Primarily eats seeds of Hispaniolan pine (Pinus occidentalis). Crossbills extract seeds from the cones by prying the cone open with their crossed bill in a manner similar to other crossbill species. Single observations are reported of crossbills foraging on palm (Coccothrinax scoparia) fruit and pine mistletoe (Arceuthobium bicarinatum) fruit (Latta et al. 2000). Juveniles are fed 80-90% pine cones and 10-20% insects (Hemiptera); however, the insects are likely incidentally eaten and were also feeding on the cones (Latta et al. 2000).
Latta et al. (2000) report microhabitat for foraging. The species selects taller trees within the landscape (mean height of 17.5 ± 0.5 m) and trees supporting more cones than average (mean of 211.5 ± 25.4 cones). Crossbills forage on the middle to outer third of the upper branches where there is medium foliage density. The mean age of trees for foraging or nesting is 96.4 ± 8.4 years. At the local level, number of snags, mean canopy cover, and pine stems <3 cm dbh successfully distinguished 69% of foraging locations. Similarly, at the landscape level, % of trees in the 8-15 cm dbh size class, number of broadleaf trees >3 cm dbh, fragmentation, mean canopy height, mean number of cones, and mean canopy cover predicted 85% of foraging sites (Latta et al. 2000).
Latta (unpubl. ms.) observed individuals ingesting soil (geophagy) in the Sierra de Bahoruco National Park in February 2007. A small family group (two adults and three juveniles) scraped the soil with their beaks, ingested soil, and then scraped the ground again. The area (the Aceitillar sector of the park) is disturbed with bare red soil exposed where bauxite was mined in the 1960s. Explanations for this behavior are speculative.
On several occasions, the species was observed drinking surface water in the Sierra de Bahoruco; the presence of water may be a factor in determining nesting sites. (Latta et al. 2000; Benkman 2004). White-winged Crossbill (Loxia leucoptera) drinks daily (Benkman 1992).