Sunday, February 28, 2016

Monsters at the Feeders

I'm a bit late with this post, but the subjects are still hanging around the house, so I don't feel too bad about the delay. In late January, we started getting visits at our window feeders from some new and unexpected creatures. Who's that hulking behind the little Pine Siskin?

Red Crossbill!

I had seen crossbills in the area already, so I knew they were around, but I had no idea they would come to feeders. Crossbill beaks are specialized for extracting pine seeds -- and the last time I saw crossbills fairly up close, during an irruption year back in Connecticut, that's what they were doing -- but I guess they must like sunflower seeds as well! I was actually away when the crossbills first showed up at our feeders, and Paul started sending me pictures asking about the identity of these new "monsters." I was super surprised, and happy that they decided to stick around so I could see them for myself. Monsters indeed!

Red Crossbills are now regular visitors at our feeders along with their finchy fellows the House Finches and Pine Siskins, and we've gotten the whole range of colors -- red males, orange males, and yellow females, sometimes all in the same feeder at once (ah, we really do need to clean these windows):

Most recently, deep red males have been showing up together in pairs; I don't know for sure that it's the same pair every time, but I regularly find myself announcing that "the boys are back":

I absolutely love the colors on these guys:

And I'd never noticed this wonderful iridescence before (also, look, crossbill tongue):

Also baffling is the fact that some crossbill beaks cross over on the right and others on the left:

And so I'll add yet another astonishing Northern California experience to the list. Such weird and awesome birds!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, what color! I didn't notice the iridescence at first, so thanks for pointing it out. Wish we had these guys.