Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
White-winged Crossbill - Loxia leucoptera
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General Comments The White-winged Crossbill is another "winter finch", but unlike the Red Crossbill, it is a very rare visitor that is often not seen but two or three times a decade in North Carolina. It breeds in the boreal forest zone of Canada and Alaska, sparingly to New England and other far northern states. In North Carolina, it is most likely to appear, not surprisingly, in the spruce-fir zone in the winter, locations that are often difficult to access because of snow, ice, and closed roads. Away from the higher mountains, it is essentially "casual", though a bird or two occasionally shows up at a feeder.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Accidental to casual, but only along and near the northern coast. There are only three reports. A tame female was seen at the north end of Pea Island by many participants in the Wings over Water Festival on 8 Nov 1997 [Chat 62:139 link]. A small "invasion" perhaps occurred along the northern coast in late 2012, where as many as 7 birds were at Manteo from 21-24 Nov 2012* [Chat 77:38 link], [Chat 77:6-10 link]; and 6 were noted in flight in Corolla, Currituck, on 22 Nov 2012 [Chat 77:38 link].
Piedmont Very rare winter visitor. There are about ten records: one in late Nov, two in Dec, six in Feb, and one in Apr. Peak counts: 18 in Greensboro on 28 Dec 1963 [Chat 28:1 link]; 12 seen and heard in flight on the Durham CBC on 16 Dec 2012; 3 collected in Raleigh on 23 Feb 1907 (T.G. Pearson et al., The Birds of North Carolina [1942]). All other records are of single birds. A few of the records are from feeders. Few records in recent years, the most recent being one at a feeder in northern Wake on 28-29 Nov 2020.
Mountains Scarce winter visitor. Very rare at high elevations (over about 4,500 feet), and casual at lower elevations. There are about seven records: three in Dec, two in Feb, and one each in Mar and May. Peak counts: a remarkable 250 birds at Roan Mountain on 1 Feb 1970 [Chat 34:3 link]; 20 birds at Roan Mountain on 29 Dec 1989 [Chat 55:19 link]; and 14 birds at Grandfather Mountain, 8-29 Dec 2001 [Chat 66:104 link].
Finding Tips If one visits Roan Mountain or Mount Mitchell SP, during a "winter invasion year" (in the East), in the winter, there is a slight chance of success.
Attribution LeGrand[2023-03-28], LeGrand[2021-03-06], LeGrand[2018-02-01]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
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