Red Crossbills are small passerine birds, belonging to the finch family, found in North America, Europe and Asia. Although these small birds possess distinctive crossed bills, they exhibit variations geographically in terms of vocalization as well as size and shape of the bill.
|Scientific Name||Loxia curvirostra|
|Other Names||Common Crossbill, Crossbill|
|Size||15 – 17 cm|
|Color||Males: Brick-red/orange-red/yellowish plumage, dull-red head, dark brown eyes, dark grayish brown wings, black legs and feet, blackish-brown cleft tail
Females: Dull greenish-yellow/dull grayish plumage, yellow rump
Juveniles: Grayish-brown plumage, whitish underparts
|Distribution||North America including southern Alaska, Newfoundland, northern United States, and North Carolina; Central America, Northern Eurasia, northern Africa, Philippines, and south-eastern Asia|
|Habitat||Coniferous forests, including pines, spruces, firs, and hemlocks|
|Nesting||Often begins in January|
|Sounds||Call: Loud, persistent chip-chip, also a harsh “chewk” when excited or alarmed, “jip-jip-jip” ringing flight call
Song: Trill sound followed by calls like that of Greenfinch
|Adaptations||Beaks are curved at the tips, helping them to extract seeds from cones|
|Lifespan||Up to 16.1 years|
|Diet||Mainly conifer seeds, also feed on buds of some trees; berries, weed seeds, insects like aphids|
|Clutch Size||3 to 4 eggs|
|Number of Broods||1 to 2 per year|
|Incubation Period||12 – 16 days|
|IUCN Conservation Status||Least Concern|
They are sociable and stay in small flocks around the year. Known to be strong and fast fliers that are tolerant to cold, red crossbills don’t migrate, but cover long distances in search of good conifer seeds.
When removing seeds from the cones, they start from the bottom and move spirally upward, searching each scale and removing the seeds with their tongue.
Breeding and Nesting
Breeding is more closely related to food availability than to season. The species is monogamous, and pairs are formed within flocks.
Nests are built by the female crossbills and are located on horizontal branches higher up in coniferous trees. The nest comprises of grass, twigs, and barks strips and is lined with lichen, feathers, grass, and hair.
A female incubates her eggs while the male gathers food for her and for the newborn for the first few days after hatching. Females also take part in food gathering along with the males after five days of continuous brooding.
After 18 to 22 days, the young leave the nest. The young are fed by the parents for around a month after hatching.
The species including its subspecies are the only birds in the world having crossed bills.
Published on November 7th 2016 by Sajal Datta under Coniferous Forest Animals.
Article was last reviewed on 5th December 2022.
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