A fascinating finch of coniferous woodlands, the Red Crossbill forages on nutritious seeds in pine, hemlock, Douglas-fir, and spruce cones. Their specialized bills allow them to break into unopened cones, giving them an advantage over other finch species. Because conifers produce seeds unpredictably, Red Crossbills sometimes wander (or “irrupt”) far beyond their usual range. They nest wherever and whenever they find abundant food, sometimes even in winter. Several types of Red Crossbill exist; they each have different calls, feed on particular conifer species, and might represent distinct species.More ID Info
Within their typical range, look and especially listen for Red Crossbills in coniferous forests. Their call notes are sharp and metallic, and the birds usually occur in chattering flocks near the tops of trees. In the morning, crossbills often come to the ground to consume grit along roadsides. Red Crossbills are nomadic, especially in winter, and in some years “irrupt” far south of their normal range. At these times they may show up in evergreen forests, planted evergreens, or at bird feeders. eBird reports can help you find recent, nearby sightings.
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