#69 Crossbills in the High Country
Crossbills eat seeds of coniferous trees and they completely digest the seed, ending it’s chance to ever grow into a tree. They are therefore, like Parrots, the enemies of the trees they “prey” upon. Because of this there is a war going on at all times in coniferous areas between the trees and Crossbills. Doug Firs withhold their production year after year in an “effort” to starve out the Crossbills, then they all signal to each other with some kind of little-understood pheromone or something that “This is the year,” and they all completely overproduce seeds that year. The Crossbills can’t reproduce fast enough to replenish their own numbers on these good years to completely take advantage of their good luck, and many seeds survive to become little Doug Firs. Crossbills are a finch, but they can be viewed morphologically as “Northern Parrots.” They have a large head with a very strong bill and are intensely gregarious. When bathing in Butyl Creek (the artificaial creek behind our house), they stay just inches from each other and are in a constant communicative chatter with each other. If one seems left behind as the others leave, you can hear a slight panic sound in its chirp (or am I projecting?) Parrots often panic when separated from their flock. The species shown is the White-winged Crossbill, although Red Crossbills are more likely to be seen in most of the Pacific Northwest. They are up quite high on Mt. Rainier near Spray Park.