Red Crossbill

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image: redcrossbill.jpg

Common Name: Red Crossbill

Scientific Name: Loxia curvirostra

Size: 6-8 inches (14-20cm)

Habitat: North America; throughout most of the United States and Canada. Found in mature conifer forests.

Status: Least Concern. Global Population: 30,000,000 - 100,000,000 Mature individuals. Populations appear to be stable in most areas. May be declining in Pacific Northwest rainforests where deforestation is rapid. Formerly common in Newfoundland; now rare, possibly extinct because of competition with the introduced Red Squirrel.

Diet: Conifer seeds, especially spruce, pine, Douglas fir and hemlock.

Breeding: An open cup nest made of twigs, mosses and grasses. Well concealed in dense cover on branches of coniferous tree. Three eggs are laid.

Cool Facts: A crossbill's odd bill shape is an evolutionary design to open tightly closed conifer cones. The 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.

Some Red Crossbills show a great deal of variation in bill shape and voice and it may in fact be different subspecies. It is believed these subspecies have slightly differently shaped bills to mirror the indigenous conifer tree species with it’s specific sized cones.

The Red Crossbills are so dependent upon conifer seeds that it even feeds them to its young. Consequently this allows the Crossbill to breed any time it finds a sufficiently large cone crop even in the coldest of winters.

Found in Songbird Remix Cool and Unusual Birds

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