Pairing and such - and a Crossbill question

Richard Bradus

Hi all

Apparently I've chosen the wrong locations (or haven't gotten out early enough) so I have seen rather few migrants over the past couple of days. But making up for that has been numerous signs of mating and nesting among our locals. Today was instructive as there was some action at the National AIDS Memorial Grove in GGP. There were clear pairs of Juncos, Song Sparrows, Bushtits and Chickadees, and a pair of Ravens fussing with their nest. Also interesting was a pair of Downy Woodpeckers, with the male excavating a nest cavity, and one or both of a Steller's Jay pair bringing an assortment of nesting materials. Best of all was a CA Towhee that came right up to where I was standing motionless as it gathered nesting material (dried grasses) and added it to its nearly completed nest - only the second time I've actually seen a Towhee nest. Full list and some photos here:

Also, I'm puzzled by a bird I saw yesterday off the El Camino Del Mar trail below the West Wash/VA Hospital. It had all the typical plumage and markings of a female Red Crossbill (tan-yellow head, breast and upper tail coverts, kind of blotchy pattern on the mantle with more uniform dark wings, and prominent Finch bill. But... the bill did not appear to be crossed! Now, admittedly I saw it at some distance and mostly with its back turned toward me and when I saw the bill it was feeding (and therefore sometimes open) but still...

So, how often do you all see Crossbills without seeing their signature feature? I suppose, like most of you, I hear far more that I see, but it would be nice to be absolutely confident of the ID. So, can we say it's a Crossbill even if we don't actually see the crossed bill??

Any and all thoughts welcome.

Richard Bradus
San Francisco

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