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Number of species: 85

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White-winged Crossbill - Loxia leucoptera

White-winged Crossbill typically has a limited to incomplete preformative molt and no prealternate molts. A small number of individuals may also retain some primary coverts and secondaries during prebasic molts. Determination of age can be complicated by variability in timing of molt, which usually occurs at or near the breeding grounds and can range from April to December. However, sexes are usually distinguishable by overall colour of plumage.

Quick tips

  • Examine the wing - on most FCF (HY/SY) birds there is a contrast between darker and fresher inner greater coverts and paler older outer greater coverts. If all greater coverts are dark and with distinct white tips, look at the primary coverts next - if they are all relatively dull and tapered, this is also an indication of FCF (HY/SY), whereas on DCB (AHY/ASY) individuals they are all rounded and similar in wear and darkness to the greater coverts. Note that some individuals can be recognized as SCB (SY/TY) if they have retained a few contrastingly pale and worn inner primary coverts, and/or have 1-6 pale and brown-edged secondaries, contrasting with adjacent fresher and yellow (female) or reddish (male) edged secondaries and primaries.
  • Look at the tail - FCF (HY/SY) birds have either relatively uniformly pointed rectrices or a mix of faded and pointed juvenile rectrices and darker, more rounded replaced central rectrices; DCB (AHY/ASY) birds have uniformly rounded rectrices.
  • Consider the overall plumage - any individuals with distinct pinkish or red plumage are males, but bear in mind that young FCF (HY) males may lack red.

Species account prepared by McGill Bird Observatory (2018). Last updated by Marcel Gahbauer (Mar 2022)

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The molt categories displayed below may be filtered by month.


Click on any image below to bring up the side-by-side comparison tool.

Individuals not in molt

FCJ - (HY: January - September)
Brownish and heavily streaked all over; wing bars relatively dull and thin
No images available yet
FCF - (HY/SY: April - following November)
Replaced greater coverts notably darker than unreplaced greater coverts (if any) and relatively dull and tapered primary coverts; rectrices relatively narrow and pointed or with some central feathers contrastingly broad and rounded; plumage generally greenish-brown (F) or brownish with orange to pinkish-red (M)
Thumbnail - MG2-2581-69122-Loxia_leucoptera_AOU_7_52-3464.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2581-69122-Loxia_leucoptera_AOU_7_52-3462.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2581-69122-Loxia_leucoptera_AOU_7_52-3463.jpg
SCB - (SY/TY: April - following November)
One or more secondaries and/or one or more inner primary coverts pale brown and worn, contrasting sharply with adjacent replaced feathers; rectrices generally broad and rounded
No images available yet
DCB - (AHY/ASY: April - following November)
Primary coverts, primaries, and secondaries uniformly dark with yellowish (F) to pinkish (M) edging, not contrasting markedly with greater coverts; rectrices generally broad and rounded
No images available yet

Individuals in active molt

FPJ - (HY: January - August)
Similar to FCJ; some natal down remaining and/or juvenile flight feathers still growing in
No images available yet
FPF - (HY: April - December)
Similar to FCF; most to all median coverts and some to all greater coverts being replaced; sometimes also some to all tertials and some central (rarely all) rectrices; rarely also some outer primaries
No images available yet
SPB - (SY: April - November)
Flight feathers being replaced, with retained juvenile primaries, secondaries, and/or primary coverts distinctly pale brown and very worn
No images available yet
TPB - (TY: April - November)
Flight feathers being replaced, with distinctly juvenile (pale brown and very worn) retained secondaries and/or inner primary coverts
No images available yet
DPB - (AHY: April - November)
Flight feathers being replaced, with retained primaries, secondaries, and/or primary coverts either distinctly adult (relatively dark, less worn) or intermediate
No images available yet

Applicable unknown plumage/age classes

Molt classes Age Months Key traits
M-FPF / UPU (FPF, SPB, DPB) U April - November Undergoing preformative or prebasic molt, but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FCF / UCU (FCF, SCB, DCB) U/AHY January - December In formative or basic plumage (molt completed), but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-SPB / UPU (SPB, DPB) AHY April - November Undergoing prebasic molt, but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-SCB / UCU (SCB, DCB) AHY/ASY January - December Mostly to entirely in basic plumage (molt completed), but cannot be reliably distinguished between second and subsequent cycles

Number of species: 85

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