Breeding records crossbills


Breeding of crossbills is fascinating experience. They are also called European parrots. In the aviary the are through acrobats. All day they are busy climbing up the mesh or in the branches I provide. After I had quite some success in breeding crossbills, I have decided, because of space problems, to only breed with one couple this year. For crossbills it is important that they accept each other right away. Have one couple presents a certain risk. If they cannot get along well, it could be that this year there would be no offspring. The birds get into breeding condition by increase the amount of aleppo seed in their diet. I do this gradually, because if you switch over to large amounts of aleppo too quickly, they could get diarrhoea. I keep crossbills in a breeding box of 1x2x2 m. The crossbill starts a nest very early in the season even in January they could already have a nest. It still can be very cold, but that is no problem. They build a nest with a lot of insulating material such as kapok, jute and cotton.This year I put the birds together mid February. Building the enst sometimes is complicated process. Many times they build a beautiful nest and then take it apart completely again to re-build a nest at another place. I don’t know why this is maybe the direction of the wind plays a role and they chose the most optimal place to keep warm. See below the basic structure of the nest


These types of nest can be made easily. The advantage is that it can be decorated with conifer twigs to give it a more natural look. The sharp spots that remain after cutting must be removed by a file The cocco fibrenest is of a large size. The same size I use for my bullfinches. It needs to be fixed firmly onto the bottom of the basket.

Very soon after I had coupled the birds, the female bird started to build a nest. Unfortunately this was not as I had expected. She put in some material, but the eggs were virtually laid on the prefab. Another complication is that I do not think the cock is very healthy. It is difficult to see though. Crossbill usually still look fit when they are ill. They only are less active, which was the case with this one. At the end of the day it was sitting quietly with the bill a little bit open When I took it from the aviary it had lost quite a lot of weight and I found bacteria in the droppings. I have immediately administered Baytrill 2 ml/litre water. As I did not want to risk their bond to be broken, I decided to leave the cock in the aviary during the course of the treatment. What I also feared became true, all eggs were infertile. I have administered Baytrill during 10 days and I could see that it worked out well. The cock’s condition improved noticeably.

On the 25th of March the hen started to build a nest, but again it would not win a price for architecture. This time, however of the four eggd three were fertile and came out on the 8th and 9th of April. While writing this the birds are one week old and lay in the nest well-feeded. Like other years, I provide apart from aleppo seed egg feed and germinated seeds, all in separate containers. Feeding times are 7.00, 12.00, 15.00 and 18.00.

In the beginning, the young birds are fed only by the hen, but there are “top males” that help from day one. If the birds are around 14 days, the female starts to build a nest again. That is a crucial time, because now the cock needs to take over completely and it is always an exciting time to wait the cock to take over the feeding role. So far I do not fear. Last year this male bird did a brilliant job.


Young crossbills, well fed and now 12 days old. The hen agai flies around with nesting material. As far as I am concerned I would prefer to have this second round a bit later. You cannot force this however, if you would remove the nesting material she would lay the eggs in an uncovered nest. Also removing the other nest is asking for trouble as she might lay eggs again in the old nest and chasing out the chicks


Indeed as expected a new nest is ready in a couple of days and the first egg follows quickly. The cock perfectly take over the feeding of the chicks. Only when the hen is from the nest to eat or drink something, she cannot resist the begging chicks and put something in the distend bills

The incubation progresses well and after exactly 14 days there are 3 chicks of the second round. The birds of the first round however are not yet self-supporting and are fed by the cock. The hen remains on te nest most of the time and I do not see her feeding the new bornes a lot If she leaves the nest and has the crop full of Aleppo and geminated seeds there is a lot of competition from the “older”chicks, while the new chicks are lying in the nest with empty crops. I fear that the second round will end in a disaster, but there is not a lot I can do about that. After one day I find a dead undernourished chick on the floor. Also the two remaining birds I find dead the next day. It is now the 23rd of May and every now and then I see the young birds begging to the parents. The hen again shows interests for the nesting material so that a 3rd round may be possible. The three birds of the first round are still with the parents. I am not in a hurry anymore to move them. As it looks now there is one cock and two hens, but one is still doubtful.