crossbill



crossbill defined in 1930 year

crossbill - Crossbill;
crossbill - Wing and tail feathers brown; all other parts green, yellow, orange, and tile-red, according to age and sex. Red is the colour of the adult male in a state of nature, and yellow in captivity. Length, six inches and a half. The crossbills differ from all other birds in the extraordinary form of the parrot-like bill. In other birds, whatever the shape of the bill may be, straight or curved, or broad and flat, or conical, or hooked, the two mandibles correspond, and fit when closed like box and lid. In this bird both mandibles have prolonged curved points, and cross each other, much as the two forefingers of our hands cross when the fingers are loosely linked together. A full description of this form of beak and its use as a seed-extractor, together with an admirably written history of the common crossbill, is contained in the second volume of Yarrell's great work (fourth edition).

The crossbill is also remarkable on account of the changes of colour it undergoes and of the brightness of its colours. These are birds of the sombre pine-woods, inhabiting high latitudes; but in their various greens and reds and yellows they are like tanagers and other tropical families, and form an exception to the rule that birds of brilliant plumage are restricted to regions of brilliant sunlight.

No fewer than four species of this genus (Loxia) figure in the list of British birds; three of these may be dismissed in a few words: -

Parrot crossbill (Loxia pittyopsittacus) breeds in the pine-forests of Scandinavia and northern Russia, and is known in England as a rare straggler. It is scarcely distinct, specifically, from the common crossbill.

White-winged crossbill (Loxia leucoptèra), a North American species, once obtained in England.

Two-barred crossbill (Loxia bifasciata) a Siberian species; a rare straggler to England and Ireland.

The fourth species (the common crossbill) has a better title to figure as a British species, and its winter visits to this country are much more frequent, although irregular; and it also breeds with us in some localities in Scotland, probably every year, and has also bred intermittingly in many districts in England, even so far south as Bournemouth. The reason of its irregularity in visiting our shores is that the crossbill is one of those species that do net go farther from home than they are compelled by severe cold and scarcity of food. Driven from home they become ' gipsy migrants,' and may be very abundant with us one year, and not one appear the following season, or for several seasons. At all times of the year the crossbill is gregarious in its habits. Throughout the summer it is seen in small parties; when the breeding season is over these begin to move about, accompanied by the young birds, and join with other parties, and as the season progresses the flock grows by process of accretion until it may number many hundreds. At this season they are remarkably tame, and will allow a person to approach within a few yards and admire their colours and various motions as they cling to and climb, parrot-like, about the twigs in search of seed and fruit. When flying they call to each other with a loud shrill note, and in late winter and spring both male and female utter a low warbling song.

The nest is placed in a pine-tree, at a distance from the ground of from five to forty feet; it is formed outwardly of twigs, roots, and dry grass; the inner part, of wool, hair, and feathers. Four or five eggs are laid, white or greenish white in ground-colour, spotted with reddish brown, with under-markings of pale brown.

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