Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo by Tim Avery
Photo Copyright Tim Avery

The red crossbill, Loxia curvirostra, is readily identified by its distinctive bill that crosses at the tip. It lives in coniferous forests in both North America and Eurasia. North American populations are widely distributed, occurring from Alaska to Nicaragua. The species is moderately common in appropriate habitat in Utah.

The red crossbill's diet consists almost exclusively of conifer seeds, which they extract by prying apart the scales of pine cones with their unique bills. A red crossbill is capable of temporarily storing a great many seeds in a special pocket in its throat to prepare for nest sitting or to feed its mate and nestlings. Males sing and chase females, and then a pair will engage in courtship activities centered around feeding. The female is dependent on the food she receives during courtship for nest-building and egg formation. A pair may nest at any time of the year, so long as adequate food sources are available. The male and female search for, and even try out, potential nesting sites together. The female then builds the nest using twigs, grasses, and fine material. The female incubates the three eggs for about two weeks. The hatchlings are born with very little down, and must endure very cold temperatures during the female's absences from the nest. The young leave the nest sometime between two and four weeks after hatching. Parents continue to feed the young until the young are able to proficiently extract seeds on their own.


  • Adkisson, C. S. 1996. Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra). Birds of North America 256.

  • Hayward, C. L., Cottam, C., Woodbury, A. M., and H. H. Frost. 1976. Birds of Utah. In Great Basin Naturalist Memoirs, No. 1 (Wood, S. L. and K. T. Harper, eds.). Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.