A Red Crossbill is a fun bird to see while bird watching. Below are some tips to help you identify Red Crossbills. We have also put together a list of fun Red Crossbill t-shirts, Red Crossbill bird patches, birdhouses, bird feeders, binoculars, stickers, and other fun bird-watching items.
About Red Crossbills
These stocky, nomadic finches are localized in coniferous forests. They wander around all year as they search for cones to devour. Even though they do not migrate, they change habitats in response to food changes. Their unique bills enable them to access cone seeds and are known to breed in places where there is an abundance of cones. Some of their distinctive features include:
Description and Migration
These birds are stocky, medium-sized songbirds that are around 8 inches in length. They
have a short, notched tail and an unusually twisted bill that is crossed when closed. While
both sexes are of similar sizes, they are sexually dimorphic in their plumages. Adult males
are brick-red with darker wings and a tail, while the females are mostly brownish or olive-brown above with yellowish underparts. The immatures look similar to females and are
brownish above but have pale underparts with brown streaking.
Red Crossbill Color Pattern
Red crossbills are entirely red-orange with dark-brown wings. Their bills are dark and have a crossed tip. The female Red Crossbills are primarily olive or grayish with a green-yellow chest and rump. On the other hand, juveniles have whitish chests with dark profound streaks.
Red Crossbill Size
They have short, notched tails and thickly curved bills that have a crossed tip
The relative size of both sexes
- Length range: 5.5-6.5 in (14-17 cm)
- Weight: 1.4 oz (40 g)
- Wingspan range: 10-10.75 in (25-27 cm)
Red Crossbill Behavior
They forage in flocks on cones in evergreens. However, large-billed Red Crossbills forage on pines. They breed whenever there is an abundance of cone crops. In courtship, males perform various displays to wow the females. They are also known to take salt from roadsides.
Red Crossbill Food
The diet of these birds is mainly composed of seeds of spruce, pine, Douglas-fir, hemlock, or
larch. Their mandibles have specially evolved to aid the birds in obtaining these seeds, as
they grasp the cone with one foot and insert their bills into two of the cone’s scales and close
them. Closing their bills widens the space between the scales and exposes the seeds,
following which they use the tongue and bill together to remove them. These birds have
been observed to remove the seed coats before consumption. Important tree species for
Red Crossbills include eastern white pine, pitch pine, Table Mountain pine, loblolly pine,
lodgepole pine, red pine, ponderosa pine, Sitka spruce, Engelmann spruce, red spruce,
black spruce, white spruce, western and eastern hemlock, and western larch. Sometimes, they can be found eating the seeds of birch and alder species as well. During the breeding
seasons, they consume insects for protein.
They feed heavily on conifer seeds of trees such as pine, spruce, Douglas-fir, and hemlock. Red Crossbills also feed on buds of various trees, might eat insects and seeds of weeds. The young are entirely fed on seeds.
Red Crossbill Habitat
Red Crossbills can be found in mature coniferous forests, especially spruce, pine, Douglas-
fir, hemlock, or larch with recent cone crops. Although they mostly breed south of the forests
of spruce, fir, and larch – the breeding grounds of White-winged Crossbills –, the two
species forage together in white spruce and Engelmann spruce forests in the late summer
due to the abundance of cone crops. There are at least 11 different types of Red Crossbills
that are mainly distinguished by their flight calls, and many are found to be specializing in
particular species of conifer. For instance, smaller-billed types favor western hemlocks for
their small cones, while the large-billed types in the Southwest can be found feeding on
They favor mature coniferous forests and rarely outside conifers. Their breeding habitats range from pines, spruce, Douglas-fir, and other areas. Flocks can be found in conifer plantations in the suburbs.
Range and Migration
Red Crossbills are passerine birds of the finch family that are found throughout the
coniferous forests of North America. They are known for their unique mandibles that aid
them in extracting seeds from conifer cones. These birds are scattered throughout North
America, ranging from southern Alaska to western and south-eastern Canada, western and
central United States, and along with western Mexico and parts of Central America. They are
non-migratory and remain in their habitats throughout the year, but follow a nomadic lifestyle
based on the availability of cone crops. Scarce populations of non-breeding flocks are found
in the eastern United States as well.
Red Crossbill Lifecycle
The females lay 3-5 eggs and incubate them for 12-25 days. The male brings food to the nest as the female broods the young. After a few weeks, both parents feed the hatchlings. The hatchlings leave the nest after 18-20 days.
Red Crossbill Nesting
Nests are built by the females in open sites. They are placed on branches next to or near the
trunk at heights up to 70 feet above the ground. The sites are typically located within dense
foliage to conceal the nests from predators. The nests are bulky cups that are made of
conifer twigs before being lined with grasses, weeds, seed-pod fibers, lichens, conifer
needles, feathers, bark, or hair. The resulting nests are around 9 inches across and 2 inches
tall, with the inner cup 2.4 inches across and 1 inch deep.
Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes
At Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.
Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Red Crossbills
The most common types of bird-watching binoculars for viewing Red Crossbills are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.
Red Crossbill T-shirts
If you love the Red Crossbill you should purchase a Bird Watching Academy & Camp T-shirt. To help support bird conservation we donate 10 percent to bird conservation activities.
Red Crossbill Iron On Patches
Kids, Youth, and Adults love to collect our Bird Watching Academy & Camp iron-on patches. Our bird-watching patches help you keep track of the birds you have seen and identified. You can also display the patches on our Bird Watching Academy & Camp banners.
The Red Crossbill is a great iron-on patch to start your collection with. The patches are durable and can be sewn on or ironed on to just about anything.
Red Crossbill Stickers
Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Red Crossbill. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.
Bird Feeders for Red Crossbills
There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.
Best Bird Houses for Red Crossbills
There are many types of birdhouses. Building a birdhouse is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 birdhouses have become our favorites. Getting a birdhouse for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these birdhouses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.