterday, I had only heard a quick call of a Red Crossbill along with a very brief flutter of its wings as it flew away.  Today expanded my experience with this species, giving some really nice observation time for both sight, behavior, and its song.  Celeste and I were quite thrilled to have come upon him.
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Male Red Crossbill
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Red Crossbill
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Red Crossbill
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Red Crossbill
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Red Crossbill - you can really see the crossed bill in this photo.
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Red Crossbill
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Red Crossbill
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Young Yellow-bellied Sapsucker seen during the day