Adult males tend to be red or orange in colour, and females green or yellow, but there is much variation. This species is difficult to separate from Red and Scottish Crossbills, and plumage distinctions are negligible. It is slightly larger than other crossbills, measuring 16 to 18 cm (6.3 to 7.1 in) long and spanning 27 to 31 cm (11 to 12 in) across the wings. It is quite bulky and heavy weighing from 44 to 58.2 g. The head and bill are larger than in either of the other species. The bill is thicker than those of its relatives.

Habitat and Distribution

This bird breeds in the pine forests of northwest Europe and into western Russia. There is also a small population in Scotland, adding to the difficulty of distinguishing it from Red Crossbill and the endemic Scottish Crossbill, both of which breed within its range.


They are specialist feeders on conifer cones, and the unusual bill shape is an adaptation to assist the extraction of the seeds from the cone. The Parrot Crossbill is a specialist feeder on the cones of Scots pine.

Calls and Songs

The have a deep, hard choop or tyuup call.