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Workshop on Scottish Crossbill

There are three breeding species of crossbills in Britain, the common, parrot and Scottish. Whereas the two former species occur on the European continent, the Scottish Crossbill is confined only to Scotland and cannot be found anywhere else in the world.   It is also the only endemic bird species in Britain.  Although, there are no diagnostic plumage differences among the three taxa, there are small differences in their average size, particularly in bill size. However, there is an overlap in the bill size between the Scottish crossbill and the other two species, and the difference in the bill size is in the range of only 2 mm.  Consequently, it is very difficult to identify Scottish Crossbills in the field from their bill size alone, particularly in the overlapping zones.   

Dr Ron Summers has studied morphology, genetics, habitat selection and distribution of Scottish Crossbills for over a decade.  Amongst other interesting aspects, he found out that each species of crossbills has distinctive flight and excitement calls.  It is difficult to distinguish those calls in the field, but if the calls are tape recorded and sonograms of those calls are produced, then the differences between those calls are pronounced and identification of the birds leaves no doubt.  This technique was used in 2008, when the first ever survey of this species, coordinated by Ron, was carried out across Scotland.  It has been estimated that there are about 14 000 of Scottish Crossbills in Scotland.

Our unique weekend workshop will give you a chance to unravel all the mysteries of the Scottish crossbills and teach you how to identify them.  The workshop involves walking in the forests, recording the calls of the crossbills encountered and producing sonograms.  You will be taught how to distinguish all three species of crossbills on the basis of the best identification key available, by Dr Ron Summers. 

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