Beware the Flesh-eating Crossbill

There are birds that do not scruple to feed on human flesh. Battlefields have always had their black-garbed attendants in the form of vultures and ravens, and even ruddy turnstones are known to have pecked at a corpse or two.

But winter finches?

Gesner, Crossbill

In 1555, Conrad Gesner reported that he had heard of red crossbills dining on cadavers, a distasteful habit mentioned again half a century later in Aldrovandi‘s account of this “voracissima avis.”

Three hundred years earlier, the English chronicler Matthew Paris warned that these birds were actually capable of accelerating the production of human carrion. After extracting the seeds with their forceps-like bills, the crossbills in his local orchards left

the rest of the apple … poisoned, as if with venom.

Be careful out there.

Common Crosbill