Bird #315 — Red Crossbill

loxia (crosswise) curvirostra (from curvus, curved, and rostrum, bill)

Saturday, April 30, 1988 — 9:25 am

Zion, Illinois — Illinois Beach State Park

 In 1987, I only went birding twice and only saw 87 birds the entire year.  I hadn’t seen a lifer since 1984.

But once in a while, for old time’s sake, I’d call the Audubon hotline.  For over a month, as many as 30 Red Crossbills were being seen at Illinois Beach.  I kept telling myself I ought to go see them, and I finally found the energy.  I had almost waited too long.

They were in the pines on the south end of the park.  I arrived early and spent over an hour searching through the pines.  My field guide told me to listen for the sound of cracking cones.  Without this advice, I never would have found them.  Three (an immature male and a pair) were quietly foraging in the top of the pines about 100 yards in from Lake Michigan and 20 yards south of the Dead River.  They didn’t move around much and were very difficult to spot.  They perched silently and made an occasional peck at nearby pine cones.  At one point, the pair “kissed” each other.

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