I had the chance to photograph Common Crossbill this afternoon, a lovely and always a very interesting bird. Adult males are red and females are always yellowish, however to make things very confusing young first year males will also have some yellow and when they moult again later in the year they may have both yellow and red plumage. However and I think I have got this right - any individual with reddish or red feathers is always going to be a male. In short, females do not show any red at any age or in any state of plumage. It was interesting today to see birds of all ages and both sexes. Therefore, this must be a young(ish) male, distinctly reddish or orange.
This one next is a female (below) - or it could be an immature male? My money would be on female but you can see brown juvenile plumage underlying.
But what sex and age is this next one with obvious wing bars? I read that this is an indication bleaching and wear but who knows? Compared to the bird pictured first, it seemed strikingly different to me.
It's more red than yellow to my eyes so this would make it a male but it's probably not an adult and this is proven by the obvious juvenile plumage that you can see on the head just behind the cheek patches and wing coverts.. Like I said, Crossbills are a very interesting species of British finch and comparatively under studied.
Its been very unseasonably dry this last few weeks and standing water is a bit scarce. Crossbills are mostly, if not exclusively, seed eaters and need to drink regularly. Therefore standing water, even a muddy puddle will bring them down to drink. Very useful to the observer and photographer.