White-winged Crossbill

(Loxia leucoptera)

Conservation Status
White-winged Crossbill
Photo by Dan W. Andree
  IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern

 
  NatureServe

N5 - Secure

SNRB, SNRN - Unranked Breeding and Nonbreeding

 
  Minnesota

not listed

 
           
 
Description
 
 

White-winged Crossbill is a colorful, medium-sized finch. It occurs in the temperate and subpolar regions of the Northern Hemisphere. In Minnesota it is common to uncommon in the northeastern coniferous and mixed forests, occasional to rare in the remainder of the state. Migration is irruptive, with large numbers visiting the state one year and none the following year. It is found mostly in coniferous forests with spruce, tamarack, and eastern hemlock, sometimes in deciduous forests, and sometimes in towns. Adults feed mostly on spruce and tamarack seeds, but also on the seeds of other coniferous trees and deciduous trees, and occasionally on insects.

Adults are 5 to 16¾ (15 to 17 mm) in length and have a 10¼ to 11 (26 to 28 mm) wingspan. They have a stocky body, a large head, and a crossed bill.

The breeding male has a pinkish-red head, neck, chest, and back. The underparts are pinkish-red, fading to white in the rear, with brown streaks. The tips of the bill are crossed over, an adaptation that helps when extracting seeds from a spruce seed cone. This is the feature that gives the genus its common name. The wings and tail are black. There are two bold white wing bars on each wing. This is the feature that gives both the American and the European subspecies their common names. The innermost flight feathers (tertials) have white tips.

Females are greenish-yellow streaked with brown overall. Juveniles in their first plumage are heavily streaked overall. Subadult males are patchy red and yellow and are streaked overall. Immatures (juveniles and subadults) have bold white wing bars.

 
     
 

Size

 
 

Length: 5 to 16¾ (15 to 17 mm)

Wingspan: 10¼ to 11 (26 to 28 mm)

 
     
 

Voice

 
   
   
     
 

Similar Species

 
 

Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) is deeper red. There are no white wing bars.

 
     
 
Habitat
 
 

Coniferous forests with spruce, tamarack, and eastern hemlock, sometimes deciduous forests, and sometimes towns.

 
     
 
Biology
 
 

Migration

 
 

Irruptive, large numbers in some years, none in other years.

 
     
 

Nesting

 
 

White-winged Crossbills rarely nest in Minnesota.

 
     
 

Food

 
 

Mostly spruce and tamarack seeds, but also the seeds of other coniferous trees and deciduous trees, and occasionally insects.

 
     
 
Distribution
 
 

Occurrence

 
 

Common to uncommon in the northeastern coniferous and mixed forests, occasional to rare in the remainder of the state.

 
         
 

Maps

 
 

The Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union All Seasons Species Occurrence Map

 
         
 
Taxonomy
 
  Class Aves (birds)  
 

Order

Passeriformes (perching birds)  
 

Family

Fringillidae (true finches)  
  Subfamily Carduelinae  
 

Genus

Loxia (crossbills)  
       
 

Subordinate Taxa

 
 

Two-barred Crossbill (Loxia leucoptera bifasciata)

White-winged Crossbill (Loxia leucoptera leucoptera)

 
       
 

Synonyms

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
Visitor Photos
 
           
 

Share your photo of this bird.

 
  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Attach one or more photos and, if you like, a caption.
 
 

Dan W. Andree

 
 

Male & Female White-winged Crossbills...

Been in the area for a couple days and my guess is they will soon move on. Nice to see a bird that is often not seen in my area otherwise. I had never seen one in real life until these past couple days. I always thought by some photos I seen they were larger but they are smaller than what I thought. Remind me a little of Pine Grosbeaks but smaller etc. and different beak.

Neat little birds. They were feeding on spruce tree cones.

  White-winged Crossbill  
         
 

White-winged Crossbill...

I still have them feeding on spruce tree cone seeds and getting nice imagery. This morning one came right underfoot and I had to point the camera directly down to film it. I also panned a little to show part of my foot. Neat little bird and memorable experience I gotten so close to them. Seems to be just 3 of them a red or mature male, a female and a juvenile male since it looks like it has a slight wash of red in areas. Glad I have those large spruce trees and they stop over to feed as they pass through. Only other bird that came under my feet and tripod was the American Redstart.…

I filmed this male in 4k 5-10-22 in one of my spruce trees. He was stretching his wings and tail.

  White-winged Crossbill  
       
    White-winged Crossbill  
           
 
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos
 
 

 

 
           

 

Camera

     
 
Slideshows
 
White-winged Crossbill
Cory Gregory
  White-winged Crossbill  
White-winged Crossbill
JMC Nature Photos
  White-winged Crossbill  

 

slideshow

       
 
Visitor Videos
 
       
 

Share your video of this bird.

 
  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Attach a video, a YouTube link, or a cloud storage link.
 
 

 

 
     
     
       
       
 
Other Videos
 
  White-winged Crossbill (Loxia leucoptera) Video 2022-02-14 (1a)
Don Henise
 
   
 
About

Feb 14, 2022

White-winged Crossbill (Loxia leucoptera) - digiscoped video - 14 February 2022 - Ella Sharp Park, Jackson City, Jackson County, Michigan

 
  How Nature Works: White-winged Crossbill Feeding Technique
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
 
   
 
About

Apr 16, 2010

Take an up-close look at the remarkable physical adaptations White-winged Crossbills use to retrieve seeds hidden inside tightly closed spruce cones.

Check out All About Birds for more information on White-winged Crossbills: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/white-winged_crossbill/id

 
  White-winged Crossbills
Wild Bird and Nature Videos by McElroy Productions
 
   
 
About

Feb 4, 2012

Some short video clips of male and female white-winged crossbills from the boreal forest of Maine. Crossbills can be a tough species to video since they spend most of their time high in the trees feeding on the seeds of conifer cones. © 2011 Garth McElroy.

License at http://www.paya.com/videos/135205

 
  White-winged Crossbills
Stoil Ivanov
 
   
 
About

Feb 7, 2021

White-winged Crossbill ( Loxia leucoptera ) filmed 12-04-2020 at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve , Port Washington, Wisconsin. This was a eruption year for this northern finches. #WhitewingedCrossbill

 
  White-winged crossbills in Paradise | Kettle Moraine State Forest, Wisconsin
Stephen H. Outdoors
 
   
 
About

Nov 24, 2020

White-winged crossbills are a rare Winter visitor in the Midwestern United States. But as is the case with many Winter Finches this year, they are showing up in places much further South than they are normally found. I was happy to be able to watch this cooperative flock of 30-40 of them devouring the seeds of Spruce Trees, especially since these are considered the rarer of the two Crossbill Species that show up in our region. Thankfully, it appears they have plenty of cones to last the Winter, but who knows...

So what brings them here? In certain years when their food supply up in Canada is poor, they irrupt south in search for better cone crops, and them found them! Like Red Crossbills, White-winged crossbills utilize their oddly-shaped bill to pry open the scales of Spruce cones, which I think is pretty awesome and fascinating to watch.

 

 

Camcorder

 
 
Visitor Sightings
 
           
 

Report a sighting of this bird.

 
  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Be sure to include a location.
 
  Dan W. Andree
5/10/2021

Location: Norman County, Mn.

I still have them feeding on spruce tree cone seeds and getting nice imagery. This morning one came right underfoot and I had to point the camera directly down to film it. I also panned a little to show part of my foot. Neat little bird and memorable experience I gotten so close to them. Seems to be just 3 of them a red or mature male, a female and a juvenile male since it looks like it has a slight wash of red in areas. Glad I have those large spruce trees and they stop over to feed as they pass through. Only other bird that came under my feet and tripod was the American Redstart.…

I filmed this male in 4k 5-10-22 in one of my spruce trees. He was stretching his wings and tail.

White-winged Crossbill  
           
 
MinnesotaSeasons.com Sightings
 
 

 

 

 

 

Binoculars


Created: 5/25/2022

Last Updated:

About Us | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | © 2022 MinnesotaSeasons.com. All rights reserved.