Thursday, December 20, 2012

White-winged Crossbill

On Monday, John Holden and I were excited to band this female White-winged Crossbill. Although these crossbills often travel in flocks, we only saw this one. The bird flew confidently into the feeding station, looked around, and calmly walked into one of my banding traps.

These crossbills are highly nomadic. They travel in search of conifer cones. They use their crossed bills to efficiently open cone scales. Single birds can eat up to 3,000 conifer seeds a day, although Benkman (2012) also comments that crossbill cone-opener bills make them “much less efficient than other finches at exploiting non-conifer seeds."

White-winged Crossbills normally breed across northern Canada. They are, however, unpredictable migrants and opportunistic breeders. They will breed at almost any time of the year if the birds find abundant conifer cones. One year Jacob Langslag and Jon Little even found a pair breeding in Rice County—the only confirmed breeding record from Minnesota!


  1. Lucky! Two or three weeks ago I saw (but didn't have a great view of) a bird in our big maple that appeared to have one part of its beak markedly shorter than the other, as the impression is here, but I think it was the other way around (top shorter, bottom longer). I assumed part of the beak had broken off. But I'll have to keep a watch out.

  2. Nice post Dan ! Only correction is that I was the one who found the nest at age 13 and Jon Little wrote about it in the Loon.