Rare visitor to the feeders

White-winged Crossbills

White-winged Crossbills visit the feeder.

I couldn’t believe it when I saw 3 unfamiliar birds mixed in with the usual feeder birds.

There were 3 White-winged Crossbills visiting the platform feeder along with the Redpolls and Pine Grosbeak.

White-winged Crossbill

White-winged Crossbill

They look very similar to a Pine Grosbeak, but they’re about 2/3 the size.

White-winged Crossbill

White-winged Crossbill

The White-winged Crossbill is much more colorful than their cousin, the Red Crossbill.

Red Crossbills are more of a brick red color – the White-winged is the same red color as a Pine Grosbeak. All these birds are of the Finch family and they mostly eat seeds year round.

White-winged Crossbill, male

White-winged Crossbill, male

Both species of Crossbill are unique in that the upper and lower mandibles of their beak actually cross, as you can see in this photo. This adaptation makes extracting seeds out of cones easier.

Crossbill, white-winged

Crossbill, white-winged

In fact, I’ve read, that some Crossbills’ beaks cross from right to left, while others’ cross left to right. Some are left-handed and use their left foot to hold the cone and aid them in their extraction, whereas some would be deemed right-handed as their bill crosses the opposite way and they use their right foot to hold the cone.

White-winged Crossbill, female

White-winged Crossbill, female

The female is an interesting color, kind of a rusty red and very streaky.

White-wing Crossbill, female

White-wing Crossbill, female

 Both sexes have the broad white wing bars and white tips on the tertial feathers.

white tertial tips

white tertial tips

The White-winged Crossbill at the back of this photo who has his back to the camera shows the white tertial tips. They look, to me, like buttons on a vest.

 

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