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.
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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 Will Reshape the Range of the Common Redpoll

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

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.

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