Well, I had this nice blog all lined up talking about sustainable yard and garden design… but I guess it will have to wait until next month because WE HAVE A WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL AT GARFIELD PARK CENTER!!!
It was hard to get a good photo of our shy visitor. Here he is in profile, munching sunflower seeds
I have it on good authority that this migrating bird is a rare sighting for the year, with fewer than five reports state-wide.
White-winged crossbills are birds of the northern boreal forests; only in wintertime migration do some find their way down by us. Like their goldfinch cousins, crossbills generally hang out in flocks. Some years, in what is called an “irruption,” many hundreds fly south from Canada and Alaska, and dozens at a time can be seen at our Ohio birdfeeders. Because this year is not an irruptive year, it is considered a rarity to see this one lonely crossbill!
Can you see the seed in the crossbill's oddly-shaped beak?
Another profile shot
True to their name, crossbills have a beak with a lower mandible that crosses the upper mandible, giving the beak on overall crooked or broken appearance. This oddly-shaped mouth helps to extract the seeds from the cones of trees like spruce, pine, and hemlock, though they seem equally at ease eating black oil sunflower from feeders.
Why such a rare bird at Garfield Park? Our over 200 acres, along with the acreage of nearby Calvary Cemetery, provides sizeable respite and shelter for birds in migration. Whether they are coming or going across the waters of Lake Erie, Garfield Park and other urban green spots provide islands of habitat where birds can stop, rest, and find food before moving onward. Spring always brings fantastic numbers of warblers to Garfield Park Reservation- it’s a great place to bird, and if you’ve never stopped by, you should!
We won’t know how long our crossbill buddy will visit with us. He may be gone tomorrow, or perhaps will stay for a few days. If you are interested in stopping by to watch the birds at Garfield Park Center, please call before you journey our way. Our center is operating on its winter hours, and is currently only open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Please feel free to call us to see if you can stop by to visit during other days of the week; we will be more than happy to accommodate you if at all possible: 216-341-3152.
For more on white-winged crossbills, visit the Cornell Lab or Ornithology: