February 2018

Vol. 46, No. 1

Red Crossbills in Massachusetts and the Northeast: A Possible Irruption in 2017–2018

Jeremy Coleman and Tim Spahr

Male Red Crossbill in a Pitch Pine; still molting into adult plumage (April). All photographs taken at Montague Sand Plains; all photographs © Jeremy Coleman.


The nomadic Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) can appear in numbers in one particular region only to disappear in subsequent years. Crossbill movements are irruptive and follow the cone crop, with various North American crossbill groups—flight call types—favoring the conifer species to which they are best adapted by bill size and shape. A recent article by Young and Spahr (2017) has called attention to the potential for a significant irruption of Red Crossbills throughout large portions of North America beginning in the fall of 2017. In Massachusetts, this irruption could extend throughout the winter of 2017–2018 and into the spring of 2018.

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