Here's a posting from yesterday on the MN bird listserv...
Thousands of Red Crossbills have been moving through Duluth in an unprecedented invasion. I began counting migrant raptors and non-raptors in Duluth (for Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory) on August 14th, and have now counted a total of 3748 Red Crossbills! This irruption is unusual not just in overall numbers, but
also in timing, since most previous high counts of Red Crossbills in Minnesota have been in late fall and winter. Previous high counts include 215 at Hawk Ridge on 22 October 1988 (Nicoletti, The Loon 71:100), 205 at the Lakewood pumping station in Duluth on 12 October 1994 (Eckert, The Loon 67:47-49 ), 125 in Cook County on 13 January 1968 (Scherer, The Loon 40:47), and 106 on the Isabella CBC on 1 January 2006. By comparison, high counts this season have been 365 on 18 August, 603 on 23 August, 1252 on 24 August, and 705 on 25 August. I didn’t think Red Crossbill counts like this were even possible in Minnesota! Prior to this season, my counts
at Hawk Ridge/Lester River (during the last five seasons) have averaged only 179 birds, with a peak of only 56. For the most part, the Red Crossbills this August have been moving through in very large flocks, with up to 160 birds in one flock. For example, the
1252 birds recorded on 24 August included only 23 flocks (with an average flock size of 54). The majority of these birds appear to favor moving directly along the shore of Lake Superior (as counted from the Lester River condo count site) as opposed to higher up on the ridge (including several simultaneous morning counts from the Hawk Ridge main overlook count site). Some of these crossbills have landed to feed on the spruce cones in the Lakeside neighborhood, where I have seen them to be a small-billed type, perhaps type 3, but for the most part the vast majority of these birds have just continued south without stopping. Where did all these crossbills come from, where are they going, and why are
Marc D. Lund
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