Common Redpoll is a tiny, fluffy finch that is most often
only encountered during the winter by backyard birdwatchers.
Related to goldfinches, Common Redpolls are similar in size
at about five inches long but with a more compact profile
and a small conical bill. Their chests and sides are white
with brown streaks, they have some light streaking on their
brown backs, two white wing bars, and pale undersides. The
name redpoll refers to the red cap they have on their forehead.
You can identify between male and female redpolls by the
pink wash males have on their chests. (it looks a bit like
a Purple Finch's chest markings, sometimes paler)
closely-related Hoary Redpoll (Carduelis
farther north than the Common Redpoll and is identified
by a much paler streaking and little if any red color on
the breast. Small numbers of Hoary Redpolls sometimes mix
withflocks of Common Redpolls during winter.
Redpolls breed in the far northern boreal forests and taiga
regions of Alaska and Canada. This is circumpolar species,
meaning they can be found in similar habitat in northern
North America, Russia, and Scandinavia. During the
winter, redpolls may move south into southern Canada and
the northern half of the United States. This movement, also
known as an irruption since it's not a true annual migration,
is prompted by food availability and weather. Redpolls seem
to irrupt on an every-other-year pattern but the size and
distance fluctuates, some years reaching only Southern Canada,
New England, and far northern parts of the Midwest, other
years extending farther south throughout the Midwest and
Mid-Atlantic states. They will winter in open scrubland
as well as suburban areas.
eat many types of small seeds such as birch and alder, grasses
and willows. During breeding they will supplement this seed
diet with small insects. In winter backyards they are most
often seen at or below finch feeders eating Nyjer.
Look carefully at your flock of winter finches: they are
often mixed in with goldfinches and Pine Siskins.
to the Downy Woodpecker
audio file kindly donated by John