White-winged Crossbill

@ Jay McGowan

White-winged Crossbill Loxia leucoptera leucoptera (Gmelin 1789)

Appearance: Medium-sized finch red (males) to yellow (females) finch with distinctive mandibles curved and crossed at the tip.

Irruptions Winter 2020-2021: Found in the mountains across parts of the montane western states in numbers better than usual. In the east, small numbers likely linger in the Great Lakes with small numbers possibly moving into the northeastern states.

Two-barred CrossbillLoxia leucoptera bifasciata
-> N Europe to E Siberia and NW China
White-winged CrossbillLoxia leucoptera leucoptera
-> Alaska, Canada and N USA

Object of study: taxonomic status between the two subspecies

Natural History: Medium-sized finch rosy-red (males) to yellow (females) finch with distinctive mandibles curved and crossed at the tip.
Is the dominant crossbill across the boreal forest of Canada with occasional nesting in the northeastern states, Cascades to central Oregon, central Rockies to northern New Mexico, and along coastal areas of western Canada; in irruption years will move south into Plains and Appalachians. Feeds primarily on Tamarack and White and Black Spruce across the closed boreal forest of Canada; additionally uses Red Spruce in the northeastern states and southern Maritimes, Engelmann Spruce in Rockies, and rarely Sitka Spruce along coastal Alaska or Douglas Fir in British Columbia. Will use a variety of conifers during irruptions south of normal breeding range too. The main flight call given by the White-winged Crossbill is a chattering very redpoll-like chyetchyet or chetchet call, usually doubled or tripled, and repeated once every second or two.

Flight Call:

For more on White-winged Crossbill see here:

Irruptions: – Highly irregular outside the boreal spruce forest of Canada, but occasionally breeds in small to modest numbers in montane western Engelmann Spruce forests, and rarely irrupts south of eastern border states into the Plains and southern Northeastern States. Some years hifher numbers than usual can found in western montane areas, winter 2020-21 looks like it’s one of those years.

FiRN Needs: Recordings from the entire distribution area would be appreciated.

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