Photo: Mike's Birds (Red Crossbill Uploaded by Magnus Manske) CC BY-SA 2.0
Look to the top of evergreen trees this winter and you may see a visitor who has traveled east for food.
The Red Crossbill dines on the seeds of cones at the top of evergreens and their winter population is usually more concentrated in the west. However, "conifer crops across the mountainous West and much of the western boreal forest—the typical winter haunts for most crossbills—are failing," according to All About Birds.
At the same time, a wet spring in the Northeast finds spruces, hemlocks, pines and other conifers now "bursting with the biggest cone crop in decades," which is bringing the Red Crossbill to our part of the country, according to Cornell University researchers.
During the last surge east in 2012, the birds were found in Massachusetts and most of New England.
"Red Crossbills are on the move," said Matt Young, of the Cornell Ornithology Lab, "And this year's movement is shaping up to be the most impressive in recent history."
The birds are known for their loud chattering and their bills are perfectly designed to extract seeds from the cones. If you hear noise over your head on a winter's walk, see if a Red Crossbill is responsible.
Greenbelt is grateful to several professional and staff photographers whose work is featured prominently within our website.
Thank you Jerry Monkman / ecophotography.com, Lynne Holton, Kindra Clineff, Adrian Scholes and John Raleigh.