North Carolina winter birds include crossbills and other species. (Photo: Creative Commons)

Red Crossbill

This highly variable species is usually a denizen of the North and of the mountainous, but periodic irruptions bring large numbers well beyond their normal range. Several types of red crossbills (as many as 10) inhabit overlapping ranges and vary in bill size and structure.

Red crossbills possess unusual bills, on which the upper and lower mandibles cross at the tips. Although this feature can be difficult to see from a distance, the way they use their bills is distinctive, using the crossed mandibles to pry apart the scales of conifer cones.

Often clings upside down while extracting seeds from cones. They may also use their bills to pull themselves up and around, much like a parrot.

Separate from related white-winged crossbill by the lack of bold, white wing bars.

Hear the red crossbill:


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