Bird identification: red crossbill

Self-tutoring about birds: the tutor gives commentary.

Yesterday I spent about five hours in the yard, catching up on chores. Early on, I heard a flushing sound, but couldn’t place it. Yet, it was energetic: I wondered why I could hear it, but not see its cause.

There is a Douglas fir in the yard that’s 60 or more feet tall. Many birds visit it, but easily stay out of sight among its intricate branches. After awhile, I noticed movement in the branches, though couldn’t see what caused it. Now and again I’d look up and eventually did see birds fluttering in the needles.

The birds were around sparrow sized but maybe leaner than a sparrow might be. They were always in shadow, under the tree’s canopy, while the sky itself was bright, so I couldn’t tell their colour. Yet, I managed to observe one quite closely.

The birds were attacking the Douglas fir’s cones. One would hang upside down, peck around a cone, then move to another. They did so for hours – of course, the tree is huge, and prosperous. Cones fell as the birds worked.

I’ve never beheld such activity. The birds’ insistence was impressive: one even made eye contact with me while it pecked a low cone. It obviously surmised nothing to fear from a stiff yard labourer trying to wrap up chores in the late-Saturday-afternoon sun.

I’ve read perhaps the birds were red crossbills. I did catch some orange tinge on one high up, even in the shade; the one I saw close-up must have been female, being greenish-yellow. They did emit chirps similar to some I’ve heard online.

Yard chores are great for encountering birds. With how common the red crossbill is meant to be here, I’m surprised I’ve not seen one before. Evidently, even much of one’s everyday world might await discovery….


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

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