Red Crossbill
(Loxia curvirostra)


Picture of bird
© Jason Crotty - License
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The Red Crossbill is found throughout the world's boreal and coniferous forests, and is a common species in parts of Canada's mature coniferous forests. The species is nomadic and opportunistic and may breed in any season (late December to mid-October) when food supply is adequate (Adkisson 1996). While population declines have been dramatic in Newfoundland and Labrador, results of the Breeding Bird Survey and Christmas Bird Count suggest that the species' population has shown a moderate increase in Canada as a whole since the early 1970s. This assessment is considered to be of medium reliability due to the difficulty in adequately surveying such a nomadic species. There are presently 10 recognized Red Crossbill types across North America. One type (Type 8), known as the percna subspecies, is endemic to insular Newfoundland, though it was recently found on Anticosti Island, Quebec (Tremblay et al. 2018). This subspecies was designated as Endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada because of its declining population (COSEWIC 2004a), and was listed as such under the Species at Risk Act in 2005. COSEWIC recently reassessed percna as Threatened, based on the discovery of this new breeding population in Quebec (COSEWIC 2016b). This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
COSEWIC (Canada)Threatened2016Red Crossbill percna subspecies
SARA (Canada)Endangered2005Red Crossbill percna subspecies
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Secure2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaModerate IncreaseMediumAt an Acceptable Level
Red Crossbill percna subspeciesLarge DecreaseHighBelow Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada1,000,000 - 5,000,000 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

Conservation and management

Although still common in much of their range, the species' numbers fluctuate markedly, depending on food availability. Forest fragmentation and reductions in mature forest associated with forestry practices have caused decreases in some areas (Adkisson 1996). In the west, extensive loss of pine trees throughout British Columbia's interior, and now Alberta's jack/lodgepole pine hybrids, from an unprecedented epidemic of mountain pine beetle (Federal, Provincial and Territorial Governments of 2010), will likely influence the abundance and distribution of crossbills in future. The large decline in the percna subspecies during the latter part of the 20th century are likely due to the loss of large-coned white and red pine as a result of insect outbreaks and forest harvesting, as well as the introduction of red squirrels who compete for the same cone resource (COSEWIC 2016b). Other probable threats include fire and fire suppression, roadways, and mining (COSEWIC 2016b). For information on the legal status of this species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and to view the Recovery Strategy, see the SARA Registry.


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Boreal Hardwood TransitionBoreal Hardwood Transition, sub-region and priority type: Ontario and Manitoba -- Conservation
Boreal Softwood ShieldBoreal Softwood Shield, sub-region and priority type: Atlantic, NL -- Conservation & Stewardship
Great BasinGreat Basin, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Conservation
Northern Pacific RainforestNorthern Pacific Rainforest, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Conservation & Stewardship
Northern RockiesNorthern Rockies, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Conservation & Stewardship