Where and When to see White-winged Crossbill
One of the most challenging parts of this series is the difficulty in finding what birds will be flying through my area. I’ve found a few general ideas via local Audubon Society Chapters and here in Iowa we also have the Iowa Ornithology Union. eBird has extensive sighting data, but it’s stripped of it’s dates and locations to keep the birds safe from poaching.
When I originally envisioned this series, I imagined I’d give you all the secrets to finding and seeing these birds. The more I looked into it though, the more I realized that they should stay protected and the data should stay hidden.
The story I read in the early days of discovering the yellow-bellied flycatcher is a sadly common one and why the Migratory Bird Treaty Act exists. Here, I’ll read you an excerpt: “Charles Johnson Maynard reported shooting one on May 31, 1869, and then eight more the next day (Studer 1876), and from then on the species became known as a rare to uncommon migrant in the state (MassAudubon).” That single sentence speaks so much to the plight of migratory song birds. I mean seriously. You shoot 9 and then, well yeah. They become less common.
I agree that specific bird habitats should remain elusive. So instead of sharing secrets, I will help you determine if you are likely to find it in your area; and if you are, how to identify it.
First, look at the migration map above, does its general range include your locale?
Second, visit ebird and you can narrow sightings down to your county.
Third, do a little networking and connect with your local Audubon society and see if they have a watch list like the Iowa City group does. It’s a general breakdown of what kind of bird types you are likely to see which months.
How to identify Birds in General
A few things I’ve found helpful as a very beginning birder is to try and remember:
- Size (bigger or larger than a bird you do know like a cardinal, sparrow or red-tail hawk)
- Bill shape
- Markings around the eye
- Crest or other distinguishing features like it has a purple breast.
- Tail shape
Cornell is a proponent of citizen science, so they offer many course.
While names are not important for enjoyment of birding, there is a certain thill in putting a name to a bird. For me, naming helps to solidify the memory and experience of seeing and hearing it. Of course photographing, drawing, and painting help too.
How the Junk Mail Migration Series helps the White-winged Crossbill
When you add White-winged Crossbill to your home and you are helping to support song bird conservation in the Boreal Forest. Whenever I sell work from the Junk Mail Migration Series, 10% will be donated to the Boreal Songbird Initiative.
What is the Boreal Songbird Initiative? Their work is the spark that inspired this ongoing series of paintings (Read about how and why I started painting migratory birds on junk mail). In their own words, “As the voice for boreal birds, the Boreal Songbird Initiative (BSI) is committed to protecting the Canadian Boreal Forest—the largest intact forest on Earth—on behalf of the billions of migratory birds that rely on it.” — Boreal Songbird Initiative
About the Series
White-winged Crossbill (Loxia leucoptera) 85% is part of a larger ongoing series about backyard ecologies called Junk Mail Migration. These works examine the direct impact of junk mail production on the immediate environment – our backyards.
Many of our favorite songbirds breed, live, and migrate to/from the Boreal Forest, only passing through Iowa seasonally. When their breeding habitat is destroyed, the population dwindles and the chance of viewing the likes of a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher in our backyard diminishes.
For this portion of the project, birds were selected that migrate through Iowa seasonally, are not year round residence of Iowa, and have over 70% of their breeding ground in the North American boreal forest ring.
All are represented in life size scale, drawn with graphite, charcoal, gesso, and ink on junk mail laminated to recycled cardboard and supported with reclaimed or sustainably forested wood.