At a Glance
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.
All bird guide text and rangemaps adapted from Lives of North American Birds by Kenn Kaufman© 1996, used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Finches, Perching Birds
Fields, Meadows, and Grasslands, Forests and Woodlands, Freshwater Wetlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets, Tundra and Boreal Habitats
Alaska and The North, Eastern Canada, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Western Canada
Flitter, Rapid Wingbeats, Undulating
Range & Identification
Migration & Range Maps
Migrates by day, in flocks. Very irregular in winter range, probably moving only as far south as necessary to find food.
5-5 1/2" (13-14 cm). Small size, red forehead, black chin. Darker overall in summer. Male has variable pink wash on chest. Compare to House Finch and other red finches.
About the size of a Robin, About the size of a Sparrow
Black, Brown, Pink, Red, White
Songs and Calls
Twittering trill; call a soft rattle.
Chatter, Chirp/Chip, Trill, Whistle
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.
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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.
Fed mostly by female; contribution by male varies. Young leave the nest about 12 days after hatching.
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.
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.
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.
Still widespread and abundant.
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Common Redpoll. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.
Climate Threats Facing the Common Redpoll
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.