DESCRIPTION: The White-winged Crossbill adult male is red with dark brown wings that have two white bars (hence the name). There is a dark stripe across the eye. Tail is brown. Bill large, conical, with mandibles crossing at tip. Bill and legs are grey. Females have yellow plumage where the males have red, and its under parts and wings are grey. Bird length is around 15 cm (6 inches).
VOICE: https://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Loxia-leucoptera
NAME: English name refers to bird’s wing and bill features. Latin genus name ‘Loxia’ means ‘crooked’ and refers to the bill shape. Latin species name ‘leucoptera’ means a ‘white wing’. Known as T’wo-barred Crossbill’ outside North America.
HABITAT: Conifer forests with spruce and tamarack (larch).
DIET: Prefers spruce and tamarack (larch) seeds.
NESTING: Breeds any time of year, in relation to food availability rather than the weather. Can also have more than one clutch per year. Nests high on a spruce tree branch. Between two and four light blue-green eggs are laid, incubated by the female. Chicks fed by both parents.
DISTRIBUTION: Breeding range includes the coniferous forests in Canada (85% of the breeding population in North America), Alaska, the north part of the USA. Year-round resident in northern regions of Europe and Asia.
ON PEI: Year-round resident on Prince Edward Island, occurrence irruptive (see note below on ‘Irruptive Behavior‘).
CONSERVATION: Population difficult to assess due to irruptive nature of species, but appears stable. Vulnerable to forestry practices, as they need mature conifers for a good seed crop.
NOTES: The white-winged crossbill is part of the finch family. This finch has a highly specialized bill to extract conifer cone seeds.
Irruptive Behavior: Some bird species have a diet linked to very specific animals or species. Examples are lemmings for the Snowy Owl, pine seeds for the Pine Grosbeak, spruce budworm for the Evening Grosbeak. This means that these birds will follow their food sources, sometimes ‘irrupting’ in some areas when food is abundant. Here’s an article explaining that behavior.
REFERENCES: https://www.borealbirds.org/bird/white-winged-crossbill
https://www.mba-aom.ca/jsp/toc.jsp (Maritimes Breeding Bird Atlas)
http://www.luontoportti.com/suomi/en/linnut/two-barred-crossbill (Nature Gate Finland)
http://fieldguide.mt.gov/speciesDetail.aspx?elcode=ABPBY05020 (Montana Field Guide)

White-winged Crossbill, male - Mount Auburn Cemetery, Mass - Feb. 21, 2009 - John Harrison
White-winged Crossbill, male – Mount Auburn Cemetery, Mass – Feb. 21, 2009 – John Harrison
White-winged Crossbill, female - Jan. 1, 2009 - Dominic Sherony
White-winged Crossbill, female – Jan. 1, 2009 – Dominic Sherony