- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Fringillidae
A gem of the northern woods, White-winged Crossbills often first appear as a bounding, chattering flock moving between spruce trees. Rose-pink males and greenish females and immatures spend most of their time prying into spruce cones with their twisted bills. Flocks work around treetops animatedly, hanging upside down like parrots, challenging others that come too close, then abruptly flying off to the next tree. They also descend to the ground to gather grit for digestion or to feed on fallen cones.More ID Info
Find This Bird
White-winged Crossbills are an irruptive species, meaning that, when cone crops fail in their normal range, they can move far to the south. In some years they show up in late autumn and early winter in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest. Look (and listen) for them in coniferous forests, particularly spruce and tamarack, less often in fir and hemlock. Ornamental spruces planted in cemeteries and parks often attract winter wanderers, and they also sometimes show up at feeders.
- Piquituerto Aliblanco (Spanish)
- Bec-croisé bifascié (French)
- Cool Facts
- Individual White-winged Crossbills can eat up to 3,000 conifer seeds each day.
- Adult White-winged Crossbills molt their feathers once a year, usually in the autumn. The red feathers of the male have unpigmented barbules 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.
- 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.
- White-winged Crossbills are opportunistic breeders; they can start nesting at any point in the year when food is sufficient for the female to form eggs and raise young. The species has been recorded breeding in all 12 months.
- In Europe, the White-winged Crossbill is known as the “Two-barred” Crossbill. This Old World form is larger than New World birds, with larger bills, less black in the plumage, different calls. The two forms are currently considered the same species, but may be distinct species.