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Red crested, long curved bill


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I heard a bird outside, its song was six repeated loud calls, then a pause and it was repeated.  I looked outside and there was a large bird, probably 8 inches head-to-tail (not including the bill), shaking the branches. It appeared to be eating something, but that tree doesn't have berries.  The distinctive features of the bird were a brilliant red crest on the back of its head and a long curved and thick bill, similar to a hornbill in length and thickness.  I've never seen a bird like this before.  Any ideas what it might be?  

My location is Maryland, USA, and it is a cold day, about 30 degrees F today.  

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The tree is a huge magnolia grandiflora, if that helps identify what the bird might have been eating.  

The crest was made of feathers and rested on the back of the head like a jay's crest.

The bill curved downward, like a hornbill.

Edited by Sue S
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Ed, the bird was much bigger than that, in body and in bill.  The body was bigger than a cockatoo and with a bill nearly as long as its body. I was thinking it might be a tropical bird, well out of its range.

Edited by Sue S
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The crest was up, like a Jay. It looked like a large red triangle above his head.  The bird was heavy, too, pushing the branches and leaves of the magnolia around.  I suppose it could have had something in its mouth.

Edited by Sue S
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8 minutes ago, Sue S said:

Charlie, that was exactly the color of the crest and the location, but the crest was much taller.  Also, I've seen a ton of woodpeckers, and this fellow was larger than that.  

Pileated Woodpeckers range in size between 16 and 20 inches tall.  That's at least twice the size of your original 8 inch estimate.  There are over 20 North American woodpecker species, ranging from 5 to 20 inches; while I'm sure you've seen a ton of them, they're not all the same size.

Crests are not fixed in the raised position.  Cardinals, Blue Jays, Pileateds, and other birds with obvious crests can raise and lower them to varying degrees, especially when flying.  Indeed, almost all birds can raise the feathers on the top of the head to some extent.

I think you can discard the tropical bird theory.  Any stray or escaped tropicals would likely not have survived the temperatures of the last few days.

Edited by Charlie Spencer
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