What is a Crossbill?

by Russ on March 4, 2016

The crossed bill of the Crossbill makes it easy to recognise.In the identification of wild birds, beak size is not often the first thing you’d think of to use.

There is one bird however where the beak is the first big giveaway to what species it is. So much so, that the very name of the bird is simply a description of the beak – the Crossbill.

Instead of the tips of the lower and upper mandible meeting together, in this bird they cross over in the same way we do when we cross our fingers for luck.

The reason they have such a unique beak is to do with their diet. Their favourite food is the seeds hidden inside pine cones. But these seeds are protected by thick wooden scales.

The crossed bill is perfect for opening pine cones.The crossed beak of the Crossbill however is perfect for prising these scales apart wide enough to fish out the seeds inside with the bird’s tongue.

The best habitat to spot these birds therefore is a coniferous forest or plantation. Listen out for high pitched ‘squeaks’ that sound a bit like a dog toy or cuddly toy being squeezed.

And if you are choosing a new tree for the garden, why not consider a conifer. You might just attract these elusive and fantastic little birds.

Don’t forget…

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Take care and remember, stay on the wild side!


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