Notes, birds, nature, meanderings.

Musings about birds, nature, and our meanderings on the Central Oregon Coast

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Story of my Red Crossbills, Part 1

My story starts on May 5th of this year, a sunny Saturday on the Oregon coast.  I was propped in my recliner, browsing online, glancing occasionally out the window at the feeders on my deck...  Hmmm, actually, I guess my story starts there - with my "I wonder if I could put feeders on my deck" experiment....  But this is about the Red Crossbills, so I'll leave that story to another day.   

Anyway, looking out the window, I could see that somebody in the feeder looked different.  Amazed and afraid to move, I fired off an email to OBOL (Oregon birder's email list). 
"I just glanced out my window at my feeders that have been swarming with busy finches this morning and thought hmm, those finches look odd.  Wowie zowie, my first ever yard RED CROSSBILLS and my closest look at them ever.  I'm afraid to move to get my camera!

Two beautiful bright red males."
It was 11:13 am.  And the camera, thankfully, was on the couch next to my feet.  
Red Crossbill pair

One of the males moved and I saw there were two females as well.

Over the next several days they came every day.  Always in pairs, usually no more than 2 pairs at a time.  I found myself wondering -- are these the same birds? - are they just passing through? - where do they come from?

So I googled Red Crossbills and found out that they are not truly migratory, but widely nomadic.  Ok, that doesn't tell me much, but it's more than I had before...

Male Red Crossbill

In the meantime, spring was happening.  Grey whales with calves were passing by in the surf, the North American Migration Count was happening, a Brown-headed Cowbird female was trying to get into the house (she fell in love with my Philodendron).  I wasn't keeping good notes, but on May 16th I emailed OBOL:
"Have had a pair of RED CROSSBILLS at my feeder for 3 days in a row.  Also spotted two PINE SISKINS today."
More googling and more reading.  Hmmm, one article says Red Crossbills will come to feeders for sunflower seeds but not niger.  Really?  "My" Red Crossbills love niger!  Curious about how they could actually eat the niger from my thistle feeder, on May 27th I snapped a few more photos - and emailed OBOL:
"We continue to host a pair of Red Crossbills at our feeders - Friday the male was busy on the little thistle (niger) feeder -- I wondered how he was getting the seed out through the narrow mesh - the answer?  His tongue.
Female Red Crossbill eating niger seeds
Note that although my emails refer to "a pair", I actually had no idea how many birds there were at this point -- just that I was only seeing one pair at a time.  

On June 10th, one of the birding experts on the North Coast posted information about unusually heavy movements of Red Crossbills on the coast.  In his discussion, he mentioned that they appeared to be a different "Type" than the ones we usually get here, "Type-4" rather than "Type-3". I responded:
"This is really interesting.  The Red Crossbills continue daily at my feeders, sometimes 8-10, other times just one pair.  They almost always appear in pairs.  Most of them are brilliantly red, the females just as brilliantly gold.  They are not at all shy - the other birds scatter when I step onto the deck but the Crossbills only leave if I approach the feeders, and even then only when I'm within 6' or so.

"I didn't realize it was unusual - I'll be less complacent about their presence!  Thanks!"
So I got better about paying attention to their presence - I really wanted to know more about these beautiful birds.

How many are there here?  Will they stay?  Continued in part 2...

No comments:

Post a Comment