Type 3 crossbill

Type 3 Crossbill

Geographic Range. Alaska to northern California, eastward to through the upper Great Lakes region to New York, Maine, and Atlantic provinces of Canada. Museum specimen records indicate some occurrence in the southern Appalachians and southern Rocky Mountains (including records from the deserts around Tucson, Arizona!). Greatest abundance probably along Pacific coast from Olympic Peninsula to Alaska panhandle.

Ecology and habitat. These crossbills are strongly associated with weak-coned conifers such as hemlock (Tsuga), spruces (Picea), and larch (Larix). I once saw Type 3 crossbills foraging in ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), which has large cones, but the birds were picking arthropods from among the cones and foliage. Swarms of these birds around San Francisco in the great flight year of 1984-85 were predominantly foraging in Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and less in redwood (Sequoia semipervirens).

Natural history notes. Type 3 crossbills have the distinction as the smallest crossbills in North America (equally small crossbills occur in the Himalayas and the Philippines). Flight calls and alarm calls of Type 3 birds are most easily confused with those of Type 7 (these two forms exist together in British Columbia and surrounding areas). However, types 3 and 7 are non-overlapping in measurements. Yellowish to orange plumages are frequent among Type 3 males.

Vocalizations. Type 3 flight calls are somewhat similar to both Type 5 flight calls and Type 7 flight calls. All three kinds of flight calls have two main components of downward frequency modulation. In addition, Type 3 toop calls resemble toop calls of Type 5 in having overlapping components differing in frequency.