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Thursday, May 23, 2013

The kernel crusher

It figures that the day after I leave California, two birds show up in Bodega Harbor that I haven't seen locally yet — a Brown Booby and a Franklin's Gull.  (Perhaps someone can ask them to hang around for a few more days until I return?)

But I was pleased to see the species below along the Oregon coast.  Although I wish I had better photos, the conditions were pretty stormy (you can tell that the birds were wet).  I hadn't encountered this species since leaving New England.  I tried to find them in Point Reyes Station this winter, but wasn't able to locate them.  They're considered accidental on Bodega Head, so there must be at least one record, but I don't have The Birds of Sonoma County with me right now, so can't look that up at the moment.

We were doing a little indoor work and heard some loud calls outside.  I looked up into the trees to see these birds:

This is a pair of Evening Grosbeaks (Coccothraustes vespertinus).  The female is on the right, and the male is a little hidden behind the branch to the left.

Eventually the male came out into the open for a few seconds. 

Later he moved to a position where you could see the the very large, greenish conical bill and the earthy brown and orange feathers.  Also note the bright yellow forehead and white wing patch.

At one point there were also Red Crossbills in the same tree.  Here's a view showing the female Evening Grosbeak with a female Red Crossbill.

And another with a pair of Evening Grosbeaks and a pair of Red Crossbills.  Can you find all four birds?

The female Evening Grosbeak is in the upper left corner.  The male Evening Grosbeak is in the center at the lower edge of the photo.  The pair of Red Crossbills is at the upper right corner (the yellow female is just below and to the left of the red male.)

I was intrigued to learn that geographically distinct call types have been described for Evening Grosbeaks, just as they have for Red Crossbills.  I now wish I had been able to record these grosbeaks.  Next time!

P.S.  The genus, Coccothraustes, apparently means "kernel crusher," in reference to the massive bill and its function in shattering seeds.

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