Parrot Crossbill (Loxia pytyopsittacus)

Parrot Crossbill

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Fringillidae | [latin] Loxia pytyopsittacus | [UK] Parrot Crossbill | [FR] Bec-croise perroquet | [DE] Kiefern-Kreuzschnabel | [ES] Piquituerto Lorito | [NL] Grote Kruisbek


Monotypic species

Physical charateristics

Two-barred Crossbill resembles Common Crossbill by size, attitude and colour. However, it has finer bill, with more extended upwards lower mandible, and better appropriated to the opening of larch cones. Mandibles cross at tip.
Two-barred Crossbill has two broad white wing bars, as in red or pinkish male or in green or yellow female. But there is much variation of colours.
We can find other Crossbill species, the Parrot Crossbill (loxia pytyopsittacus), living in pine forests of northern Europe. This one has very strong bill, similar to that of a parrot.
Juvenile is heavily streaked, with thin wing bars.
Immature male is largely yellow with red or pink patches.
In these three species, we can see the good adaptation of the bill shape to each species’ best common food: spruce’s seeds, larch’s seeds and pine cones.
We find another crossbill, Loxia leucoptera megaplaga from Hispaniola. It has darker plumage than Two-barred Crossbill, and stronger bill. It feeds on Hispaniolan pine, Pinus occidentalis.

Listen to the sound of Parrot Crossbill

[audio: Crossbill.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 27 cm wingspan max.: 31 cm
size min.: 16 cm size max.: 18 cm
incubation min.: 16 days incubation max.: 16 days
fledging min.: 21 days fledging max.: 16 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 5  


Eurasia : nw, nc


Two-barred Crossbill lives in open coniferous forest, preferring Larches’ forests where it finds the seeds of these trees, its main food. It may be an irruptive migrant.


Two-barred Crossbill female builds the nest in a conifer, well hidden in dense cover. Nest is an open cup, smaller than that of Common crossbill. Nesting occurs from March to June, and except the period, is similar to Common crossbill nesting behaviour. Nest is made with twigs, stems, lichens or bark, and lined with rootlets and other soft materials.
Female lays 3 to 5 bluish green to white eggs, spotted and blotched with dark. Incubation lasts about 12 to 14 days, by female. She is fed by the male by regurgitation. Altricial chicks are fed by the male during the first days, and then, both parents bring food to the young. They leave the nest at about 18 to 22 days after hatching. They are still fed by parents for a month more.
After hatching and during the first days of their life, young have straight bill, as other bird’s species. Their two mandibles start to cross later. Two bill shapes occur, with crossing to right or left, and they can be found in equal number, including within a same brood. This bill crossing is fashioned later, at about three weeks of age, by repeated extraction of seeds from the cones.

Feeding habits

Two-barred Crossbill feeds also on other seeds, from other conifer trees and numerous plants. It also may consume some insects, tree buds and berries. This vegetarian diet can become dangerous for the bird if bad weather destroys its food resources.
To feed, the Two-barred Crossbill introduces its closed bill into the scales of the cones, and then it separates its two mandibles for reaching the seeds with its tongue.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Loxia pytyopsittacus is a widespread resident across much of northern Europe, which
constitutes >95% of its global range. Its European breeding population is large
(>260,000 pairs), and was broadly stable between 1970-1990. Despite fluctuations,
the stronghold population in Russia was broadly stable during 1990-2000, as were
populations in Fennoscandia and elsewhere
Parrot Crossbill status Least Concern


Resident and dispersive; also eruptive. In most years, makes only limited movements in response to local food shortage, but occasionally makes eruptive movements, often in same year as Crossbill, but less extensive and reaching north-west Europe later in autumn. Pine-cone crops fluctuate less than those of spruce, and eruptions of Parrot Crossbill are less frequent than those of Crossbill; but former probably sometimes overlooked, owing to similarity with Crossbill. Migrating birds head chiefly south-west, reaching Denmark in most years, and extending further south and west in years of eruption. Recent major eruptions 1962 (coinciding with Crossbill), 1982, and 1990 (coinciding with both Crossbill and Two-barred Crossbill). Movement reached Belgium and Britain in 1962, but was more widespread in 1982, with records west to Britain and east to Mecklenburg (north-east Germany). Irruption in 1990 was also widespread, reaching Britain, Belgium, eastern France, and south-west Germany. Birds sometimes remain to breed in invasion areas, e.g. in Norfolk (probably also Suffolk), eastern England, 1983-85, Veluwe area (central Netherlands) 1983 and 1984, and at several sites in Denmark 1983.

Distribution map

Parrot Crossbill distribution range map

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