Friday, January 18, 2013

Red Crossbills for the plucking

Photo: Chuck Slusarczyk

Red as a brick and plump as a sheep, a splendid male Red Crossbill, Loxia curvirostra, sits among the spiny orbs of Sweetgum fruit.

Chuck Slusarczyk of Cleveland sent along news and photos of Red Crossbills from Cleveland's West Park Cemetery. Chuck and Liz McQuaid discovered about a half-dozen of the x-beaks here on December 30th, 2012, and the boreal finches have been delighting scores of visitors ever since. A smattering of White-winged Crossbills, Loxia leucoptera, and Common Redpolls, Acanthis flammea, have also been seen.

Photo: Chuck Slusarczyk

A bit more somber than her male counterparts but no less interesting, a female Red Crossbill digs into the Sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua (lik-wid-am-bar sty-ras-ih-flu-ah. Whoa! Nine syllables on that one!). Crossbills, siskins and other finches seem to really go for the fruit of this tree. I find this choice of food interesting, and wonder if irruptive finches from the Great White North have always noshed on Sweetgum. The native range of this tree barely extends to the latitude of southern Ohio; everything north of there is the result of ornamental plantings. Regardless of whether these birds have always known of Sweetgum's charms, or if it is a recent culinary discovery makes no difference to the finch-seeking birder - just check those bristly balls of fruit for birds!

Chuck kindly included a link to a map to West Park Cemetery:

If it's crossbills you seek, give West Park a go. Congrats to Chuck and Liz for finding these birds, and special thanks to Chuck for generously sharing his photos with us.

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