Sunday's for the Birds: New One Added

Red crossbill (copyrightfreephotos)
Have you ever found a treasure when you weren't even looking? This is what it's like for birders who accidentally spot a bird they've never seen before. This week I added another bird to my life list! The red crossbill is not a rare species, it's just that our paths have never crossed, at least not to my knowledge. My husband and I were returning from a hike through the forest lands near our home when a flash of orange flitted by; first one and then another. A small flock gathered on a fence and swept down to drink from a puddle on the roadside. At first I thought it was a family house finches, but then I took another look. The bodies were too stocky and the coloring too rusty. Then I noticed the odd evolutionary trait that makes this bird so unique (yes, I was that close). The beak crosses at the tip, like a pair of damaged pinchers. This design allows the bird to effectively pry open conifer cones to get at the tightly embedded seeds. Traits to look for when searching for this small finch—they are often seen in flocks of 4 to 6. The males have orange/brown feathers and in the females, light yellow or green replaces the orange. They have deep-notched tails and a thick chiseled beak. Be sure and look for the telltale sign; the awkward cross of the mandibles.