A week or so ago I noticed a couple of birds at the feeder I had not seen before and looking at their color shape and body size, I thought they could be juvenile Grosbeaks who hadn't grown into their adult colors yet.
You can imagine my delight and surprise, when I downloaded the pictures to my PC and took a closer look. The first thing which came to my attention, was the shape of the beak, "that is not a Grosbeak I am seeing" I told myself, so out came the 'bird book' for positive identification.
Previously, I had seen a picture in my book of "Birds of Washington State" of Crossbills, but never in my wildest dreams did I ever think any would be visiting my garden.
Red Crossbills are finches with highly specialized, crossed bills and long, pointed wings. Male Red Crossbills are brick-red with black wings and no white wing-bars. Females are greenish-yellow with black wings and no wing-bars. Juveniles are streaked brown. The bill size of Red Crossbills varies considerably and correlates with distinct habitat and food preferences as well as flight calls. These characteristics can be used to split Red Crossbills into eight distinct types, and it is likely that the species will be divided into multiple species in the future.
Because of their nomadic behavior, it is difficult to specify locations where Red Crossbills may be found. They can be abundant in Washington when there are good cone crops, and thousands of birds sometimes wander into the lowlands and coast from late summer through winter. However, their presence throughout Washington varies annually. So I may not see any again at my feeders. I feel fortunate to have seen, and taken pictures of the ones who did visit.