|Red Crossbill at Cypress Hills © SB|
That pair of birds — a brick-red male, and the more subdued yellow female — picked through the hot gravel, perhaps searching for grit or salt in the stones.
Later that day, I saw another pair, this time a reddish male and a mottled brown juvenile, high on bare branches in the park, near Elkwater Lake, Alberta.
All About Birds explains that Crossbills feed on conifer seeds, and their weird (crossed) bills help them open tightly closed cones (spruce, pine, Douglas fir, and hemlock).
The Encyclopaedia of Saskatchewan says Red Crossbills are one of 12 species of finches in Saskatchewan, and in Cypress Hills, they breed and feed in large stands of lodgepole pine.
|Juvenile and adult Red Crossbills,|
at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. © SB
|Road birds: Red Crossbill pair forages in gravel © SB|
Location: Eagle Butte Road, SW Alberta, and in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park (Alberta and Saskatchewan), Canada.
Photo dates: July 30, 2012.