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What's this Crossbill species?

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Old Monday 16th March 2009, 01:34   #1
HokkaidoStu
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What's this Crossbill species?

Whilst photographing some of the local wintering Common Crossbills here in Hokkaido I noticed this male had white on its' wings, is it just a Common Crossbill with worn plumage or is it a White Winged Crossbill? I'm leaning toward the former as one of the fieldguides suggest male Common Crossbills sometimes have incomplete white markings on the wings...

It has a ring which I can't read.............

Not very good shots, for more shots of Common Crossbills please go here.

Any opinions greatly received.......White Wingeds are rare here in Japan and would be a lifer for me. I still think it's probably not though.....
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Old Monday 16th March 2009, 02:12   #2
Howard King
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nice pictures the last shows it to be ringed can't help on ID
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Old Monday 16th March 2009, 02:56   #3
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It looks like the WW crossbills we have over here in the states, not sure if you have the same species in Japan.
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Old Monday 16th March 2009, 05:57   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MLoyko View Post
It looks like the WW crossbills we have over here in the states, not sure if you have the same species in Japan.
It's the same species AFAIK. I am totally unfamiliar with it however.....

A lot of pics of White Wingeds show the males as crimson, almost pink with broad white wing bars. That's why I think this may just be a Common Crossbill with an odd wing pattern.

Anyone else ?
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Old Monday 16th March 2009, 06:18   #5
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I think this is a Common Crossbill, the bill in photo 3 looks pretty deep (esp lower mandible). W-wC should be smaller billed, smaller headed and longer tailed than Common Crossbill - if this bird was structurally similar to the others in the flock then that should also be a clue to it being a well-marked Common. The thing that had me fooled momentarily was the tertial tips which seem very well marked, whereas the wing bars are strong and quite white, but not massive as in W-wC.
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Old Monday 16th March 2009, 06:55   #6
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Here's a photostitched picture of 2 birds taken from pretty much the same distance away, the left bird perhaps a little further away and in better light. The one on the left is clearly a male Common Crossbill. Structurally they look pretty similar.....
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Old Monday 16th March 2009, 11:22   #7
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My big Sibley guide depicts the plumage of what it calls a rare "variant first year male" Red Crossbill (I assume this is the same as "Common Crossbill") with narrow wing-bars. I think that is what this is. Among other features noted above that do not fit White-winged Crossbill, there are no dark black scapulars visible here. And as others have noted, the wing-bars are much narrower than typical White-winged Crossbills.

By the way, according to my Pyle "Identification Guide to North American Birds" White-winged Crossbill and Red Crossbill have hybridized in captivity. But it does not mention any such birds occurring in the wild.

Best,
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Old Monday 16th March 2009, 12:19   #8
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Such individuals are always quite difficult. Let's start by ageing the bird. It has still lots of greenish feathers for example on the throat, so it's a 2cy bird. On White-winged Crossbills, juvenal greater and median wing coverts have much narrower white tips than adult ones, so the thickness of the wing bars isn't an excluding factor. Also the colour tone of the red plumage isn't necessarily a good feature (and I wouldn’t rely too much on structural features). Here's a 1cy male White-winged Crossbill (September) for comparison (this one has very worn juvenal feathers on the wings):
http://www.birding.se/foto/bandelkorstnabb.jpg

White-winged Crossbills often moult some of the inner greater upperwing coverts by the first winter, which makes the identification easier, but I believe that this is not always the case (compare to the moult of Common Crossbill). Here’s a first winter male White-winged Crossbill with moulted inner greater and median coverts:
http://www.tarsiger.com/images/Roope..._leu2_6961.jpg

Quote:
Originally Posted by HokkaidoStu View Post
one of the fieldguides suggest male Common Crossbills sometimes have incomplete white markings on the wings...
AFAIK white tips on the wing coverts of Common Crossbills is not a sex-related feature, but more of an age-related feature, i.e. juvenal coverts may have white tips of varying width. Whichever species the subject bird is, I believe that all of the greater coverts are still juvenal. I'm not completely sure about the median coverts, as the outer ones have clearly narrower tips, but I'd say that they are also all juvenal (adult type median coverts would have broader tips on White-winged Crossbills, and lack white tips on Common Crossbills).

One of the features that has been used to id such individuals is the shape of the white tips on the greater coverts. On common Crossbills the white colour continues along the edges of the feathers, while White-winged Crossbills have more square cut white tips. The median coverts have U-shaped white tips on Common Crossbills, while the tips are again more square cut on White-winged Crossbills. Both of these features indicate that the subject bird is a White-winged Crossbill, but I’ not completely sure how reliable they are.

Here are two more immature White-winged Crossbills:
http://www.tarsiger.com/images/antero/Looksi325.JPG
http://www.kolumbus.fi/rantala.ranta...tas%209130.jpg

Here’s an immature (probable) Common Crossbill with broad wing bars (but note the shape of the tips of the greater coverts):
http://www.bongariliitto.fi/kuvat/20...pe/loxsp2x.jpg

Adult male Two-barred Crossbills have rather dark scapulars, like J. Moore wrote, but it’s not always easy to judge, compare to this bird, whose adult type scapulars have rather broad red fringes:
http://www.artportalen.se/artportale...&imageID=67542
Note also that quite many of the scapulars of the subject bird might be juvenal (they have greenish edges).

Hearing the calls of the bird would make the id easy.
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Old Monday 16th March 2009, 12:30   #9
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Thanks for everyone's replies, especially CAU's very detailed one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CAU View Post



One of the features that has been used to id such individuals is the shape of the white tips on the greater coverts. On common Crossbills the white colour continues along the edges of the feathers, while White-winged Crossbills have more square cut white tips. The median coverts have U-shaped white tips on Common Crossbills, while the tips are again more square cut on White-winged Crossbills. Both of these features indicate that the subject bird is a White-winged Crossbill, but I’ not completely sure how reliable they are.
Does that mean you think it may be a White Winged?

White Winged do occur in this part of Hokkaido although they are rare. Indeed 4 or 5 were caught and banded nearby last autumn (I read about in the paper 2 weeks later!). After seeing the ring on this one, it got me thinking I suppose.....I saw some with similarly marked wings last winter but didn't get any photos.......

I didn't hear it calling or rather didn't notice if it was different from the others....
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Old Monday 16th March 2009, 13:01   #10
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I agree with CAU that the wing bar plumage pattern is not what is normally depicted for the variant Red/Common Crossbill with wing-bars. (That's one reason I mentioned the hybrid issue, though I am not saying this is one.) However, the other features seem to point to Red/Common.

Best,
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Old Monday 16th March 2009, 13:20   #11
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http://www.birdguides.com/iris/pictu...1&off=3322&v=0

This is the closest pic of a two-barred(white-winged) crossbill I could find with limited wingbars although this is quite a straggly individual. As regards hybrids, im not sure thats a common problem with these birds as low hybridisation rates have been one of the reasons crossbills have been speciated rather than a mass of subspecies.
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Old Monday 16th March 2009, 13:38   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HokkaidoStu View Post
Does that mean you think it may be a White Winged?
Well, I can't id it with certainty, so I think it may be a White-winged, or it may be a Common...
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Old Monday 16th March 2009, 13:49   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CAU View Post
Well, I can't id it with certainty, so I think it may be a White-winged, or it may be a Common...
I agree with you 100%!!!!!
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Old Monday 16th March 2009, 14:11   #14
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Also, according to Collin's, the white tips on the tertials for Common are 'evenly fringed white' whereas Two-barred's are thicker on the sides, as are this bird's. Again, not sure how reliable a feature thiis is, but my gut upon opening the images was Two-barred/White-winged.
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Old Monday 16th March 2009, 15:16   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by birdboybowley View Post
my gut upon opening the images was Two-barred/White-winged.
The plot thickens.........

I must admit I initially assumed it was a Common Crossbill but now I''m not so sure.

Thank god I don't live in Scotland.I thought White Wingeds were the only species of Crossbill that would be easy to ID. If I can't ID those I'd have no chance with Common/Parrot/Scottish ones....
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Old Monday 16th March 2009, 18:17   #16
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A masterful summary CAU.

I have only limited experience of Two-Barred Crossbill, but I did note one feature on this species that may be useful. It doesn't seem, however, to have been noted by anyone else and doesn't appear to be in any field guides.

Some years ago in Kent a vagrant Two-barred Crossbill caused a real headache for would-be observers by persisting in feeding high in trees such that it only offered very infrequent glimpses of the vital upperside. Hence it was easily lost amongst the hoards of its Common bretheren. By carefully watching the birds, I found that whilst the Common Crossbills consistently showed a short stub of a tail extending beyond the end of the undertail coverts, the Two-barred always showed much longer extension the tail beyond the coverts. (The exposed tail of the Common Crossbill also seemed thicker than that of the Two-barred more slender, but that might have been an illusion). Once noted this proved to be a very useful way by which I was able to keep track of the bird where others struggled. I've a field sketch somewhere of this feature (with a short note that I never did send to 'BB'!).

How consistent this difference might be across a range of birds (male vs female, various races, etc) and conditions I cannot say, but it certainly worked with this individual! Hence if you have a selection of shots from below it may perhaps help!
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Old Tuesday 17th March 2009, 06:56   #17
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I e-mailed Mark Brazil (author of the latest fieldguide to east Asia) and I hope he won't mind me quoting from his reply.

"Looks like a very nice Two-barred Crossbill to me."

I'm going to look for it again tomorrow to get some more conclusive shots and hope to catch it calling, hopefully it's still there of course.........
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Old Tuesday 17th March 2009, 09:16   #18
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Here are recordings of White-winged Crossbill (try to listen for these):
http://www.tarsiger.com/sounds/index...&species=89250
The first one is the flight call (softer, more redpoll-like than the different flight calls of Common Crossbill), and the second the excitement call (which is very easy to recognise, it sounds like a toy trumpet).

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Cantelo View Post
A masterful summary CAU.
Thanks, John!

Here are some White-winged Crossbill tails from below for reference:
http://www.tarsiger.com/images/pirpa...aristoPaP3.JPG
http://www.tarsiger.com/images/pirpa...aristoPaP2.JPG
http://www.tarsiger.com/images/hande/Loxleu9.jpg
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Old Tuesday 17th March 2009, 09:43   #19
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Thanks for that CAU.
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Old Wednesday 18th March 2009, 09:37   #20
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Well I went back today and to the same area of pines and there were lots of Crossbills (about 30 or 40) . Despite my best efforts I couldn't relocate the individual with the white wing markings though.

After looking at the pics a lot and going through CAU's comments plus the above mentioned e-mail I'm coming down more in favour of White Winged though.

Now I have to wrestle with my conscience as to whether I can tick it or not.
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Old Wednesday 18th March 2009, 10:24   #21
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Im trying to make out the uppertail coverts on this bird, which should be strongly dark centered for 2 barred if im not mistaken?

They dont seem to be too dark, though it is often underestimated just how subtle and variable this species can in fact be.

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Old Wednesday 18th March 2009, 19:19   #22
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I agree with CAU that the Crossbill is 2cy bird. However I suppose that the species is Common/Red C.
E.g. follow features leads me to think on Common/Red-option:
The bird has not white tips to upper tail coverts, the lack of well-marked and blackish centres of scapulars, the small size of head, tail looks relative short, etc ...
Btw, the bird is ringed... ;-)
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Old Thursday 19th March 2009, 11:20   #23
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IMO it's a Red Crossbill, 2-barred / White-winged would have broader wingbars, expanding towards the rear to a greater extent, and the white on the tertial tips isn't extensive enough.
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Old Friday 20th March 2009, 06:28   #24
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I couldn't relocate the bird again today but for the sake of comparison here are a couple of pics from this afternoon of what is clearly a male Common (Red) Crossbill with some white markings on its' wings.

It looks quite different from the original bird in #1.
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Old Friday 20th March 2009, 07:38   #25
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Nice pics, but still similar than original case, thus Common..
Notice that the feature (white on the wings) varies between individuals
and also the tips of tertials seems to be perhaps more worn in this later case than the former case.
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