Photo: Helena Garcia/Great Backyard Bird Count Participant

Common Redpoll

Acanthis flammea

One of the "winter finches," nesting in the Arctic and sometimes invading southern Canada and the northern states. Redpolls are tiny, restless birds, feeding actively on seeds among trees and weeds, fluttering and climbing about acrobatically, their flocks seemingly always on the move. For their small size, they have a remarkable ability to survive cold temperatures; their southward flights are sparked by temporary scarcity of food in the North, not by cold. At bird feeders in winter, redpolls are often remarkably tame.
Conservation status Still widespread and abundant.
Family Finches
Habitat Birches, thickets, tundra scrub. In winter, weeds, brush. Breeds in shrubby habitats of the North, including clearings in birch or spruce forest, thickets of willow, alder, or dwarf birch, bushy areas on tundra. Winters in various kinds of semi-open country, including woodland edges and brushy or weedy fields.
One of the "winter finches," nesting in the Arctic and sometimes invading southern Canada and the northern states. Redpolls are tiny, restless birds, feeding actively on seeds among trees and weeds, fluttering and climbing about acrobatically, their flocks seemingly always on the move. For their small size, they have a remarkable ability to survive cold temperatures; their southward flights are sparked by temporary scarcity of food in the North, not by cold. At bird feeders in winter, redpolls are often remarkably tame.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male
  • adult female
  • adult
  • adult female
Feeding Behavior

Forages very actively in trees, shrubs, weeds, and on the ground. Except when nesting, usually forages in flocks. Has a pouch within throat where it can store some food for up to several hours; this helps the bird in bitterly cold weather, allowing it to feed rapidly in the open and then digest food over a long period while it rests in a sheltered spot.


Eggs

4-5, rarely up to 7. Pale green to blue-green, with purplish to reddish brown spots often concentrated at larger end. Incubation is by female only, about 10-11 days. Male feeds female during incubation. Young: Fed mostly by female; contribution by male varies. Young leave the nest about 12 days after hatching.


Young

Fed mostly by female; contribution by male varies. Young leave the nest about 12 days after hatching.

Diet

Mostly seeds, some insects. Diet for most of year is mostly seeds and other vegetable matter. Feeds on catkins, seeds, and buds of willows, alders, and birches, small conifer seeds, also seeds of many weeds and grasses. Also eats insects, mainly in summer.


Nesting

Males dominate females in winter flocks, but as breeding season approaches, females become dominant and may take the lead in courtship. Does not seem to defend much of a nesting territory; nests of different pairs may be close together. Nest: Usually very well hidden in dense low shrubs, within a few feet of the ground, sometimes in grass clumps or under brushpiles. Nest (probably built by female) is an open cup of fine twigs, grass, moss, lined with feathers (especially ptarmigan feathers), plant down, or animal hair.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Migrates by day, in flocks. Very irregular in winter range, probably moving only as far south as necessary to find food.

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Migration

Migrates by day, in flocks. Very irregular in winter range, probably moving only as far south as necessary to find food.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Twittering trill; call a soft rattle.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Finches Perching Birds

Common Redpoll

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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