RED CROSSBILL – (Loxia curvirostra)
The Red Crossbill owes its name (both English and Latin) to the overlapping of the two curved mandibles of its bill. There are many variations of this species, depending on the region and the type of cone seeds they feed on. This member of the finch family measures about 15 cm (6 in.) long. The male is washed-out red-orange with brown wings and tail. The female is yellowish with brown wings and tail. The large bill and legs are grey. The feet are stronger than for other finches as they are used to pry apart cone scales to access the seeds.
The red crossbill breeds on PEI but their numbers can fluctuate throughout the seasons, as this is an irruptive species. Since they specialize on conifer cones, their range covers Canadian boreal forests where a good supply of their food can be found. Food availability will influence their breeding frequency, as they can breed any time of the year. They are known also to show up at bird feeders.
Conservation: the red crossbill is listed as ‘endangered’ by Cosewic due to its vulnerability to habitat loss, but as ‘least concern’ by the IUCN.