Fw: [Tweeters] Siskins and crossbills have a dispute over...gravel?

jeff gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Thu Jun 19 12:10:38 PDT 2008

----- Original Message -----
From: jeff gibson<mailto:gibsondesign at msn.com>
To: Rob Sandelin<mailto:floriferous at msn.com>
Sent: Thursday, June 19, 2008 12:53 PM
Subject: Re: [Tweeters] Siskins and crossbills have a dispute over...gravel?

Hi Rob.

Crossbill's and Siskins both have a penchant for salt. I've read plenty about crossbills gathering road salt, and in 'big' crossbill years, I've seen them getting salt down at the tideline on the Olympic coast. I just looked up siskin's on the "Bent Life Histories' pages at Birdzilla.com ( an interesting source ) and it say's they have a 'salt habit' also, which I did'nt know.

It's interesting that two finches that share wild population 'swings' would have a hankering for salt. My theory is that due to this genetic based addiction , that massive numbers of birds die from hypertension due to salt consumption, then the population rebounds. Hopefully an adult who know's what they're talking about will step in at this point.

Jeff 'monkey brain' Gibson
Everett Wa.
----- Original Message -----
From: Rob Sandelin<mailto:floriferous at msn.com>
To: tweeters at u.washington.edu<mailto:tweeters at u.washington.edu>
Sent: Thursday, June 19, 2008 11:36 AM
Subject: [Tweeters] Siskins and crossbills have a dispute over...gravel?

I was over in Eastern WA and we were shuttling kids on the White river road,
near Lake Wenatchee. We had about half an hour of down time and as we were
hanging out in the shade, down flew a group of 12 Pine siskins. They were
picking at the road and we wondered what they were getting. Then a group of
2 males and 4 female red crossbills dropped down into the same spot and
there was a bit of a scrum as the bigger crossbills tried to bully the
siskins. A couple of the siskins were not convinced. There was a great deal
of wing flapping and short chases. Within a couple of minutes the crossbills
emerged victorious and began picking at the same place. A car drove by and
they abandoned their post and we all walked over to see what the fuss was
about. There was nothing we could see that was worth fighting over, no bugs,
no seeds. Just the same dirt and gravel that was pretty much uniform across
the whole road. After we retreated back to the shade the crossbills
returned to the same place and began picking up something from the road. If
it was gravel, and I could not get a clear look, we wondered why that
particular place, since the whole road was covered with the same gravel. It
generated lots of discussion and ideas but it was beyond our monkey brains
to interpret.

Rob Sandelin
Naturalist, Writer
Snohomish, WA

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