Scottish Crossbill

Loxia scotica (Hartert, 1904) CY SCOCR 16670
Family: Passeriformes > Fringillidae

A close relative of the Common Crossbill, Scottish Crossbill is only separated by its large bill and deeper call.

The Scottish Crossbill is a controversial bird. Some authorities claim that it is just a slightly larger Common Crossbill, whilst others think it might actually be Parrot Crossbill, a different species altogether. Its breeding range is restricted to north-east Scotland, and while it be may found a little further west in winter, this crossbill still lives up to its name.

Crossbills are amongst our earliest breeding birds and it is not unusual for the yellow-green female to be sitting on eggs in late February, and being fed by the ever-attentive deep red male. Like all crossbills, Scottish Crossbills can be either right or left ‘handed’, their bill tips crossing either way.

Select a topic for more facts and statistics about the Scottish Crossbill

  • Breeding
  • Winter


Scottish Crossbill identification is often difficult.


Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Scottish Crossbill, provided by xeno-canto contributors.

Begging call



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Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.



The Scottish Crossbill can only be separated reliably from Common Crossbill by differences in bill measurements and by some diagnostic calls (Summers & Piertney 2003). As the diagnostic calls have only been described recently, there is no reliable information about the historical status of the species. A special survey in 2008 recorded Crossbill calls from 387 survey points to enable accurate species identification and produced an estimate of 6,800 pairs of Scottish Crossbill , higher than previously thought (Summers & Buckland 2011).


Scottish Crossbills can be reliably separated from Common Crossbills only on subtle differences in bill measurements or by its distinctive excitement call. Previous information on Scottish Crossbill distribution and population size might suffer from unreliable field identifications and we do not currently have an accurate map of Scottish Crossbill distribution. Information from dedicated field surveys in 2008 suggest most Scottish Crossbills occur in northeast Scotland, in Nairn, Moray and Banff, extending southward into lower Deeside and the other main concentration extended from Sutherland to Easter Ross and eastern Inverness-shire.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.


Lifecycle and body size information about Scottish Crossbill, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.



View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Cam-ghob
Catalan: trencapinyes escocès
Czech: krivka skotská
Danish: Skotsk Korsnæb
Dutch: Schotse Kruisbek
Estonian: šoti käbilind
Finnish: skotlanninkäpylintu
French: Bec-croisé d’Écosse
German: Schottlandkreuzschnabel
Hungarian: skót keresztcsoru
Icelandic: Skotanefur
Italian: Crociere di Scozia
Latvian: Skotijas krustknabis
Lithuanian: škotinis kryžiasnapis
Norwegian: Skottekorsnebb
Polish: krzyzodziób szkocki
Portuguese: cruza-bico-escocês
Slovak: krivonos škótsky
Slovenian: škotski krivokljun
Spanish: Piquituerto escocés
Swedish: skotsk korsnäbb


Interpretation and scientific publications about Scottish Crossbill from BTO scientists.


Causes of change

The trend for Scottish Crossbill is uncertain as we have no knowledge of the population prior to 2008, and hence the causes of any changes which may have occurred are also unknown. However, it is likely that the species is affected by similar factors to the Common Crossbill. These factors include changes in the availability of cone crops which are known to prompt long-distance movements across the continent in the Common Crossbill, although ring recoveries and re-sightings of colour-ringed birds suggest only relatively short distance movements for the Scottish Crossbill (Marquiss & Rae 2002).

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