Family Finches (Fringillidae)

Least Concern

Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra)


French: Bec-croisé des sapins German: Fichtenkreuzschnabel Spanish: Piquituerto común

Loxia Curvirostra


, 1758,



Forms a species group with L. scotica and L. pytyopsittacus, and all have sometimes been considered conspecific (see under those two species). Has apparently hybridized too with Spinus pinus. In W Palearctic, geographical variation rather slight and clinal (nominate race becomes paler, brighter and larger W–E, and within Europe brighter N–S), also with considerable individual variation; some accepted races possibly synonyms, e.g. guillemardi of nominate; several named races, e.g. hispana (SE Spain), mariae (from Crimea), vasvarii (NW Turkey), caucasia (Caucasus) and ermaki (N Altai), proposed on basis of very slight differences or show intermediate characters; conversely, some populations (e.g. in S Iberia)#R may merit subspecific recognition; race balearica restricted to Balearic Is based on evidence of genetic study#R. Situation in E Palearctic and S Asia not yet investigated. In North America, numerous attempts made to assign populations N of Mexican border to discrete races, with distinct breeding ranges; described races reai (from Idaho) and vividior (from Colorado) may merit recognition, whereas sitkensis and benti sometimes merged into race bendirei#R, but position complicated by identification of ten discrete types of flight call (across USA and W Canada)#R allied to other vocal characteristics (detectable using sonograms) and differences in bill size or shape (allied to specialization on particular species of conifer) and plumage colour, which, if driving reproductive isolation, may be considered “cryptic species”; in 2009, a newly discovered form from Idaho was proposed as a species, “L. sinesciuris”, on basis of small morphological and vocal differences attributed to absence of competition for pine (Pinus) cones from squirrels (Sciuridae)#R. Similar work in W Europe identified six vocal types, with some degree of assortative breeding and considerable overlap in area; in more recent study in W Mediterranean, however, a further six vocal types were described, thus placing some doubt on their taxonomic value. Further research required, especially as multiple vocal types now known to exist within crossbill populations, and adaptation to respective resource may be more appropriate explanation (see L. scotica). Race pusilla (also believed to be vocally distinct)#R sometimes listed as “percna”. Nineteen subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • L. c. curvirostra Linnaeus, 1758 – W, C & N Europe from British Is and Scandinavia E through Siberia to E Russia (N Amurland), S to Iberia, C Italy, Greece, Belarus and N Ukraine.
  • L. c. balearica (Homeyer, 1862) – Balearic Is.
  • L. c. corsicana Tschusi, 1912 – Corsica.
  • L. c. poliogyna Whitaker, 1898 – NE Morocco, N Algeria and N Tunisia; also (possibly this race) S Italy and Sicily.
  • L. c. guillemardi Madarász, 1903 – E Balkans, Turkey, Cyprus, Crimea and Caucasus.
  • L. c. japonica Ridgway, 1884 – extreme SE Russia (Ussuriland), Sakhaklin I, S Kuril Is, N & C Japan (uncommon on Hokkaido and Honshu), NE & E China (Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang S to Liaoning) and N Korea; winters S to EC China (S to Zhejiang) and Japan.
  • L. c. altaiensis Sushkin, 1925 – NE Kazakhstan, S Russia (C & S Altai Mts, Sayan Mts, and Tuva) and W & N Mongolia.
  • L. c. tianschanica Laubmann, 1927 – SE Kazakhstan S to Kyrgyzstan, and NW China (NW Xinjiang); winters to NW & N China.
  • L. c. himalayensis Blyth, 1845 – Himalayas in N India (Himachal Pradesh to at least Arunachal Pradesh), Nepal, and Bhutan, S Tibetan Plateau (S & E Xizang) and C China (Qinghai and Gansu S to NW Yunnan and W Sichuan); winters S to S Yunnan and N Myanmar.
  • L. c. meridionalis Robinson & Kloss, 1919 – S Vietnam (S Annam).
  • L. c. luzoniensis Ogilvie-Grant, 1894 – N & W Luzon (Cordillera Mts and Zambales Mts), in N Philippines.
  • L. c. sitkensis Grinnell, 1909 – SE Alaska, coastal W Canada and W USA (S to NW California); winters S to S Canada and SW USA.
  • L. c. bendirei Ridgway, 1884 – SW Canada (S Yukon and C British Columbia E to SW Saskatchewan) and NW USA (S to Wyoming); winters S to SW & S USA.
  • L. c. minor (C. L. Brehm, 1846) – SE Canada (Ontario E to Nova Scotia) and NE USA (S to Appalachian Mts); winters S to EC USA.
  • L. c. pusilla Gloger, 1834 – E Canada (Newfoundland); winters S to NE USA (occasionally to Virginia and Georgia).
  • L. c. benti Griscom, 1937 – C Rocky Mts, in WC USA.
  • L. c. grinnelli Griscom, 1937 – SW USA (California and Nevada); occasionally winters S to Arizona and NW Mexico.
  • L. c. stricklandi Ridgway, 1885 – S USA (Arizona and New Mexico) S to S Mexico, possibly also Belize.
  • L. c. mesamericana Griscom, 1937 – Guatemala and Belize S to N Nicaragua.
  • Descriptive notes

    14–20 cm; 23–53 g. Medium-large finch with large head, plump body, short legs and short, forked tail; distinctive large broad-based bill with pointed mandibles... read more


    Most frequent call hard high-pitched "chip" or "chip chip", given with varying... read more


    Lowland to submontane conifer forests and woodlands. In Palearctic, N populations mostly in taiga... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly seeds, buds and shoots of trees and plants; also some insects and larvae, and other invertebrates. Seeds and buds include those of... read more


    Season determined largely by food abundance, in N & C Europe Aug–Apr/May but most in Jan–May (breeding recorded all months... read more


    Resident and partial migrant, also frequently irruptive and nomadic in non-breeding season. Island... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common to locally common, erratically or occasionally irruptive and abundant; some populations apparently cyclic in abundance; uncommon to rare in... read more

    Recommended citation

    Clement, P. & Christie, D.A. (2020). Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 26 January 2020).