People passionate about nature

White-winged Crossbill

Above photo supplied by Rudolf Koes


How do I recognize it?

White-winged Crossbill is a small finch-like bird, with crossed mandibles. This fieldmark is only visible at close range. Adult males are mostly pinkish red, with black wings and tails. They have two bold white bars on the wings. Females and juveniles are brownish with much streaking, but also sport the white wing bars. The species usually travels in flocks and is very vocal and can be recognized by the soft “chik-chik” or “tri-tri” notes.

Does it migrate?
It does not migrate, but rather wanders widely, especially during winter. These movements depend on the availability of food – mainly seeds of tamarack and spruce – and birds may be very common one year and almost absent another year. In North America it winters south as far as the northern United States; occasionally much farther south.


Above photo supplied by Rudolf Koes


Where does it live?

This species has a circumpolar distribution and breeds in boreal forests. As is the case during the winter season, breeding locations vary from year to year, depending on food availability.

Where can I see it?
White-winged Crossbills can show up anywhere, including cities and towns, where-ever there are trees to feed in. Good places to try for them are Old Highway 15 west of Elma, the snowmobile trail off Maple Creek Road and Nopiming and Whiteshell Provincial Parks. Some years it is very common in the Twin Lakes area southeast of Churchill.

Conservation Status.
There are no immediate threats to the species, but forestry practices and forest fires can interfere with breeding.

Above photo supplied by Rudolf Koes


Did you know?
The bills of White-winged Crossbills are thinner than those of Red Crossbills. The latter species prefers pine seeds, but will often visit feeders. In both species the upper mandible crosses over to the right of the lower mandible. This adaptation helps the birds to extract seeds form the conifer cones. In addition, in winter both species are often found on roads where they pick up salt or grit.

Written by Rudolf Koes