These two red finches both share a similar attraction to seeds.
They also overlap in range, preferring the far north and into Canada, and sometimes telling the
difference between them can be challenging. Here are a few tips to make the right ID between these winter favorites — White-winged Crossbills and Pine Grosbeaks:
1 – Beak shape – If you can see the beak, you have the ID, as crossbills have a bill which is uniquely adapted to twisting conifer seeds out of pinecones. Pine Grosbeaks have a smaller, thick finch-like beak.
If you can’t see the beak well enough, then look for…
2 – Size – Pine Grosbeaks are bigger and rounder than White-winged Crossbills
3 – Color – Crossbills have black wings and tail as opposed to the Pine Grosbeak’s gray wings and tail, making them seem overall a bit darker.
4 – Feeding Behavior – Crossbills are often found busily extracting seeds from pine cones while Grosbeaks can be found snipping buds off branches and foraging on the ground for seeds.