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White-winged Crossbill

Loxia leucoptera ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: FRINGILLIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A medium-sized finch of the boreal forest, the White-winged Crossbill is adapted for extracting seeds from the cones of coniferous trees. It moves large distances between years tracking the cone crop from place to place.

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At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Both Sexes
Length
5.9–6.7 in
15–17 cm
Wingspan
10.2–10.6 in
26–27 cm
Weight
0.8–0.9 oz
24–26 g
Other Names
  • Two-barred Crossbill (British)
  • Bec-croisé à Ailes Blances (French)
  • Pico Cruzado (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • Individual White-winged Crossbills can eat up to 3,000 conifer seeds each day.
  • Breeding of the White-winged Crossbill is opportunistic and can occur throughout the year whenever food is sufficient for the female to form eggs and raise young. The species has been recorded breeding in all 12 months.
  • White-winged Crossbills with lower mandibles crossing to the right are approximately three times more common than those with lower mandibles crossing to the left.
  • Adult White-winged Crossbills change (molt) their feathers once each year, usually in the autumn. The red feathers of the male have unpigmented barbules on the surface that mask the red and make the bird appear pink at first in the fall. As these barbules wear off the bright red shows through, making the spring and summer male brilliantly colored.
  • The Hispaniolan Crossbill (Loxia megaplaga) used to be considered a subspecies of the White-winged Crossbill. It is found only in the pine forests of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Habitat


Forest

Coniferous forests, especially where large crops of spruce and tamarack cones can be found.

Food


Seeds

Conifer seeds, especially spruce and tamarack.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
2–5 eggs
Egg Description
Bluish green to white with dark spots or blotches around large end.
Condition at Hatching
Helpless and naked.
Nest Description

Open cup of twigs, grass stems, lichens or birch bark; lined with rootlets, lichen, bark shreds, hair, and cocoons. Well concealed in dense cover on branches of coniferous tree.

Nest Placement

Tree

Behavior


Foliage Gleaner

Hangs on cones and extracts seeds with oddly-shaped bill. Feeds in flocks. Takes grit and salt from roads

Conservation

status via IUCN

Least Concern

No indication of declines; may be increasing in some areas. Abundant in some areas in some years, but absent the next.

Credits

  • Benkman C. W. 1992. White-winged Crossbill (Loxia leucoptera). In The Birds of North America, No. 27 (A. Poole, P. Stettenheim, and F. Gill, Eds.). Philadelphia: The Academy of Natural Sciences; Washington, DC: The American Ornithologists' Union.

Range Map Help

White-winged Crossbill Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

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