Red CrossbillLoxia curvirostra
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Fringillidae
A stocky finch of mature coniferous forests, the Red Crossbill is dependent on the seed cones that are its main food. Its peculiar bill allows it access to the seeds, and it will breed whenever it finds areas with an abundance of cones. It may wander widely between years to find a good cone crop.More ID Info
- Piquituerto Común (Spanish)
- Bec-croisé des sapins (French)
- Cool Facts
- The Red Crossbill is so dependent upon conifer seeds it even feeds them to its young. Consequently, it can breed any time it finds a sufficiently large cone crop, even in the depths of winter.
- Because this species can breed throughout most of the year, its molts and plumages vary more than those of other North American passerines. Juveniles hatched during summer molt only between late summer and late autumn (at the same time adults molt). Many (but not all) juveniles hatched earlier (from late winter and early spring) begin to molt 100-110 days after hatching and then again during the main molt period in the summer.
- A crossbill's odd bill shape helps it get into tightly closed cones. A bird's biting muscles are stronger than the muscles used to open the bill, so the Red Crossbill places the tips of its slightly open bill under a cone scale and bites down. The crossed tips of the bill push the scale up, exposing the seed inside.
- The Red Crossbill shows a great deal of variation in bill shape and voice, and it may in fact be composed of several different species. Eight different flight call types have been described north of Mexico, and birds giving each type have slightly differently shaped bills and prefer to feed on different tree species with differently sized cones.
- The oldest recorded Red Crossbill was a male, and at least 8 years old when he was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Idaho in 2014. He had been banded in the same state in 2007.