White-winged Crossbill

Loxia leucoptera
White-winged Crossbill specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A medium-sized (6-6 ¾ inches) finch, the White-winged Crossbill is most easily identified by its black wings with white wing bars, short black tail, and oddly-shaped bill. Males’ bodies are pinkish-red, while female Red Crossbills are streaky brownish-yellow on the back, head, and face. This species is most easily distinguished from the related Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) by its white wing bars and larger size. The White-winged Crossbill inhabits a large area of the Northern Hemisphere. In the New World, this species breeds across Alaska, Canada and the northern United States. This species’ range extends south at higher elevations in the western U.S. as far south as New Mexico. In the Old World, this species breeds across Siberia. White-winged Crossbills may wander widely during winter, and in some years northern populations may move south in large numbers as far as the central U.S. and Western Europe. White-winged Crossbills inhabit evergreen forests with trees that produce cones. This species almost exclusively eats seeds taken from these cones, and its strangely-shaped bill is specially adapted to cracking open cones to extract seeds. White-winged Crossbills eat seeds from a number of evergreen species, although they prefer spruce and larch cones. In suitable habitat, White-winged Crossbills may be observed feeding on cone seeds while perched on branches or hanging upside-down from the cone. When moving from tree to tree, this species undertakes short, undulating flights through the canopy. White-winged Crossbills are most active during the day.

DC Information

Irregular winter visitor October through March. Found in stands of conifers. The male is red; the female, olive green. Both have the diagnostic white winged patches.

Specimen Information

The top bird is a male; this may be the record for that specimen.
Date:  Summer 1883
Collected By:  LM Turner
Locality:  Fort Chimo, Ungava (Labrador)
Sex:  Not recorded
Catalog ID:  93571
On the lower branch is a juvenile on the left.  The record below is for the female on the right.
Date: March 1850
Collected By:  Am Museum NY/AL Hermann
Locality:  New Jersey
Sex:  Female
Catalog ID:  76705

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species