Thursday, December 4, 2008

On the trail of the elusive White-winged Crossbill

This morning, I headed out in search of White-winged Crossbills. 
I figured it would be easy. 
I was wrong. 

Finding Crossbills in their winter range is as easy as trying to find a needle in a haystack. They are nomadic and never stay in one place for very long.  They normally don't come any farther south than Ashland but this year, the seed cone crops in Canada failed. Particularly those of the Spruce family. 
Crossbills are pine cone specialists.  White-winged Crossbills are Spruce cone specialists. 
The result of these two factors added together, is widely wandering White-winged Crossbills. 
So far this year, they have been seen as far south as Chicago, New York and southern Oregon. 

Back to this morning. 
I headed north, thinking that the Kickapoo Reserve would have the highest concentrations of Spruce.  It does. It just didn't have any concentrations of Crossbills. In fact, it didn't have any Crossbills at all.  I'll find them someday...... 

On the way up, there were many flocks of Snow Buntings alongside the road. I also spotted 12 Horned Larks mixed in with them.  Since my mission was finding Crossbills, I didn't stop to check for Longspurs. 
After searching every spruce stand between here and the interstate, I gave up and headed home.  My list for the day might have been short on Crossbills but I sure wasn't short on raptors. I saw at least 15 Red-tailed Hawks, 3 American Kestrels and 1 adult Bald Eagle. 
Otherwise all I saw the entire morning were the usual winter residents. 

Watch out Crossbills! I'll find you eventually! 

Happy Birding!


Tucker L said...
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Tucker L said...

They aren't just nomadic in the winter. There's no saying where they will be in the summer either. I heard my lifer White-winged Crossbill in Minnesota (Itasca SP this summer. I read that there were more in Minnesota this past breeding season than usual. Their nomadic tendency is what makes looking for them so much more exciting (and frustrating).

Parus said...

Quite right Tucker. That's why I missed them in Canada over the summer. Hopefully I'll find some before the end of the year.

There were indeed more of them in MN this year than in past years. Probably has something to do with the seed cone crop as well.

Squid said...

You should come to WPBO in the spring/late fall - hundreds of crossbills, siskins, redpolls, grosbeaks, waxwings...all your winter finch needs are covered :P.