15 March 2010

On this day (March 15th)....................

March 15th 2009.

A bit of a mystery this one. White Winged or Common Crossbill? I suspected a variant of the latter but I wasn't really sure.

There was a bit of a debate on birdforum about this, the consensus seemed to be that it was a Common Crossbill. Others disagreed, including Mark Brazil and Sean Minns.

I saw a similar bird in 2008 (no photo alas) and they are known to pass through the area and have been ringed. This one has a ring...............shame we can't read it...........

Any opinions on the ID of this one would be gratefully received................



  1. Hi,
    This is a white winged for sure! At least for me! The common crossbill does not have these white bars on the wings! So i guess you should be quite happy to have observed this guy!

  2. Hi Chris, according to various fieldguides some Common Crossbills occasionally have white wing markings. Not as clear or extensive as adult White Winged Crossbills. This one apparently is a second year bird................so maybe its' white patches haven't fully developed yet. Or maybe it's just a Common Crossbill. God knows.

  3. HI,
    To be honest, I've seen quite a lot around here, I mean common crossbills, even immature and they never got these white patch.... If you want I can copy your image and send it over to one of my birding pal over here. He is quite good and will definitively confirm it or not. just let me know by dropping a email to christophe(at)duo-nature.com

  4. Hi SCE

    I'm sorry to say, I reckon it's a Common for the following reasons:-
    1. White wing bars parallel and not extensive enough (especially the lower).
    2. I can't see any white on the tertials which should be extensive and thicker at the sides (even more obvious at the time of year).

    Checked in BWPi and your bird is a ringer for the "variant" 1st winter bird which has the white wing bars.

    Not even entertaining the vogue swearword "hybrid" - known Common x Two-barred can appear more like Common!

    Hope this helps

  5. Hi Stuart, thanks for that. Chris' friend also said the same. My original hunch was probably right then....................oh well.

  6. Hi SCE

    Still a good find. Did a bit more research - if it is indeed one of the Common Crossbills with the white wing bars, they are about one in a thousand!
    Macmillan Guide to Identification (great little book - out of print/date now) also states that Two-barred is more of a pinky-red than orange-red.
    Also, just realised that the tertials are not visible on your bird - it is the secondaries.
    I reckon the tip for next time is to concentrate on the tertials - should have extensive white on them.
    all the best

  7. Hi, if you click on the birdfprum link above there is a shot from behind and maybe the tertials should be visible?

    But you're right it's probably a Common Crossbill, I guess I knew too as I never ticked it.

  8. Hold the phone!! The rear view makes the greater covert bar look thicker and the white on the tertials is extensive and much thicker at the sides!!
    Most Common showing wing bars show pretty narrow and even white tips to the tertials.
    Permission to change - looks good for Two-barred now!!
    P.S. Did not look at the birdforum link in case my thoughts were prejudiced.
    Shows how one angle can lead astray. As far as I am aware the tertial pattern is diagnostic.
    Promise not to change again!

  9. Thanks for that .

    Ooooh the plot thickens...............some folk think it is and some think it isn't..............now I have to wrestle with my conscience whether to tick it or not.........


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