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Red Crossbill (LIFER)

Red Crossbills feeding on salt in the road.
3 Red Crossbill’s in the road.

Today while driving along the roads near Quaker Lake (Allegany State Park) . . . . I saw a some larger birds feeding on the salt in the road. I slowed the vehicle down and needed to take a closer look at these guys. I realized they were crossbill’s and quickly grabbed my binoculars (which I luckily had in the truck) to discover they were Red Crossbill’s (CHECK) 45 species for 2013. This wasn’t any ordinary check this was a LIFER CHECK!!!

Red Crossbills feeding on salt in the road.
2 Red Crossbills in the road.

Typically whenever I find crossbill’s they are White-winged Crossbill. Many others have told me the Red’s are more common . . . however all my years birding and this was the first time I have had a chance to see the species. Took a few photo’s with my cell phone (you can see above) and moved closer for a better picture. Unfortunately down the road from these guys their was a dead one laying their after being clipped by a vehicle.

Female Red Crossbill "bills"
Up close look at the Red Crossbill’s Bill

I took the opportunity for a closer look at this bird and explored its interesting bill design. The Red Crossbill’s main food source are the seeds found in pine cones. This unique bill allows it to pinch open the seeds hidden in the pine cones and use its bill to easily remove the seed. They are a nomadic species who will wander North America looking for a good cone crop area. Back in 1997 I found a White Winged Crossbill during the month of June near Bear Springs and it is very possible to find these Red Crossbill’s breeding here this year.

Female Red Crossbill "bills"
Front view of the Red Crossbill’s Bill

So, keep your eyes out for the Red or White-winged Crossbill . . . . I have seen both species already this year!!

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