Join for FREE
It only takes a minute!
More discoveries. NEW: Zeiss Victory SF 32

Welcome to BirdForum.
BirdForum is the net's largest birding community, dedicated to wild birds and birding, and is absolutely FREE! You are most welcome to register for an account, which allows you to take part in lively discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.

Personal tools
Main Categories

Red Crossbill

From Opus

(Redirected from Common Crossbill)

Alternative name: Common Crossbill

L. c. curvirostra, malePhoto © by Momo.Ayer, Valais, Switzerland, October 2010
L. c. curvirostra, male
Photo © by Momo.
Ayer, Valais, Switzerland, October 2010
Loxia curvirostra


[edit] Identification

Length 14-20 cm (5½-7¾ in), weight 23-53 g

  • Medium-sized finch
  • Red-orange body
  • Brighter red on rump
  • Dark brown wings
  • Dark bill with crossed tip
  • Notched tail


L. c. curvirostra, femalePhoto © by the late MahslebUpper Hollesley Common, Suffolk, UK, May 2012
L. c. curvirostra, female
Photo © by the late Mahsleb
Upper Hollesley Common, Suffolk, UK, May 2012
  • Yellow-orange crown and rump
  • Olive-green body
  • Grey-brown wings and tail


  • Streaked greyer-brown overall

[edit] Similar species

Parrot Crossbill, and particularly Scottish Crossbill and Cassia Crossbill, are very similar; q.v.

[edit] Distribution

Throughout most of the Northern Hemisphere, almost wherever substantial conifer forests occur.

In the Old World, more-or-less continuous from Scotland east to the Pacific coast of Russia, with more isolated populations south to northwest Africa, the Mediterranean islands, Turkey, the Himalaya, southern Vietnam, and Taiwan.

L. c. curvirostra, juvenilesPhoto © by the late MahslebUpper Hollesley Common, Suffolk, UK, May 2012
L. c. curvirostra, juveniles
Photo © by the late Mahsleb
Upper Hollesley Common, Suffolk, UK, May 2012

In North America, from southern Alaska, Manitoba, Quebec, and Newfoundland, south in the west to northern Nicaragua, and in eastern United States to Wisconsin and North Carolina (in mountains). Small numbers winter irregularly south to the Gulf coast.

[edit] Taxonomy

Male, probably L. c. minorPhoto © by kegressy.Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada, January 2007
Male, probably L. c. minor
Photo © by kegressy.
Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada, January 2007

Crossbill taxonomy is complex, and the validity of several of the taxa is disputed; several additional un-named taxa (particularly within L. c. curvirostra, where seven different call type groups have been noted in western Europe alone[1]) have also been suggested on the basis of differing call types. Scottish Crossbill probably also belongs as a subspecies here, though currently usually treated as a distinct species. At the other extreme, it has been suggested that all of the taxa could be considered as separate species.

Most of the taxa have strong associations with feeding on particular conifer species; the quip has been made - not without good justification - that "For North American crossbill ID, perhaps the best field guide is The Sibley Guide to Trees"[2]. However, all will readily shift to other conifer species in the event of a crop failure in their preferred species, though their feeding efficiency will be lower when doing so (which may prevent successful breeding while 'surviving' on the 'wrong' conifer).

The current subspecies listing (Clements[3] & IOC[4]) does not fully match call types, with many of the named subspecies being of uncertain application as they were described with no call information before the importance of calls was known[5]. There is a further mismatch in genetics, where only two groups are distinguishable, Old World (including Scottish Crossbill L. scotica and Parrot Crossbill L. pytyopsittacus‎!) and New World (including Cassia Crossbill L. sinesciuris)[6]. A treatment using genetic data would lead to a split into Common Crossbil L. curvirostra in the Old World, and Red Crossbill L. minor in the New World.

Cassia Crossbill L. sinesciuris[7] was formerly included in this species.

[edit] Subspecies

Male, probably L. c. bendireiPhoto © by forcreeksCabin Lake, central Oregon, USA.
Male, probably L. c. bendirei
Photo © by forcreeks
Cabin Lake, central Oregon, USA.

Twenty subspecies are recognised[3][4]; preferred food species noted where known:

[edit] Old World

  • L. c. curvirostra - most of Europe and northern Asia; on Picea abies, Picea obovata and other Picea species
  • L. c. corsicana - Corsica; on Pinus nigra
  • L. c. balearica - Balearic Islands; on Pinus halepensis
  • L. c. poliogyna - north-west Africa; on Pinus halepensis
  • L. c. guillemardi - Turkey, Cyprus, Caucasus; on Pinus brutia
  • L. c. mariae - Crimea; on Pinus nigra
  • L. c. altaiensis - Altai and Sayan Mountains of central Asia; on Picea schrenkiana
  • L. c. tianschanica - Tien Shan Mountains of central Asia; on Picea schrenkiana
  • L. c. himalayensis - Himalayas; on Tsuga dumosa and Picea spp.
  • L. c. meridionalis - southern Vietnam; on Pinus kesiya
  • L. c. japonica - Japan; on Picea spp.
  • L. c. luzoniensis - Luzon, Philippines; on Pinus kesiya

[edit] New World

Female, subspecies poliogynaPhoto © by peterdayEl Hajeb, Morocco, February 2018
Female, subspecies poliogyna
Photo © by peterday
El Hajeb, Morocco, February 2018
  • L. c. minor - south-eastern Canada, north-eastern USA; on Tsuga canadensis and Picea glauca
  • L. c. sitkensis - coastal southern Alaska, south-western Canada, north-western USA; on Tsuga heterophylla
  • L. c. bendirei (syn. L. c. neogaea) - south-western Canada, north-western USA; on Pseudotsuga menziesii
  • L. c. benti - central Rocky Mountains, USA; on Pinus spp.
  • L. c. grinnelli - south-western USA (California, Nevada); on Pinus spp.
  • L. c. stricklandi - south-western USA (Arizona, New Mexico), Mexico; on Pinus spp.
  • L. c. mesamericana - Central America (Guatemala, Nicaragua, Belize); on Pinus spp.
  • L. c. pusilla - Newfoundland; on Picea mariana

[edit] Habitat

Coniferous forests, with a preference for spruce Picea in most areas, but pine Pinus in the case of several subspecies, particularly those to the south of the species' main range where spruces do not occur.

[edit] Behaviour

[edit] Diet

They primarily eat the seeds of conifers, extracted from the cones by twisting their bill tips between the scales; cones in the range 3-14 cm long are preferred. Other less important foods include insects and the buds and seeds of many shrubs and trees.

[edit] Vocalisation

Listen in an external program

[edit] References

  1. Robb, M. (2000). Introduction to vocalizations of crossbills in north-western Europe. Dutch Birding 22: 61-107.
  2. Post #200 et seq. in the Birdforum AOU 2017 Checklist proposals discussion thread
  3. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2017. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2017, with updates to August 2017. Downloaded from
  4. Gill, F. and Donsker, D. (Eds). 2017. IOC World Bird Names (version 7.3). Available at
  5. eBird: North American Red Crossbill Types: Status and Flight Call Identification
  6. Post #14 in the Birdforum Crossbill taxonomy discussion thread
  7. Benkman et al. (2009). A new species of the Red Crossbill (Fringillidae: Loxia) from Idaho. Condor 111 (1): 169–17.

[edit] Recommended Citation

[edit] External Links


Fatbirder's Top 1000 Birding Websites

Help support BirdForum

Page generated in 0.28526807 seconds with 8 queries
All times are GMT. The time now is 18:59.