Crossbill flicker


Experienced birders might suspect that today’s posting is a hoax — it is not. The picture of the crossbill flicker at the bottom is real. 

Crossbills are finches whose bills are adapted to prying seeds from cones.

Flickers, however, are woodpeckers and have parallel mandibles used for carving cavities.

This recently spotted flicker has an unusually long bill that is crossed. While the bird looks healthy, it is unclear how it is able to indulge in a normal flicker’s behaviour with such a bill. I have not previously seen a woodpecker that looks like this, but Gary Davidson tells me that there is an uncommon syndrome known as Avian Keratin Disorder. See also, Deformed Bill Research. First seen twenty years ago among chickadees in Alaska, the disorder has spread to other species and has clearly reached Kootenay Lake.


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4 Responses to Crossbill flicker

  1. Peter J says:

    Astutely observed, Alistair, and nicely researched! Thank you for teaching.

  2. Susan says:

    I find this very sad and disturbing.

  3. robin lidstone says:

    Is it an adult ? How could it have survived till now…

    • Alistair says:

      Robin, this is probably the flicker’s hatch year. Apparently, the bird can feed itself, but it would not be able to carve a cavity nest next year. Incidentally, the bird was seen about a half-kilometre from your home.

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