Identification of Scottish and Parrot Crossbills

Identification of Scottish and Parrot Crossbills

From the beginning of 2012 SBRC will review records of both Scottish Crossbill Loxia scotica and Parrot Crossbill Loxia pytyopsittacus, but only from outside their core breeding areas in Scotland (ap Rheinallt et al. 2011).














The maps above show the geographical areas (marked in red) for which SBRC would like to receive submissions of all claimed sightings of Scottish Crossbill and Parrot Crossbill.

The identification of these two species, and separation from Common Crossbill Loxia curvirostra, which breeds widely through much of mainland Scotland, is extremely difficult. Though structural features are useful, it is now understood that calls, particularly so-called “excitement calls”, are crucial to allow safe separation of the three species. To help observers with this we have included sonograms, and audio clips of the three species’ excitement calls which observers can download for personal use. These were all kindly supplied by Ron Summers.



The sonograms show the main flight (1-5) and excitement (A-E) calls of Common, Scottish and Parrot Crossbills (taken with permission from Summers et al. 2007). Note that Common Crossbills show three different sets of calls, whereas Scottish and Parrot Crossbills only one.

Click on the links below to play MP3 audio clips of the same classes of excitement calls (A-E). Observers are welcome to download these clips for personal use.

We urge observers when finding potential Scottish or Parrot Crossbills outside the core breeding areas to endeavour to make a recording of the excitement calls, and to include it with the submitted description of the bird(s) to SBRC. This, along with photos and field notes on the appearance of the individual(s), will greatly assist SBRC when judging these records.

ap Rheinallt T., McInerny, C.J., Lauder, AW & R.Y. McGowan on behalf of the Scottish Birds Records Committee. 2011. Scottish Birds Records Committee report on rare birds in Scotland, 2009. Scottish Birds 31: 108-135.

Summers, R.W., Robert Dawson, J.G. & R.E. Phillips. 2007. Assortative mating and patterns of inheritance indicate that the three crossbill taxa in Scotland are species. J. Avian Biol. 38: 153-162.

 Chris McInerny, on behalf of SBRC, June 2011