Two-barred Crossbill

The Spring keeps getting better.  A few days ago I got wind of a pair of Two-barred Crossbills in Jingshan Park (immediately north of the Forbidden City).  After a bit of investigating I was able to get directions and, on Monday, Libby and I popped up there to see whether we could see it..  [Jingshan Park is a great place to visit for non-birders – it’s often full of Beijingers exercising, singing, dancing, and doing all manner of other social activities – some of the best people watching to be had in the capital].   On arrival it was not difficult to find the right spot as there were about 40 photographers lined up and surrounding a hosepipe stand.  It was to here that the Two-barred Crossbills were coming down to drink.  They had not been seen all morning and, after an hour or so, I wasn’t hopeful.  I went for a walk around the park to see if I could find them feeding, to no avail.  But just as I returned to the original site, the female flew in and gradually made her way down to the water..  showing exceptionally well to the delight of the paparazzi.

Two-barred Crossbill (female), Jingshan Park, Beijing, 9 April 2012

Some of the photographers had been there several days and said that the male had not been seen since Saturday.

I believe that this is the first record of this species in Beijing for at least 25 years and comes hot on the heels of a record in Jinshitan, Dalian, Liaoning Province, found by Tom Beeke.  Two-barred Crossbill is an irruptive species but irruptions (movements outside of the normal range) usually happen in early autumn..  Maybe these are birds moving back north after irrupting south last autumn?  Who knows..?!

Other birds coming down to drink included two magnificent Red-billed Blue Magpies.  These birds, common in the Beijing area, are rarely this bold.  Often they remain hidden in the trees and shrubs with only tantalising glimpses or distant views being gained, so this was a real treat.

Red-billed Blue Magpie, Jingshan Park, Beijing, 9 April 2012
Red-billed Blue Magpie, Jingshan Park, Beijing, 9 April 2012. These magnificent birds are common in Beijing but seeing them this well isn't easy...

Finally, a pair of Red-billed Starlings, fairly recent colonists of Beijing, were prospecting a hole in one of the trees.  Not bad for a city centre park!

Red-billed Starling, Jingshan Park, Beijing, 9 April 2012



6 thoughts on “Two-barred Crossbill”

  1. Wow, those crossbills sure know how to pick a spot where they’ll get attention! I remember someone reporting a year or two ago about some good birds at Jingshan (maybe waxwings?). It has always been a favorite park for my husband and I – so downtown, but quite interesting. Anyway, glad you could get there to see this sight.

    The most tantalizing thing about the Red-billed Blue Magpies, is their impressive vocal repetoire, which they use whilst hiding in dense conifers (how does such a large bright bird hide?!?). They still catch my attention when I hear something and think “What was that??” then I think “oh, those guys again”. They live on campus here, so if one keeps alert they can be heard or seen somewhat regularly. The redbilled starling is new for me – will have to keep an eye out…

    1. Hi Gretchen. Yes, Jingshan Park is a lovely place to spend a morning or even a day. I know exactly what you mean about the magpies’ vocal repertoire – they still catch me out on occasions, too.

    1. Hi Robbi. It’s possible that they are escaped/released cage birds but I think that the recent record in Liaoning (and maybe the fact that there was an influx of these birds in northern Europe last autumn) adds weight to the argument that they are wild birds. But I guess we will never know for sure! Do you know if this species is kept in captivity in China?

  2. Nice catch, Terry. Was Libby the usual good sport during the uneventful first hour wait ? :-))

    Those Red-billed Magpies are quite something. You can see them easily in Hong Kong along the circular road leading from the upper terminus of the Peak Tram. They’re so spectacular you almost feel you should be paying admission to see them.


    1. Thanks Norm. Yes, Libby enjoyed the people-watching and the social aspect of waiting for the bird to show. She may even come to the next one! Yes, Red-billed Blue Magpies are stunning birds and I tend to take them for granted a little, being relatively common. But seeing them so well makes one appreciate just how spectacular they are.. and, as Gretchen says, their vocal repertoire is vast… lovely birds. T

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