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Friday, March 11, 2011

White-winged Crossbills at our feeder!

White-winged Crossbill, adult male, eating hulled sunflower seeds at our feeder

White-winged Crossbills, 1st yr. male, left, adult male, right

White-winged Crossbill, adult male

White-winged Crossbill, adult male

White-winged Crossbill, 1st yr. male

On this cold, rainy, dreary morning we had a nice surprise, White-winged Crossbills at the feeder! Wow, made our day! We have never had that before. These northern birds are rarely seen here, let alone seen at feeders. White-winged Crossbills are large finches who mainly live in Canada, AK, and northern areas of the northeast quadrant of this country. In winter they can come down into the U.S. in search of food. They use their amazingly bill, which is crossed at the tip, to pry open conifer cones and extract the seeds. We were making it easy for them, as we had hulled sunflower in the feeders, no shell to remove.

It's fun to age and sex the birds at your feeder and our new field guide will help you. The top photos are of an adult male who has "Two broad well-defined white wingbars; white tips to tertials (lacking on Red Crossbill). M. head, rump and most of underparts pinkish red; back all black to mostly red; rear flanks paler and strongly to indistinctly streaked darker. F. variably faintly greenish, (sometimes yellowish) on crown, back, rump and breast: otherwise, grayish-brown upperparts and pale underparts darkly streaked with brown. 1st Yr: M. mixed brown with pinkish red or orangish yellow; f. brownish or faintly greenish." (The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America, page 749).


Jenny said...

Love these guys!

We had several frequent our giant pines in our yard several years ago, in Idaho Falls, ID. Always exciting to see them!

Ruth Hiebert said...

Beautiful.My husband had one of these land on his head last summer.They were around for a while and the disappeared.Haven't seen them since. :(

Unknown said...

Congratulations! What an exciting bird to have at your feeders. I got see several of them at a cemetery in Idaho a couple years ago on a freezing cold morning. I wonder when I'll see them again?

Kerri Farley said...

Really beautiful birds!!

Larry Master said...

I've only seen them three times at feeders over 45+ years of birding, but two of those times were in the past week here in Lake Placid (NY). Some images are posted at

pbetts in vermont said...

We had a pair of these today at our feeder in St. Albans, VT. It took awhile to identify them, but the beak and colors pointed me to a crossbill. Your site narrowed it down exactly with the excellent photos! Great to know how unusual a siting it was!

pbetts in vermont said...

How exciting to know how unusual our siting was today! We had a pair at our feeders this morning here in northern Vermont. I have never seen them before and it took a while to identify them. Your great photos really helped.