Glip, Parakeet and British Crossbills

4 vocal types now recorded at Strines

Following on from a  couple days ago, Dougies Preston got in touch from Shetland interested to see the Crossbill sonagrams. So I sent him  sound files.

Thing was my confusion. The first Crossbills I heard on Friday  sounded ‘different’. ie not the classic ‘chip chip chip’ or ‘glip glip glip’ that epitomises ‘Glip Crossbill’. If you’re not yet into Crossbill vocal types, they REALLY do sound different from one another. Each of the different calls came from different flocks. The Glips were a larger flock of 10-15 birds, the other 2 vocal types from very small and quite separate flocks of 2-3 birds.

I certainly haven’t learnt all the Crossbill vocal types by ear yet. I just know ‘different’ (from ‘Glip’). Having collected a few recordings  of varying quality, when I tried to look at them, I could tell the Glip Crossbills straight away. I  knew that’s what they would be. The first ‘different’ one was confirmed by Dougie as Parakeet Crossbill (as suspected). However he also came up with another. British Crossbill. 3 types at least at Strines at present. I could see differences in the sonagrams but I thought claiming 3 would be too many!

Must admit I half thought it would be just one Crossbill vocal type and that I was mis-understanding something. However all recordings were of flight calls- not excitement calls, and the different callers were in different flocks. Suppose it could be bit like mixed winter Bunting/ Finch flocks all in same good feeding habitat. Especially with immigrants in autumn winter, chance of variety increases.

I am a kinesthetic  learner so I learn best by doing (rather than reading etc). ‘Doing’ here is making my own recordings (no the best – but they are mine!) and learning from birds I am personally seeing and hearing. I now have a better frame reference to go forward. I recorded  Phantom Crossbill here before in very lean Crossbill year (3 plus years ago). I should still have the recording but I am not sure where it is.

Why Strines for Crossbills?

It is a great Crossbill spot. Twice recorded Two-barred Crossbill, many Parrots in the past (flocks in invasion years in 1982-83 and 1990-91) and ‘Common’ Crossbill arriving most years and occasionally breeding. You can see the east coast from Strines (well OK the Humber Bridge); it’s on the moorland fringe and is the first high point the birds reach which is also full of food!

So here’s the sonagrams. Will try and add sound files later, (click on for slightly for larger image). They can be compared with sonagrams and recordings in ‘The Sound Approach to Birding’ (and if you haven’t got a copy yet- why on earth not?!)

All recorded using a Remembird– still for my money the best value, lighweight, effective, carry around recording device

Glip Crossbills. A small flock flying low overhead, so good clear sound ‘capture’. Red Grouse calling nearby also (lower pitched row of dark blobs). The Glip Crossbill is the first vocal type to learn, the commonest, and the call type which use to be written about in field guides. Sonagram shape as a ‘tick’

Parakeet Crossbill. This is the one that sounds a bit more like a Parrot Crossbill and tricked both Swedish and Dutch birders several years ago into thinking there was a Parrot Crossbill invasion – When in fact i was a Parakeet Crossbill invasion. Recorded from a flock of 3 birds of at Strines.

British Crossbill. The surprise find from a calling flock of just 2 birds. Thanks Dougie!

5 thoughts on “Glip, Parakeet and British Crossbills

  1. Lindsay Cargill

    Hi Martin,

    Having studied crossbill vocalizations for 8 years in NE Scotland and now matching these calls with biometrics IMHO the situation is far from clear, and at best can be described as ‘fluid’ or dynamic. There is some evidence that there are “glip” (4E types) crossbills and then ‘all the rest’ when it comes to curvirostra (perhaps justifying the two modal sizes) ! I have found Fc1’s, which would include British and Parakeet ( plus other Sound Approach ‘types’), at times to be interchangeable eg. a trapped bird giving 3 variants of Fc1 on release ! Parakeet Fc can also synonomous with “Wandering” type flight calls in my experience ( and both give the same type of excitement call).

    This year, as well as the usual 4E Glips, another call type ‘appeared’. This is a variant of parakeet but the call is not as long in duration and in the field it sounds quite ‘glip’ like – caught me out intitially, and I don’t mind admitting that ! Your ‘parakeets’ look similar to these. I have caught a couple of these call types and they are quite big-billed (there are pics on the blog). I’ll try and post some examples of the variants on my blog, all at the same scale so the differences can be seen. Scottish Crossbill also ‘appears’ to have changed its calls, which I know is going to go down like a lead balloon !

    Great blog (and book) btw !

    Best wishes,

    Lindsay Cargill

  2. Matt

    I’ve continued to collect new recordings of Newfoundland Type 8, and they too appear to have changed their call. All the other Types here in the States however, appear to be quite stable (known recordings go back to late 1950’s). Perhaps each Type across the pond has a fair amount of variation and therefore perhaps some of the Types across the pond have been split too far. I’ve always found Types to be somewhat variable, but it’s important not to go so far to split them off, thus creating more Types than actually occur. I’d love to hear more from Lindsay about his thoughts on why the Scottish has changed it’s call? Anyone have Lindsay’s new email?

    Matt Young

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  4. Sam Bosanquet

    Hi Martin,
    I read your Strines Crossbills post when you first posted it. I’ve been pondering Crossbill splits this week as there’s one singing on the edge of the Spruce plantation behind our Carmarthenshire garden. It’s a wonderfully flutey song, and sounds much more melodic than the songs I heard from early breeding Crossbills in Feb/March 2011 here. Do you know whether Crossbill songs have been investigated in as much detail as their alarm and contact calls and whether they are of diagnostic value in any way? I’m afraid I don’t have any recording equipment, but guess there might be singing Crossbill spp elsewhere in Britain at the moment. Your thoughts would be most welcome.

    Sam B


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