There are a lot of Common Crossbills in spruce and pine forests now but these settlers seem to thrive well in Iceland and have become part of the Icelandic fauna.
Cones are in abundance and the Crossbills are therefore well fed. They have been breeding since autumn and even now in December we have seen young chicks, although February is the month you would expect them to start breeding.
Chicks from the autumn are now feeding on their own but we still get them here in the garden where they can indulge themselves on sunflower seeds. The photos are from last week in Grímsnes, South Iceland.
July and August are usually the most peaceful months in the garden, meaning that there are not as many birds as in the winter months. We have continued putting out sunflower seed all summer so of course some birds come by regularly. Redwings, Blackbirds and Redpolls nested in our garden and in neighbouring gardens this summer. Most of these birds finished breeding in the end June except the Blackbird that breeds several times during the summer. According to our observations it is now breeding for the fifth time.
With the coming of autumn more and more birds appear in the garden and last week there were three Wrens here (ad+2 juv), a Goldcrest, Crossbills, Redpolls, Blackbirds, Redwings and Starlings.
Common Crossbills flock to our garden, both young and old. They have must have got news about the feed that the nice man in Fagurgerði puts out all year round now. Fagurgerði is actually the old name of our house and later when more houses were built it became the name of the street.
Several adults, both male and female, with chicks visit the feeders and there is a lot of coming and going. They seem such peaceful birds and share the sunflower seeds in blissful harmony with the Redpolls.
In the last ten days there have been up to 18 Crossbills at a time. First there were 3 – 4, a dad with 3 chicks and then their numbers grew as news spread of the full feeders here.
In Grímsnes, South Iceland, the Crossbills are busy eating seed from the cones of the Pinus contorta tree. Although the cones have not yet opened properly they manage to get to the seeds. They use their distinctively shaped beak, which they get their name from, to open the cones and with their tongue they fish the seed or nut out.
The Contorta pine goes under several names such as Lodgepole pine, Shore pine and also Twisted pine. The Common Crossbill usually prefers seed from spruce cones but in South Iceland there are more pines than spruces so pine seeds are their main food source, at least in the spring.
It is mating time for the Common Crossbill, also called Red Crossbill. The males eagerly find food for the females and feed them to their apparent delight.
The Crossbills breed very early, sometimes in the middle of winter if there is enough feed and that seems to be the case now. People also put out seeds for them which hopefully makes life a little bit easier.
That is the case here where these photos are taken yesterday in the last week of January. Some visit their summerhouses all year round and part of the enjoyment is observing nature and the transformations that come with the changing seasons, – and the bird life is often at the top of the list.
This Common Crossbill pair was here in the beginning of summer with three chicks. They are in the garden again, now with two other chicks. Early in the morning they come to eat the sunflower seeds that we put out for our feathered friends. These former vagrants have in the past six to seven years made Iceland their home.