Living Bird Magazine
Common RedpollAcanthis flammea
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Fringillidae
As energetic as their electric zapping call notes would suggest, Common Redpolls are active foragers that travel in busy flocks. Look for them feeding on catkins in birch trees or visiting feeders in winter. These small finches of the arctic tundra and boreal forest migrate erratically, and they occasionally show up in large numbers as far south as the central U.S. During such irruption years, redpolls often congregate at bird feeders (particularly thistle or nyjer seed), allowing delightfully close looks.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Most people in North America get to see Common Redpolls only in the winter, when the birds come to feeders or forage on small seeds in trees or in weedy fields. Listen for their sharp, buzzy call notes and energetic trills and chatters. Keep in mind that they often form fairly large flocks that seem constantly in motion.
- Pardillo Sizerín (Spanish)
- Sizerin flammé (French)
Common Redpolls eat seeds of a size to match their small bills. They’re particularly likely to come to thistle or nyjer feeders, though they may also take black oil sunflower or scavenge opened seeds left behind by larger-billed birds. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.
- Cool Facts
- During winter, some Common Redpolls tunnel into the snow to stay warm during the night. Tunnels may be more than a foot long and 4 inches under the insulating snow.
- Next time you have access to a globe, take a look at it from the top. Common Redpolls breed around the world in the lands that ring the Arctic Ocean. There’s a lot of land up there! Though many of us struggle to see a few redpolls each winter, worldwide their numbers are estimated in the tens of millions.
- Animal behaviorists commonly test an animal’s intelligence by seeing if it can pull in a string to get at a hanging piece of food. Common Redpolls pass this test with no trouble. They’ve also been seen shaking the seeds out of birch catkins, then dropping to the ground to pick them up from the flat snow surface.
- Redpolls have throat pouches for temporarily storing seeds. They may fill their pouches with seeds quickly then fly away to swallow the seeds in a more protected, warmer spot.
- Some studies show that in winter redpolls subsist almost entirely on a diet of birch seeds. They eat up to 42 percent of their body mass every day. They can store up to about 2 grams (0.07 oz.) of seeds in a stretchy part of their esophagus, enough for about a quarter of their daily energy requirement.
- A few banding records have shown that some Common Redpolls are incredibly wide ranging. Among them, a bird banded in Michigan was recovered in Siberia; others in Alaska have been recovered in the eastern U.S., and a redpoll banded in Belgium was found 2 years later in China.
- Common Redpolls can survive temperatures of –65 degrees Fahrenheit. A study in Alaska found Redpolls put on about 31 percent more plumage by weight in November than they did in July.
- The oldest known Common Redpoll was at least 7 years, 10 months old. It lived in Alaska and was injured when caught by a cat. Happily, it survived its injuries.