What is this Bird

by Dale
(central Wisconsin)

On March 9 I had a group of small birds (about 10-15) eating sunflower seeds at my feeders. They were about the size of a finch or warbler, approximately 4-5 inches long. The male was mostly a dull burnt orange(not a bright orange) with grayish wings, and the female had the same grayish wings but the body was a dull olive color. Both had a dull grayish streak on the head running through the eye area. The beak was fairly heavy, but not as heavy as, say, a grosbeak. The upper beak had a slight hook on the end, and the birds were very adept at cracking open a sunflower seed while it was in the beak. These birds were unusually tame, allowing me to approach within two feet, and I even fed one of the males by placing sunflower seeds in my hand. Unfortunately I was not able to get a picture before they left. My location is in central Wisconsin, rural, with a mixture of mostly pine and oak trees.

Comments for What is this Bird

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Aug 27, 2013
red crossbill
by: Anonymous

The description seems like red crossbills to me. They are around 5-5 1/2 in. and have a hooked bill. The males are dull red or orange and females dull olive. They are very social. The fact that you have pine trees around supports crossbill presence since cone seeds make up the vast majority of their food. I've had them at my feeder at times too (also black oil sunflower).

May 04, 2013
Tanager continued
by: Anonymous

I've also seen the male that dull orange color and the female as olive colored

May 04, 2013
Tanager
by: Anonymous

We've had tanagers in the feeder in the early spring and I'm in northwestern Ontario, so it could be a tanager.

May 04, 2013
Tanager
by: Anonymous

We've had tanagers in the feeder in the early spring and I'm in northwestern Ontario, so it could be a tanager.

Mar 13, 2013
I doubt it is a scarlet Tanager :(
by: GaryE

According to http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Scarlet_Tanager/id

Scarlet Tanager's only get as far north as Wisconsin in the Summer . . . since Wisconsin is about the northern most point in their range . . . I would venture to say that you wound not see them until mid Summer. They winter in South America.

So I am out of ideas LOL Sorry!

Mar 11, 2013
Reply to Gary - What is this bird?
by: Dale

Thanks Gary for your input. Yes, I did consider the Crossbill for it's size and coloring, but the beaks were not crossed, just the top beaks were very slightly hooked on the end. I'm now leaning toward their being a member of the tanager family, the winter plummage accounting for the duller colors for both male and female. They look like Hepatic tanagers, except the range is wrong, so they might be scarlet tanagers dressed for winter.

Mar 11, 2013
not sure ???
by: GaryE

Well my first thought was that it was a cardinal like bird call a Pyrrhuloxia http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Pyrrhuloxia/id but that lives no where near Wisconsin.

I looked through my bird book and I have now come up with the White-winged Crossbill . . . http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/White-winged_Crossbill/id does that look about right? It has a slightly hooked bill as you described the female looks about right too but the colors are not quite as you described but that just could be you an I describe colors differently or whatever LOL. Also they do winter in Wisconsin so it seems this is a pretty good match. What do you think?

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