Sunday, March 29, 2009

Soaking Wet Bird

Unlike other birds, he sat and sat in the rain. Other birds came and went, snatching some seeds and flying off into the trees. Despite the fact that there is no bubble over this birdfeeder, the bird sat even though he was soaking wet.

He was hard to identify because he was so wet. We have only a few red birds in Western North Carolina, so we thought he must be a Scarlet Tanager. That is not a common bird around here, but not unheard of. (Please advise if you think it's something else.)
LATE ENTRY: Science Guy, Lynne, and Robin have identified this as a Red Crossbill! I hadn't even considered that since we are SO far out of its range. Wow! Thanks, blogger buddies.

I thought this photograph showed him cracking a seed. Looking at other pictures, I'm not so sure.

The bird returned after it stopped raining. He was finally dry but still spending a very long time at the feeder. I feared he might be sick, but he appeared to be eating and not simply hanging around.

Finally, I saw the problem. Look at his crossed bill. The bird apparently was having great difficulty eating because of his bill abnormality.
I think all of us have a soft spot in our hearts for birds with any imperfections that might interfere with their lives. We put out some already cracked sunflower seeds for him. I think he will be all right, since he looks otherwise very healthy and I suspect he was born with this deformity. I hope he makes it.
Late entry: I don't think he will have any trouble at all, now that I know he is really a Red Crossbill. What a pleasant surprise!


Anonymous said...

Wow, one might on first glance think he was a crossbill. I hope he makes it too.

Lynne said...

I think you DO have a Red Crossbill! Check out your field guides and some on-line photos. If it is a Red Crossbill you should report it. It has been an irruptive winter for Crossbills.

from Peterson, 5th Edition, page 284:

Size of a House Sparrow but bulkier. Large head and short tail. Male dull red, brighter on rump, wings and tail blackish.

Even around the face it looks like the photo in Peterson.

robin andrea said...

I have photographed Red Crossbills in Washington, and that's what your bird looks like to me.

Kathleen said...

He is a beauty! Please keep us updated on what happens with this special guy.

GoldenSamantha said...

Those are amazing, fabulous pictures! What a gorgeous bird! Wish I knew more about them. I don't know if you are into such things, but another blogger passed an award on to me and on my blog, I've passed it on to you. I already love your stories and couldn't help myself!
In Samantha's stead,
Fondly, Miche

EcoRover said...

Nice pics of a soggy critter. We've had some forlorn looking bluebirds perched on fenceposts amid the snow drifts--they're not too happy with this late spring.

Kallen305 said...

FANTASTIC pictures of such a lovely bird! Congrats on getting it to your feeder

Cheryl said...

I was so relieved to hear the bird was a crossbill.....he looked so wet and unhappy.......

It cheers my heart, when you tell of how you look after your birds......I feel exactly the same.......

Cheri said...

What a neat bird find. You sound like me caring for the birds. I had a goldfinch that couldn't fly and it was not a baby. It was wet from all the rain and no place to go. I caught it and took it to a wildlife rehab center.

KatDoc said...

Late entry, but yes you do have a Red Crossbill! Very, very cool! I suspect it was staying at the feeder despite the rain because it needs the energy for migration.

FYI, it would be really, really weird to see a tanager (an insectivore) eating seeds.

~Kathi, jealous down to my socks

Ruth said...

We had many White-winged Crossbills this winter, but like Lynne said, it was an irruptive winter and we may not see them again for quite a while. Very few Red Crossbills were seen around here though. You got some great pictures.

Cedar ... said...

The only time crossbills showed up at my feeders was during our ice storm back in 1998. Guess they like bad weather! I had never seen them before and haven't seen them since. A birder who is in the know said they are usually found in the mountains not here in the valley.

Shellmo said...

Beautiful red crossbill! How exciting to see one!! Guess he's a hearty one too to sit out in that rain!

Bird Girl said... exciting!!! YOu lucky duck! I've never seen one and I would love to!

Here are some 'cool facts' from the Cornell site about the beak and the breeding - wow - I'm amazed!

# The Red Crossbill is so dependent upon conifer seeds it even feeds them to its young. Consequently, it can breed any time it finds a sufficiently large cone crop, even in the depths of winter.

# Because this species can breed throughout most of the year, its molts and plumages vary more than those of other North American passerines. Juveniles hatched during summer molt only between late summer and late autumn (at the same time adults molt). Many (but not all) juveniles hatched earlier (from late winter and early spring) begin to molt 100-110 days after hatching and then again during the main molt period in the summer.

# A crossbill's odd bill shape helps it get into tightly closed cones. A bird's biting muscles are stronger than the muscles used to open the bill, so the Red Crossbill places the tips of its slightly open bill under a cone scale and bites down. The crossed tips of the bill push the scale up, exposing the seed inside.

# The Red Crossbill shows a great deal of variation in bill shape and voice, and it may in fact be composed of several different species. Eight different flight call types have been described north of Mexico, and birds giving each type have slightly differently shaped bills and prefer to feed on different tree species with differently sized cones.

Tina said...

Wow, how wonderful that you captured a crossbill at your feeder!!!
I have been hoping to see one all winter as they are around here, but I haven't had that kind of luck!!
So glad you got to get his pic!!
You lucky girl!! ;-)

troutbirder said...

I saw my first white winged crossbills here as well. The bill is definitely strange but needed to them to pry the seeds out of the pine cones. How exciting for you!!!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi There, We're home from our trip to Serenity Falls. I'll post pictures tomorrow morning. It was a WONDERFUL place.

Can't believe you saw a Red Crossbill.. I saw a 'different' red bird late this afternoon near our feeders --that I didn't recognize. Didn't get a picture. SO--don't know what I saw.

The Springer is gorgeous-- and special to me since I had a Cocker for 15 yrs. Of course though, your Goldens are the most special.

Glad you had a great visit.

fishing guy said...

Carolyn: What a neat photo of the bright bird. The rain really brought out the color.

Jayne said...

WOW Carolyn! How cool to have a crossbill visit! Lucky, lucky you!

As an aside, odd though it may be, I have a Summer Tanager who comes to my cup feeder and eats sunflower hearts.

Bhavesh Chhatbar said...

That's so cute!

Red Hair Fellow

Dog_geek said...

How cool to have a crossbill at your feeders! I have never seen one here. It must be a nice surprise for you to find out that you had an unusual visitor rather than a deformed bird!

NCmountainwoman said...

Thanks everyone, especially Sciency Guy, Lynne, and Robin for setting me on the right track.

Bird Girl and Kathi - Thanks for the interesting information.

I called a local birding expert who was convinced that I was seeing a Purple Finch with a beak deformity. When I sent her a picture, her attitude immediately changed and she became quite excited to find we really had a Red Crossbill. I would never have sent the picture except for you blogger buddies.

Nick S said...

Wow look at him. Lucky you ! :-)

Mel said...

Awesome visitor!!
I haven't seen a Crossbill, not YET anyway.
Hugs from Peru,

George said...

You got some great pictures of this crossbill. I also hope that he makes it.