Family Finches (Fringillidae)

Least Concern

Scottish Crossbill (Loxia scotica)


French: Bec-croisé d’Écosse German: Schottlandkreuzschnabel Spanish: Piquituerto escocés

Loxia curvirostra scotica

E. J. O. Hartert

, 1904,

East Ross-shire, Scotland


Forms a species group with L. curvirostra and L. pytyopsittacus, and all have sometimes been considered conspecific. Present species almost identical to L. curvirostra in wing, tail, bill and tarsus measurements, and overlaps in wing and bill measurements with L. pytyopsittacus, but intermediate in bill shape (a feeding adaptation). Feeding behaviour (and excitement call) apparently sufficient to isolate it partially from L. curvirostra, with no hybridization known where ranges overlap; but hybridizes with L. pytyopsittacus, and genetic evidence reveals limited differences between all three forms in Europe, indicating incomplete reproductive isolation. Captive and wild birds mate assortatively mainly on basis of bill size and flight and excitement calls, but extent of hybridization in wild not fully known; further research required, especially into resource polymorphism in Loxia as an explanation of the many similar cases within L. curvirostra where subspecies vary somewhat in bill size and vocalizations (latter perhaps as a function of former, or simply from vocal copying) but which remain capable of interbreeding when cone-crop failures force irruptions (under this scenario even L. pytyopsittacus would be treated as a subspecies). Monotypic.


N & NE Scotland.

Descriptive notes

16–17 cm; 36–49 g. Medium-large, short-legged and short-tailed finch with distinctive crossed mandibles; all pluma­ges extremely similar to corresponding ones... read more


Call and song very similar to those of L. curvirostra, but with slight variation, both... read more


Breeds in lowland forests and stands of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), including open... read more

Food and feeding

Mostly seeds of Scots pine (bill shape intermediate between those of L. curvirostra and L. pytyopsittacus, apparently... read more


Season late Jan/Feb–Jun; one or two broods, depending on availability of food. Monogamous, rarely polygamous; pair-bond endures for... read more


Resident and locally dispersive. In non-breeding season moves short distances (less than 20 km)... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. Restricted range species: present in Caledonian Pine Forest Secondary Area. Uncommon and local; more or less confined to E Highlands, with important... read more

Recommended citation

Clement, P. & de Juana, E. (2020). Scottish Crossbill (Loxia scotica). 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 28 January 2020).