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COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Red Crossbill (Percna) in Canada

Summary of Status Report

The Red Crossbill percna subspecies, has undergone a sustained and precipitous population decline during the latter part of the 20th century. This decline is likely associated with both anthropogenic and natural influences. The former include intense forestry harvesting practices, introductions of Red Squirrels, as well as fire and fire suppression. The large-billed percna subspecies might have depended on formerly abundant Eastern White and Red Pine stands that are currently very restricted. Forestry practices and short rotation cycles are direct threats that reduce overall cone production on insular Newfoundland. Introduced Red Squirrels might compete for conifer seeds, particularly during periods of reduced cone abundance. The squirrels might also impose a predation pressure that crossbills and other passerines have not had the opportunity to adapt to. The effects of these factors could be insurmountable for the Red Crossbill population. 

Total population size is coarsely estimated at 500 – 1500 individuals based on field experiences, Christmas Bird Counts, Breeding Bird Surveys and other surveys that suggest that the order of magnitude of the population could be between 100s and low thousands. There is uncertainty associated with this estimate. No nests have been found in Newfoundland since 1977. National and provincial parks and reserves protect some habitat for Red Crossbills.