Red Crossbill percna subspecies
Scientific Name: Loxia curvirostra percna
Taxonomy Group: Birds
COSEWIC Range: Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: April 2016
COSEWIC Status: Threatened
COSEWIC Status Criteria: C2a(ii)
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This subspecies is a distinctive taxonomic group endemic to Canada. Previously known to breed only on the island of Newfoundland, it has within the past five years also been documented nesting on Anticosti Island. While the Canadian population is thought to be greater than was understood previously due to the recent discovery of a breeding population component on Anticosti Island, there is no evidence of an increasing trend. On the contrary, this taxon has experienced a substantial long-term decline. Further population decrease is expected based on identified threats, most notably competition and predation from introduced squirrels in Newfoundland, habitat loss due to logging, and a fungal disease affecting Red Pine.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Endangered in May 2004. Status re-examined and designated Threatened April 2016.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Threatened
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2005-07-14
Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.
Red Crossbill percna is one of 10 recognized forms of Red Crossbill in North America. It is a medium-sized finch and a specialized seed eater having curved and crossed mandibles, muscular hinged jaws, and strong clasping feet for prying open conifer cone scales to access the seeds. Red Crossbill males are dull red, females are greyish-olive, and juveniles are dull grey to brownish and heavily streaked. Compared to other Red Crossbill forms in North America, percna has a relatively stout and deep (tall) bill, larger body size, and darker, duskier plumage. Each form of Red Crossbill in North America is characterized by minor differences in morphology, genetics, and behaviour. Forms are also referred to as vocal types; each is most readily and reliably identified by spectrographic analysis of their unique flight vocalizations. Recent research suggests that Red Crossbill percna may correspond with Type 8. North American Red Crossbills likely represent a complex of cryptic species. Though weakly differentiated genetically, vocalization may promote reproductive isolation even among groups that are not geographically separated. Red Crossbill percna is significant because it is a distinct taxonomic group restricted to insular Newfoundland and Labrador (hereafter “Newfoundland”) and surrounding islands, and Anticosti Island (QC). (Updated 2016/12/20)
Distribution and Population
Red Crossbills (form/vocal type(s) unknown) were historically considered to occur throughout most of Newfoundland, but with an erratic and localized distribution. Their range apparently has contracted since the first half of the 20th century; the current distribution of Red Crossbill (both percna and other forms) in Newfoundland is not fully understood. Presence of percna/Type 8 in Newfoundland was confirmed during 2005-2011 via audiospectrographic and morphometric analyses on the Avalon Peninsula, and in eastern, central, and western insular Newfoundland. Probable breeding of Type 8 Red Crossbills having morphology within the documented range of values for percna was also documented on Anticosti Island, QC, in summer 2014. Birds that possibly are percna (i.e., have large bills) have been documented in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Québec (on the mainland and Magdalen Islands), and in New England (USA); these sightings may represent areas of irregular irruptions during years of food shortages in core areas of occurrence. (Updated 2016/12/20)
All Red Crossbill forms are closely associated with cone-productive forests. Forms vary with respect to bill morphology, with each specialized to feed on particular conifer species. All large-billed crossbills, including percna, are pine forest associates. In Newfoundland, Red and White Pine stands likely represented a significant portion of important habitat for percna in the past; however, these native pines (particularly Red Pine) are currently rare on the Island and do not occur on Anticosti Island. Mature Black Spruce forests, and to a lesser extent Balsam Fir and White Spruce forests, historically and currently provide additional important habitat for percna. Throughout recent history, habitat conversion, forest harvesting, fire, insect damage, and fungal infestations have led to reductions in conifer seed abundance in Newfoundland. Cone consumption by Red Squirrels introduced to Newfoundland in 1963 is implicated as causing significant recent declines in cone availability. Recent projections by the Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) Department of Natural Resources indicate a significant increase in cone production on Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula over the next two decades. However, a major Spruce Budworm outbreak is expected to occur in Newfoundland and Anticosti Island in the near future; such an outbreak could have a negative effect on cone availability, but may provide some food in the form of insect larvae and pupae. (Updated 2016/12/20)
All forms of Red Crossbill are dependent on conifer forests for the food resources they provide in the form of conifer seeds; availability of cones highly influences survival and breeding. Red Crossbills are irruptive and undertake movements across a range of spatial scales in search of sufficient cone crops, though some populations (possibly including percna) tend to exhibit more sedentary behaviour. Irrupting birds tend to be reasonably faithful to core breeding areas, to which some return within a few years of the irruption. Red Crossbills are monogamous, form pair bonds, nest in loose aggregations, and forage in flocks. They have a flexible breeding strategy, can have multiple broods, and nest in colder months if conifer seeds are abundant. Other adaptations to extreme variability in conifer seed crops include sexual maturity at a relatively young age, accelerated succession of broods, and tolerance of repeated cooling and slow development of young when food is relatively scarce. (Updated 2016/12/20)
Threats to percna are not clearly understood due to the general lack of information on the taxon in Newfoundland and Anticosti Island. Probable threats (from highest to lowest apparent/predicted impact) include: i) invasive, non-native species and problematic native species (i.e., competition for food resources and nest predation by introduced Red Squirrels in Newfoundland, fungal infestations affecting native and non-native pines in Newfoundland, and insect outbreaks resulting in reduced cone production or tree mortality); ii) biological resource use (i.e., forest harvesting); iii) natural system modifications (i.e., forest fires and forest fire suppression); iv) transportation and service corridors (i.e., roadways); v) mining and quarrying; and vi) agriculture. At times, birds face starvation if cone crops fail across wide geographic areas; additional causes of mortality for percna are vehicle strikes and predation. (Updated 2016/12/20)
The Red Crossbill percna subspecies is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.
Provincial and Territorial Protection
Status of Recovery Planning
Recovery Strategies :
Name Recovery Strategy for the Red Crossbill, percna subspecies (Loxia curvirostra percna), in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry
Red Crossbill (percna subspecies) Recovery Team
Peter Thomas - Chair/Contact - Environment Canada
Phone: 709-772-4297 Fax: 709-772-5097 Send Email
Recovery Progress and Activities
Summary of Research/Monitoring Activities Preliminary mapping of potential habitat has been completed and incidental Red Crossbill sightings are being collected. Summary of Recovery Activities In an attempt to gain public knowledge of the species while offering an educational tool, a brochure was created with some background information on the species. Part of this brochure included contact information and a request to report any and all sightings of the species. These brochures have been distributed throughout Newfoundland and the Maritime Provinces. URLs Bird Life International:http://www.bsc-eoc.org/organization/newsarchive/12-10-04.html Red Crossbill:http://www.birds.cornell.edu/bow/REDCRO/
PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.
37 record(s) found.
- Reports on the Progress of Recovery Document Implementation (1 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Status Reports (1 record(s) found.)
- Response Statements (2 record(s) found.)
- Recovery Strategies (1 record(s) found.)
- Action Plans (3 record(s) found.)
- Orders (3 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Annual Reports (2 record(s) found.)
- Permits and Related Agreements (20 record(s) found.)
- Consultation Documents (2 record(s) found.)
- Residence Description (1 record(s) found.)
- Related Information (1 record(s) found.)
Reports on the Progress of Recovery Document Implementation
COSEWIC Status Reports
Response Statement - Red Crossbill percna subspecies (2017-01-11)This subspecies is a distinctive taxonomic group endemic to Canada. Previously known to breed only on the island of Newfoundland, it has within the past five years also been documented nesting on Anticosti Island. While the Canadian population is thought to be greater than was understood previously due to the recent discovery of a breeding population component on Anticosti Island, there is no evidence of an increasing trend. On the contrary, this taxon has experienced a substantial long-term decline. Further population decrease is expected based on identified threats, most notably competition and predation from introduced squirrels in Newfoundland, habitat loss due to logging, and a fungal disease affecting Red Pine.
COSEWIC Annual Reports
COSEWIC Annual Report - 2004 (2004-09-16)2004 Annual Report to the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
COSEWIC Annual Report - 2015-2016 (2016-10-13)Over the past year COSEWIC re-examined the status of 25 wildlife species; of these, the majority (68%) were re-assessed at the same or lower level of risk. Of a total of 45 species assessed, seven were assigned a status of Not at Risk (two re-assessments and five new assessments). To date, and with the submission of this report, COSEWIC’s assessments now include 724 wildlife species in various risk categories, including 320 Endangered, 172 Threatened, 209 Special Concern, and 23 Extirpated (i.e., no longer found in the wild in Canada). In addition, 15 wildlife species have been assessed as Extinct, 54 wildlife species have been designated as Data Deficient, and 177 have been assessed and assigned Not at Risk status.
Permits and Related Agreements
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