At least as far as the males are concerned.
When I first saw this bird, I was struck by the shape of the bill. Was this bird’s bill defective?
Then I remembered that I had heard of some kind of a bird called a “crossbill.” Could this be one?
Yes, it could.
And, not only was the bill not defective, it gave the Red Crossbill an advantage over other finch-type birds. By inserting a partially opened beak into the plates between a pine cone and then closing its beak, the Red Crossbill is able to force the plates open. Using its bill and tongue, the Crossbill can then gain the seed.
Fun Fact: Due to the unique nature of their bill, the Red Crossbill can breed at any time of the year. All they need is an abundant supply of pine cones.
And speaking of breeding, the female Red Crossbill is a yellow bird with the same criss-cross bill.
There are a variety of Red Crossbills, some of which are differentiated by their bill size which corresponds to the type of conifer they prefer. These “types” also have different flight calls, which can allow a better birder than I to distinguish between them.
Special thanks to Sharon G. for her research on Red Crossbills!
Interesting and very cool! I have yet to see my first crossbill.
We ran into a woman a couple days ago who told us of a place to find Crossbills in San Mateo County. We’ll have to check it out.