Red Crossbill

Loxia curvirostra
Global Range Map
North American Range Map

The Red Crossbill is a member of the finch clan. Their beaks are adapted to extract seeds from conifer cones. There is a wide variation in coloration in both sexes, and they may breed whenever a good supply of cone seeds is available. In Eurasia it is known as the Common Crossbill.

The Red Crossbill occupies a global range in the Northern Hemisphere, including North America, Eurasia, and northern Africa. Taxonomists call out 21 subspecies. Many researchers believe future genetic studies will combine some of these members, reducing the total number of subspecies:

  • L. c. corsicana lives in Corsica.
  • L. c. balearica lives in Mallorca.
  • L. c. poliogyna lives in the Atlas Mountains in northwestern Africa.
  • L. c. guillemardi lives in the Balkans, Turkey, Cyprus, Crimea, and the Caucasus.
  • L. c. mariae lives on the Crimean Peninsula.
  • L. c. altaiensis lives in Mongolia.
  • L. c. tianschanica lives in central Asia.
  • L. c. himalayensis lives in northern India, Nepal, and south-central China.
  • L. c. meridionalis lives in Vietnam.
  • L. c. japonica breeds in eastern Russia and Japan, and spends winters in southern Japan, the Korean Peninsula, and eastern China.
  • L. c. luzoniensis lives in the Philippines.
  • L. c. curvirostra lives in Great Britain and continental Europe, and east to Siberia.
  • L. c. bendirei breeds in the southern Yukon and northern British Columbia, to the western USA east of Cascades. They spend winters south to the southern USA.
  • L. c. sitkensis breeds in coastal southern Alaska to northwestern California.
  • L. c. pusilla may be the most widespread race in North America, living in the Appalachian Mountains, the southern Rocky Mountains, and southern Cascade and Sierra-Nevada ranges, south to the Transverse Ranges in southern California.
  • L. c. benti breeds in southeastern Montana, northeastern Wyoming, and the southwestern USA. Some spend winters south to southern Texas.
  • L. c. minor lives in the Pacific Northwest from south-central Alaska, south to Washington and Oregon.
  • L. c. percna lives in Newfoundland and on nearby islands.
  • L. c. grinnelli lives in the southwestern USA.
  • L. c. stricklandi lives in southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, and south to El Salvador.
  • L. c. mesamericana lives in southern Mexico and northern Central America.

Until recently, my experience with Red Crossbills was limited to a single rainy day encounter on the Oregon coast. I was happy to have had the meeting, but frustrated with the environmental obstacles that prevented me from getting better pictures. Late February 2022, I embarked on a slow drive up the west coast, and I stopped again at Cape Arago. This time I was a little luckier in finding them.

Click map markers to reveal further information