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A photo of a Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra), male
Red Crossbill, Male

Red Crossbill

Loxia curvirostra

The Red Crossbill, known as Loxia curvirostra, is a small passerine bird belonging to the finch family Fringillidae. This species exhibits a unique adaptation: its mandibles, which cross at the tips, are specialized for extracting seeds from conifer cones and other fruits. Adult males typically display vibrant red or orange plumage, while females are adorned in shades of green or yellow. However, there is considerable variation in both beak size and shape, as well as call types, across its range.

Identification Tips

The Red Crossbill is readily identified by its distinctive crossed mandibles, a feature that sets it apart from most other bird species. However, it shares this characteristic with the similar Two-barred Crossbill. The Red Crossbill can be distinguished by its uniformly brownish-black wings, lacking the bright white wing bars present in the Two-barred Crossbill. While there are other closely related crossbills within its range, such as the Parrot, Scottish, and Cassia Crossbills, these are best identified by their calls, as visual differences are minimal.

Habitat

Red Crossbills inhabit a variety of coniferous forests across North America and Eurasia, where they are closely associated with the availability of conifer seeds.

Distribution

The Red Crossbill is a widespread species, breeding and residing in coniferous forests across North America and Eurasia. Its presence can be irregular, as it may appear in certain areas only in years when the cone crop is abundant.

Behaviour

This species is known for its nomadic and irruptive behavior, with movements closely tied to the availability of conifer seeds. Red Crossbills typically breed in late summer when conifer seeds mature but may breed at any time of year if a suitable cone crop is found. They are known to disperse widely in search of food, and their occurrence can be quite unpredictable. Some populations, such as the Newfoundland Crossbill, are resident and do not exhibit significant movements.

Song & Calls

The Red Crossbill is primarily identified by its call, a single note "chip" that varies between the different types. These calls are frequently given and are key to distinguishing between the various populations.

Breeding

Breeding occurs in coniferous forests, with timing closely linked to the maturation of conifer seeds. Red Crossbills may nest at any time of year if they find an area with an adequate cone crop.

Similar Species

Similar species include the Two-barred Crossbill, Parrot Crossbill, Scottish Crossbill, and Cassia Crossbill. These species were once considered subspecies of the Red Crossbill but are now recognized as distinct, primarily based on call differences.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Red Crossbill is specialized, consisting primarily of seeds from conifer cones. They use their unique bill shape to pry apart the scales of cones and access the seeds within.

Conservation Status

The Red Crossbill is currently listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, indicating that it is not at immediate risk of widespread decline.

Red Crossbill Sounds




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