Red Crossbill

General description.

This stocky bird climbs about the pines using both bills and feet like a parrot. He snips off a cone with his crossed, pruning-shear bill. Once on the ground, he holds the cone upside down between his feet and slips his open bill under a scale. He then pries it apart and scoops out the seeds with his tongue.

Female appearance.

The female Crossbill is gray, tinged with dull green. She has yellowish rump and underparts.

Juvenile appearance.

Young are streaked gray, and the males don't acquire the red coat until their third year.

Breeding habits.

These are nomadic birds, wandering over large areas to find a good crop of conifer seeds, stopping to breed only when they find a good supply. They may start nesting as early as January; in some places, however, they do not breed until August.

Calls or song.

The songs of the "Red Crossbill" consist of a few introductory notes followed by a warbled trill rendered as, "pit-pit, tor-r-ree, tor-r-ree; whit-whit, zzzzt, zzzzt, zzzzt". Females sing as well as males, but quieter and less frequently.

Population and distribution.

These birds rang in all but the most southern states.

Nesting habits.

The "Red Crossbill" makes a shallow saucer of bark stips, grasss and roots, which it lines with moss and plant down. The female lays 3-4 pale blue-green eggs, lightly spotted with brown.
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