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Red Crossbill Loxia curvirostra


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Red Crossbill, male
credit: Elaine R Wilson/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Fringillidae, Finches view all from this family

Description ADULT MALE Has mostly deep red plumage overall, darkest and brownest on wings and tail. Note, some birds show indistinct pale wing bars (cf. White-winged). ADULT FEMALE Has dull yellow-green plumage overall, darkest and brownest on wings and tail. JUVENILE Brown and heavily streaked, paler below than above. First-year male recalls adult female, but plumage is yellow-orange. First-year female is similar to adult female.

Dimensions Length: 5 1/4-6 1/2" (13-17 cm)

Habitat Locally common resident of mature coniferous forests. Irruptive and wandering behavior make precise occurrence hard to predict.

Observation Tips Listen for its distinctive call.

Range Great Lakes, California, Southeast, Texas, Eastern Canada, Southwest, Northwest, Mid-Atlantic, Alaska, Plains, Western Canada, New England, Rocky Mountains

Voice Song begins with, and includes, several flight call-like kip-kip notes, and often ends in a buzzing trill. Experts can discern differences in calls among separate populations.

Discussion Plump-bodied finch whose bill has cross-tipped mandibles (feature shared only with White-winged); used to extract seeds from between scales of conifer cones. Precise size and shape of bill varies subtly across region and several forms (possibly even species) occur, each adapted to feed on different conifer species. Forms nomadic flocks outside breeding season. Sexes are dissimilar.