Hoary RedpollAcanthis hornemanni
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Fringillidae
"Hoarfrost" is the term for the beautiful ice crystals that form on clear, frigid winter nights—a scenario the Hoary Redpoll is intimately familiar with. This tiny finch breeds in arctic tundra and survives brutal winters well north of where most people live. "Hoary" also references this bird's frosty plumage, and "redpoll" is a nod to its berry-red crown patch. In some years, Hoary Redpolls make rare appearances to southern Canada or the northern U.S., sometimes showing up at bird feeders along with Common Redpolls.More ID Info
Find This Bird
If you can make a visit to the High Arctic in summer, finding Hoary Redpolls can be straightforward, involving little more than a walk into their brushy tundra habitat. South of the tundra, however, finding a Hoary involves some luck. Every couple of years, Hoary Redpolls tend to make irruptive “flights” southward, and some reach the northern U.S., usually amid flocks of Common Redpolls. Check reports on eBird to find out if and where they are being seen.
- Pardillo Ártico (Spanish)
- Sizerin blanchâtre (French)
Hoary Redpolls are infrequent visitors to most bird feeders, as they normally winter to the north of most settled parts of the continent. During irruption years, they may appear, typically in flocks with Common Redpolls. At these times, they may come to feeders that offer nyjer (often called thistle) or black-oil sunflower seeds.
- Cool Facts
- Redpolls can store seeds in pouches in their esophagus (known as diverticula). Kind of like a chipmunk stashing seeds in its cheek, this lets them quickly collect seeds, then regurgitate them for husking and eating when they're back in a sheltered and safe spot.
- The Hoary Redpoll has very fluffy body feathers covering more of its body than in most other birds. These help the bird stay warm in extremely cold temperatures. During unusually warm spells, a redpoll may pluck out some of its body feathers to get rid of some of its insulation. The feathers grow back in a matter of days.
- Three redpoll species are currently recognized: Common, Hoary, and Lesser (a Eurasian species). But research in 2015 discovered that genetically all three of these species are nearly identical, offering some support for the idea that they could be considered a single species. Read more in From Many, One: How Many Species of Redpolls Are There?
- Like many birds of the High Arctic, Hoary Redpolls are rather tame around humans, at times seeming curious about settlements and people, even landing on people at times.
- A distinctive large subspecies of Hoary Redpoll (C. h. hornemanni) lives in far northern Greenland and neighboring Canada. It was named for Danish botanist Jens Wilken Hornemann, who described many new plants in the early 1800s.
- Hoary Redpolls usually nest in small willows or other shrubs in the few sheltered spots scattered in the open tundra. When suitable nest sites are unavailable, they have been known to nest in driftwood.
- The oldest recorded Hoary Redpoll was at least 6 years, 9 months old when it was recaptured and re-released during banding operations in Alaska.