|Photo by John Harrison at http://flickr.com/photos/15512543@N04/|
You may first notice the presence of a foraging group of White-wings when a shower of conifer cones and crackling chatter comes from high up in a spruce tree. Their name crossbill comes from their uniquely designed upper and lower crossed bills. The bill arrangement is adapted for prying open conifer cones in a quick and efficient manner.
The White-winged Crossbills are a medium sized finch. The male is pinkish red all over with two bold white wing bars on a black wing. The female has the dark wings with the white bars too, but her body is a dusky yellow and streaky brown.
Some more interesting facts about White-winged Crossbills
- Individual White-winged Crossbills can eat up to 3,000 conifer seeds each day.
- The species has been recorded breeding in all 12 months whenever food is sufficient for the female to form eggs and raise young.
- White-winged Crossbills with lower mandibles crossing to the right are approximately three times more common than those with lower mandibles crossing to the left.
- Adult White-winged Crossbills molt their feathers once each year, usually in the autumn. The red feathers of the male have unpigmented barbules on the surface that mask the red and make the bird appear pink at first in the fall. As these barbules wear off the bright red shows through, making the spring and summer male brilliantly colored.