Most of the crossbills headed for parts unknown, but two males and two females stayed around. The local birders were excited with their presence since they were on the lookout for proof of a breeding pair of Red Crossbills in our area. We kept watching the crossbills to see how interested they were in one another. The male and female always came to the feeder at the same time. Good sign. When the female flew away the male always followed. Another good sign. We actually saw the male feeding the female. A REALLY good sign.
And on May 13, 2009 we saw proof positive that we indeed had a nesting pair of Red Crossbills. They brought two fledglings to our feeders.
Introducing Baby #1
And Baby #2
Baby #2 flew to the feeders since Mom had breakfast all ready.
Mom called down for Baby #1 to join the family meal.
Baby #1 refused to budge from the deck railing and looked at the rest of the family. The little bird simply didn't feel up to the short flight and landing on the feeder.
After a few minutes, Dad came to the rescue and flew down to feed little Baby #1.
The fledglings are very different from the parents. Their bills are sharply hooked, but not quite crossed. I would never have recognized them as Red Crossbills, but the behavior left no doubt.
I sent these photographs to our local birding expert who was even more excited than we were. She sent the photographs to a friend on the state records committee who sent them to the chair of the committee.
Red Crossbills are most commonly found in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest, and Canada. They have been reported in the very highest elevations in the mountains of North Carolina and while it is assumed they are nesting, there are few definitive reports. The committee requested the elevation at our house.
I searched the Internet and the information from our community. I found the highest and lowest elevation in the community and began to estimate our altitude. I ran the answer by my husband who immediately asked, "Why not just take the GPS outside and check the altimeter?" Doh!!! (Don't you just HATE that dumb feeling? Especially in front of your husband?)
It's official. The maximum elevation on our property is 2,943 feet, lower than the lowest ever recorded for crossbill nesting in North Carolina. With an article in the local bi-weekly newspaper about our findings, we have our 15 minutes of fame in this little town. We keep watching the other pair. Wouldn't it be a hoot if they are nesting here as well?