Date: 10/12/17 5:38 am
From: Joseph Neal <joeneal...>
Red Crossbill business in Arkansas is booming. Audio files collected October 7, 2017, in the Shortleaf Pine forest in Ozark National Forest just south of Shores Lake confirm the three Red Crossbills seen by many of us that day were Type 1, Appalachian Crossbills.

Files were collected by UA-Fayetteville graduate students Pooja Panwar and Anant Deshwal. They were sent to Matthew A. Young at Cornell for audio analysis, including identification as to type. Based upon the recordings, he confirmed the birds seen on October 7 were Type 1 and that the recordings included what he termed “begging chittoos,” of a fledgling crossbill photographed that day.

Bottom line: appears Appalachian Crossbills nested in the Ozark NF this year.

Some of you may recall Red Crossbills were found in the same general area March 4, 2017, by Bill Beall and Jim Neiting. Joan Reynolds photographed a fledgling crossbill there on the following day that was being fed by an adult (March 5, 2017). Anant and Pooja followed up on March 8, 2017, collecting sound recordings that were also sent for analysis to Matt Young. He confirmed presence of Type 2, Ponderosa Pine Crossbills.

With a young crossbill being fed out of the nest in March 2017, it appears Ponderosa Pine Crossbills may also have nested in the area in 2017.

What all of this has in common is native Shortleaf Pine and long time Arkansas birder Bill Beall. Bill is a native of Fort Smith, but for many years he has owned a vacation cabin at Fern near Shores Lake. He has kept track of both crossbills and Brown-headed Nuthatches. Of course these nuthatches are common in central and southern Arkansas, but disappeared from most of the Ozarks and southern Missouri with rapid removal of original pine forests. Thus, presence of these nuthatches in the Ozarks around Fern is relatively unique. We know about them because of Bill. For several years he has been leading Brown-headed Nuthatch-focused field trips for Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society, putting more eyeballs in the pine woods.

US Forest Service management in the Shores Lake-Fern area favors the crossbill business. This is because they are thinning these forests, opening them up, removing some trees, but leaving others. This management encourages growth in the residual trees and encourages those trees to produce more cones. The cones produce seeds that plant future pine forests. Lots of cones are attractive to you know who … pine seed consumers like Red Crossbills.

Finally, I’d like to give a well-deserved shout-out to our own Bill Holimon, chief of research and inventory at Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission. During my Forest Service years encouraged me to record vocalizations of Red Crossbills in the Shortleaf Pine forests of Ozark National Forest. From his own years as a graduate student, he understood why we would need these recordings.

Pine forests in Arkansas are extensive. Recordings of Red Crossbills are few. There is much more to learn about them in The Natural State.

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