A few days ago, I was outside letting the dog out about 5:50 a.m. and interrupted a strange little bird in the birdbath. Startled, he flew away, but soon he returned and brought his lady friend. I thought they were pine grosbeaks at first, but the markings didn’t check out when I looked them up in the bird book. They were red crossbills. The males are red and the females are a slate gray with muted yellow tones.
The next day I was up early again. I got the hose to refill the birdbath and while I had the water running, the red crossbill sat on the railing of the front porch and didn’t mind me at all. The sound of water spraying must seem like rain to the birds. I stood quite still. At the feeder was a second pair of crossbills. And on the ground under the feeder were four more, a little bit smaller than the others, making me think this was a family or maybe two.
I wish I had a better camera but with careful sneaking up and the mini-zoom on full strength, this is the best I could do. If you click on the picture it will be bigger but not clearer. I’ve just discovered that if you click to enlarge the photo, and then click again to magnify the bird, you’ll be able to see his crossed bill and his clumsy feet.
Crossbills are not rare here but they are much less common than the usual chickadees, nuthatches, towhees, and robins. As the name suggests they have a distinctive crossed bill and their feet are much like a parrot’s giving them a clown-like walk.
I’ve lived in this house for 21 years and have never seen a crossbill here, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to see a group of eight of them. I’m trying to figure out a way to hold the hose in one hand with the nozzle spraying gently, and the camera in the other hand, zooming, zooming, zooming in on their crossed bills and awkward feet. When I get it sorted out I’ll post that perfect photo on here. Meanwhile, don’t hold your breath. It could take a while.