12 February 2009
WHITE WINGED CROSSBILL INVASION
White winged crossbills are usually birds of the boreal forests of Canada. This year we have seen an unprecedented invasion of these birds here in Michigan, they have been spotted in virtually every county in the state. Crossbills have developed an unusual crossed bill which they use to extract the seeds of conifer trees which are their primary food. This crossed bill is used to spread the scales of the cone so that the bird can insert its sticky tongue and extract the seed inside. A single bird can eat as many as 3,000 conifer seeds every day. These gypsy like birds travel large distances as they follow the cone crop from place to place.
Here are some images I have been able to make of a flock of over 100 crossbills that I have been photographing feeding in a stand of tamarack near my home. A group of crossbills is also known as a warp of crossbills or a crookedness of crossbills. How’s that for a tidbit of information you will never use!
This next image is a close up of the bill of a crossbill this is actually a Red Crossbill a similar species.