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 Crossbills, Genus Loxia

English Norsk Latin
Parrot Crossbill Furukorsnebb Loxia pytyopsittacus
Scottish Crossbill Skottekorsnebb Loxia scotica
Red Crossbill, Common Crossbill Grankorsnebb Loxia curvirostra
Hispaniolan Crossbill Hispaniolakorsnebb Loxia megaplaga
White-winged Crossbill
Two-barred Crossbill
Båndkorsnebb Loxia leucoptera



Red Crossbill, Loxia curvirostra - Kodiak Island, Alaska
Photo: Dave Menke, USFWS




The crossbill is a bird in the finch family, Fringillidae. The three to five (or possibly many more) species are all classified in the genus Loxia. These birds are characterised by the mandibles crossing at their tips, which gives
the group its English name. Adult males tend to be red or orange in colour, and females green or yellow,
but there is much variation.

These are specialist feeders on conifer cones, and the unusual bill shape is an adaptation to assist the extraction
of the seeds from the cone. These birds are typically found in higher northern hemisphere latitudes, where their
food sources grows. They will erupt out of the breeding range when the cone crop fails. Crossbills breed very
early in the year, often in winter months, to take advantage of maximum cone supplies

The different species are each birds to specialising in feeding on different conifer species, with the bill shape optimised for opening that species of conifer. This is achieved by inserting the bill between the conifer cone scales and twisting the lower mandible towards the side to which it crosses, enabling the bird to extract the seed at the bottom of the scale with its tongue.

Parrot Crossbill, Loxia pytyopsittacus


© http://www.ecosystema.ru/

This bird breeds in the pine forests of northwest Europe and into western Russia. There is also a small population
in Scotland, adding to the difficulty of distinguishing it from Common Crossbill and the endemic Scottish Crossbill, both of which breed within its range.

This crossbill is mainly resident, but will irrupt south and west if its food source fails. This species will form flocks outside the breeding season, often mixed with other crossbills.

They are specialist feeders on conifer cones, and the unusual bill shape is an adaptation to assist the extraction
of the seeds from the cone. The Parrot Crossbill is a specialist feeder on the cones of Scots pine.


Male Parrot Crossbill (Loxia pytyopsittacus) sitting in a Spruce tree.
Picture taken at Smithska udden, Gothenburg, Sweden

Photo: Oskila, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Loxia_pytyopsittacus071021.jpg

Adult males tend to be red or orange in colour, and females green or yellow, but there is much variation.

This species is difficult to separate from Common Crossbills and Scottish Crossbills, and plumage distinctions are negligible. The head and bill are larger than in either of the other species. The bill is thicker than those of its relatives, and the crossed tips are often not readily apparent. Extreme care is needed to identify this species.
The deeper, harder choop or tyuup call is probably the best indicator.

Some pine-feeding populations currently assigned to Common Crossbill in southern Europe may possibly be better referred to either this species or alternatively to new species in their own right, but as yet, research into
them is still at a very early stage.



Scottish Crossbill, Loxia scotica

The Scottish Crossbill, Loxia scotica, It is endemic to the Caledonian Forests of Scotland, and is the only
vertebrate unique to the United Kingdom. The Scottish Crossbill was confirmed as a unique species in August 2006, on the basis of having a distinctive bird song.

Source: http://wild-scotland.org.uk/species/18/scottish-crossbill/

Scottish Crossbills have quite distinct flight and excitement calls from other crossbills - some even stated they
have "Scottish accents".

Research in Scotland has shown that Common Crossbills, Parrot Crossbills and Scottish crossbills are reproductively isolated, and the diagnostic calls and bill dimensions have not been lost. They are therefore good species.

The population is thought to be less than 2000 birds. It nests in pines or other conifers, laying 2-5 eggs.


Pinus sylvestris, Spittal of Glenmuick, Cairngorm National Park, Scotland
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pinus_sylvestris_Glenmuick.jpg

The Scottish Crossbill breeds in the native Scots pine, Pinus sylvestris, Caledonian forests of the Scottish Highlands, but (perhaps surprisingly), often also in forestry plantations of exotic conifers, notably Larch (Larix decidua and L. kaempferi) and Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta).

This species of crossbill is resident, and is not known to migrate. It will form flocks outside the breeding season, often mixed with other crossbills.

The crossbills are characterised by the mandibles crossing at their tips, which gives the group its English name. They are specialist feeders on conifer cones, and the unusual bill shape is an adaptation to assist the extraction of the seeds from the cone. The Scottish Crossbill appears to be a specialist feeder on the cones of pines (Scots pine and Lodgepole pine) and larch.

Adult males tend to be red or orange in colour, and females green or yellow, but there is much variation.

The Scottish Crossbill is extremely difficult to separate from the Common and Parrot, and plumage distinctions are negligible. The head and bill size is intermediate between and overlapping extensively with the other two, and extreme care is needed to identify this species. The metallic jip call is probably the best indicator, but even this needs to be recorded and analysed on a sonogram to confirm the identity.



Red Crossbill - Common Crossbill, Loxia curvirostra


© http://www.ecosystema.ru/

The Common Crossbill, Loxia curvirostra breeds in the spruce forests of North America, where it is known
as Red Crossbill, as well as Europe and Asia; some populations (possibly different species) breed in pine forests
in certain areas of all three continents, and in North America, also in Douglas-fir.

   
Left: Red Crossbill, Female, Both: Loxia curvirostra, Right: Red Crossbills. Males
Cabin Lake Viewing Blinds, Deschutes National Forest, Near Fort Rock, Oregon

Photo: Left:http://www.naturespicsonline.com/ Right: Elaine R. Wilson

This crossbill is mainly resident, but will regularly irrupt south if its food source fails. This species will form flocks outside the breeding season, often mixed with other crossbills.

They are specialist feeders on conifer cones, particularly the various spruce species, and the unusual bill shape is
an adaptation to assist the extraction of the seeds from the cone. Some populations, which may be different
species, also feed on Douglas-fir and various pine species.

Adult males tend to be red or orange in colour, and females green or yellow, but there is much variation.

ARKive video - Common crossbill feeding chicks on nest
Common crossbill feeding chicks on nest
Video credits © Graham Horder udio credits Natural FX © BBC Natural History Unit
www.arkive.org

This species is difficult to separate from Parrot Crossbill and Scottish Crossbill, both of which breed within its Eurasian range. The identification problem is less severe in North America, where only Red Crossbill and
White-winged Crossbill occur. However, the South Hills Crossbill, occurring in the South Hills and Albion
Mountains in Idaho has recently been described as a new species, Loxia sinesciuris. It is virtually identical to
the Red Crossbill differing slightly in body dimensions and calls and shows a very low degree of hybridization
with the Red Crossbill.

Plumage distinctions from Parrot Crossbill and Scottish Crossbills are negligible. The head and bill are smaller
than in either of the other species. Care is needed to identify this species. The glip or chup call is probably the
best indicator.

ARKive video - Common crossbill - overview
Common crossbill - overview
Video credits© Graham HorderAudio credits© Natural FX© BBC Natural History Unit
www.arkive.org

According to the page about the Red Crossbill at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Crossbill
there are a lot of sub-species. Their names can be viewed there.


White-winged Crossbill - Two-barred Crossbill, Loxia leucoptera


© http://www.ecosystema.ru/

The Two-barred Crossbill, Loxia leucoptera, known as the White-winged Crossbill in North America.
It has two subspecies, White-winged Crossbill, Loxia leucoptera leucoptera in North America, and Two-barred Crossbill Loxia leucoptera bifasciata in NE Europe and N Asia.

This bird breeds in the coniferous forests of Alaska, Canada, northernmost USA and across Asia extending into northeast Europe. It nests in conifers, laying 3-5 eggs.

This crossbill is mainly resident, but will irregularly irrupt south if its food source fails. The American race seems to wander more frequently than the Eurasian subspecies. This species will form flocks outside the breeding season, often mixed with other crossbills. It is a rare visitor to western Europe, usually arriving with an irruption of Common Crossbills.

White-winged Crossbill, Loxia leucoptera, male. Mount Auburn Cemetery, Massachusetts
Photo: John Harrison, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Whitewingedcrossbillmale09.jpg


They are specialist feeders on conifer cones, and the unusual bill shape is an adaptation to assist the extraction
of the seeds from the cone. Two-barred Crossbill has a strong preference for larch, Larix, in Eurasia using
Siberian larch, Larix sibirica, and Dahurian larch, Larix gmelinii, and in North America Tamarack larch,
Larix laricina
. It will also take Rowan Sorbus berries, and in North America, also Eastern Hemlock,
Tsuga canadensis
) and White spruce, Picea glauca cones.

Adult males tend to be red or pinkish in colour, and females green or yellow, but there is much variation.
Two-barred is easier to identify than other crossbills, especially in North America, where only Red Crossbill
and this species occur, but some care is still needed.



White-winged Crossbill, Loxia leucoptera, female
Photo: dominic sherony, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:White-winged_Crossbill_-_female.jpg


Within its Eurasian range, this species is smaller-headed and smaller-billed than Parrot Crossbill and Scottish Crossbill, so the main confusion species both there and in North America is Common or Red Crossbill.

The main plumage distinction from Common Crossbills is the white wingbars which give this species its English
and scientific names. There are also white tips to the tertials. The adult male is also a somewhat brighter (pinker) red than other male crossbills. Some Common Crossbills occasionally show weak white wingbars, so care is needed with the correct identification of this species. The chip call is weaker and higher than that of Common Crossbill.


Hispaniolan Crossbill, Loxia megaplaga


The Hispaniolan Crossbill, Loxia megaplaga, is a crossbill that is endemic to the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean and therefore only found in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

The bird feeds almost exclusively on the seeds from Hispaniolan Pine (Pinus occidentalis) cones.

Medium-sized finch, 15 cm, with distinctive crossed mandibles and two white wing-bars. Male pale red with
black wings. Female dull olive with blackish wings, yellowish rump and breast, and fine dark streaking on breast.
Voice High, emphatic chu-chu-chu-chu call. Also soft warble. Hints Best located by calls of small foraging
groups. Regularly visits water to drink.


Hispanola Crossbill, Loxia megaplaga
Source: http://www.planetofbirds.com/passeriformes-fringillidae-hispaniolan-crossbill-loxia-megaplaga


Loxia megaplaga occurs primarily in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where it was not recorded from 1930-1970. Several birds were found in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica in the early 1970s, but there have been no subsequent records. In Haiti, it is known from the Massifs de la Selle and de la Hotte, including the Macaya Biosphere Reserve where small flocks were recorded in 2004.

In the Dominican Republic, it occurs mostly in the Sierra de Baoruco, with occasional records from the Cordillera Central. Numbers presumably declined between the mid-1920s and mid-1960s in response to habitat loss, but
by 1978 the species was thought to be recovering. The population apparently fluctuates depending on food
availability but was estimated as c.3,375 individuals following surveys in the Sierra de Baoruco between 1996-1999.

It is restricted to pine Pinus occidentalis forests, mostly at high elevations, and feeds exclusively on pine-seeds. There is a large pine-cone crop about every three years, but crops in other years are small or fail altogether. Fluctuations in pine-cone abundance are not synchronous, and birds are nomadic in response to food availability, the species has been recorded as low as 540 m and as high as 2,600. It breeds between January and April, with the timing probably depending on the cone crop. The nest is usually built high up in the branches of pine trees.
Source: BirdLife International (2012) Species factsheet: Loxia megaplaga. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 15/02/2012. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2012)
IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 15/02/2012.



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