In the last two years Common Crossbills have scarcely been seen in gardens in Selfoss. The reason is probably the abundance of seeds in pines and spruce trees. They have therefore enjoyed their stay in Icelandic forests with enough food to sustain them.
This autumn they started turning up here to visit the feeding trays and in the last few days we have had up to 9 Crossbills here enjoying the Sunflower seeds that we put out for the birds.
The Crossbills are colourful and tame and a great addition to the usual guests. They brighten up our days during the darkest period of the year.
A small flock of Common Crossbills regularly comes by and visits the feeding trays. The males stand out in their splendid red and orange colours and in the snow even more so. Around eight of them come every day but competition is a concern. The Blackbirds, Redwings and Starlings are bullies at the feeders.
Although it is the end of September with temperatures under zero and winter ahead of us, the Common Crossbill is with chicks. Yesterday there were ten Crossbills in our feeders. Here a mother is feeding a chick which is probably not older than a couple of weeks. In this way the Common Crossbills are different from other Icelandic birds which only breed in spring and summer. The Common Crossbills seem to breed all year round, depending only on the availability of food.
The Common Crossbills have only been breeding in Iceland for as much as ten years. They are different from our other birds in that they are breeding for most of the year, depending on the availability of food. A lot of Common Crossbills now breed in the spruce and pine forests that are growing fast in the vicinity of Selfoss. Groups of them come by our garden to dine on sunflower seeds repeatedly during the day. The parents feed the young ones but they soon start fending for themselves.
Common Crossbills are resourceful and tend to go some distances in search of food if need be. In their orange and yellow colours they light up our days but the South of Iceland has had more than its share of rain this spring and summer.
In the end of January and in February the male Common Crossbills become quite noticeable in the tops of the Lodgepole Pine forests (Pinus contorta) in Grímsnes area, South Iceland. They sing and try to catch the attention of the females.
Although it is still mid winter in Iceland they have obviously started courtship. Some seem now already paired and are feeding their spouses which is a sign that the nesting period is not far away.
The cones and seeds of the Lodgepole Pine are now becoming ripe and that seems to be the indicator that tells the birds that it is time for mating.
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.