[CT Birds] Red Crossbill irruption

Nick Bonomo nbonomo at gmail.com
Wed Aug 29 21:55:42 EDT 2012

There is currently a sizable irruption of Red Crossbills occurring in the
upper midwest, and apparently we are feeling the effects of this in the
northeast, albeit to a much lesser degree (as of right now). I'm not sure
what the history books say, but I do not recall an irruption so early in
the fall migration season as long as I've been birding. Or course this
species is notoriously nomadic, so a movement at any time of year is not
shocking. Still, very interesting to hear, perhaps from our neighbors in
Canada, what might be spurring this on. Some research is in order but I do
not have the time at the moment. Perhaps Ron Pittaway's annual winter finch
forecast, which is due out in just a few weeks, will shed some light on

I have not done much local birding this summer, but at the places I have
been recently, there appears to be a nice crop of cones on the coastal
pines that often attract this species during irruption years (Japanese
Black Pine?). Now that we know this species is clearly on the move, it may
be worth checking these trees for Red Crossbills. Places off the top of my
head that have cones are, for instance, East Shore Park and the Milford Pt
Coastal Center. I have not checked the trees at Hammo, a traditional spot
for this species. It is worth noting that several of these cone-producing
pines in the Middle Beach area of Hammonasset have been removed since the
last invasion, but a few are left, is the West Beach stand.

If you're lucky enough to run into a Red Crossbill, see if you can record
their calls. If you don't own any formal recording equipment, the
microphones on some cell phones and camcorders/cameras are sensitive enough
to pick up the calls if you get close enough. There are several call types
of Red Crossbill that may or may not represent multiple species. For more
info on this topic, view David Sibley's blog post at the link below, which
also links to several great crossbill websites that contain even more


Several years ago during a nice invasion of Red Crossbills in CT, I
recorded several birds between Hammonasset and East Shore Park. The result
was many Type 10 and a couple Type 3. It would be fascinating to see which
type(s) are moving right now.

Nick Bonomo
Wallingford, CT

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