Red Crossbill Life History


Habitat ForestsMature coniferous forests.Back to top


Food SeedsConifer seeds, especially spruce, pine, Douglas-fir, and hemlock.Back to top


Nest Placement

Nest Tree

Nest Description

Open cup of twigs, lined with grasses, lichen, conifer needles, bark shreds, hair, plant fibers, and feathers. Well concealed in dense cover on branches of coniferous tree.

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size:2-6 eggs
Egg Description:Whitish, with reddish streaks and splotches concentrated around large end.
Condition at Hatching:Helpless with sparse down.
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Behavior Foliage GleanerHangs on cones and extracts seeds with oddly-shaped bill. Feeds in flocks. Takes grit and salt from roads.Back to top


Conservation Low ConcernRed Crossbill is a global species. In the U.S., populations appear to be stable in most areas, though they may have experienced a decline, notably in the Northwest, between 1966 and 2015, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Nomadic movements can make population trends difficult to assess, but Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 20 million with 25% spending part of the year in the U.S., 14% in Canada, and 3% in Mexico. The species rates an 8 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, and is not on the 2016 State of North America's Birds' Watch List. However, the South Hills Red Crossbill in Idaho is a distinct subspecies and is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists bird species that are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action. Rapid deforestation in the Pacific Northwest has caused declines of Red Crossbill in that area. These birds were formerly common in Newfoundland, but they are now rare, possibly extirpated because of competition with the introduced Red Squirrel.Back to top


Adkisson, Curtis S. 1996. Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2015.2. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2015.

North American Bird Conservation Initiative. 2014. The State of the Birds 2014 Report. US Department of Interior, Washington, DC, USA.

Partners in Flight (2017). Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski, Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2017). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2015. Version 2.07.2017. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley guide to birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, USA.

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