Common Redpoll

Common Name: Common Redpoll.

Scientific Name: Acanthis Flammea.

What to look for?  Common Redpolls are small finches. The male Common Redpoll has a beautiful red crown – aka, the “red poll”. It has a pink-washed chest and dark streaks on its underparts. On the other hand, the female Common Redpoll is a bit duller overall and lacks the pink-washed color on the chest.  But she does have a tiny red patch on the crown of her head. Common Redpolls have bright yellow bills that are short, pointed, and conical – just right for eating seeds. They have a white wing bar, heavily streaked undertail coverts, and a tail that is deeply notched.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? AKA “winter finch”, you can occasionally find a Common Redpoll visiting here during the winter around a well filled bird feeder.

How big are they? The Common Redpoll averages just over five (5) inches in length. And their wingspan is approximately nine (9) inches. They weigh in at around one-half (0.5) ounce.

What are their flight patterns? Like goldfinches, Common Redpolls have an undulating, roller coaster-like flight with an alternating flap and glide. This is called "Flap-Bounding" where short bursts of flapping are alternated with intervals in which the wings are folded against the body.

How else do they behave? Common Redpolls are energetic little birds. When quarreling with other redpolls, it will fluff its plumage, face its adversary, and open its bill. Males court females by flying in slow circles while calling and singing. During migration, they may group in flocks of thousands. Common Redpolls have a remarkable ability to survive cold temperatures, roosting in tunnels under the snow during winters.

What’s for dinner? Common Redpolls eat small seeds, typically of trees such as birch, willow, alder, spruces, and pines. They also dine on seeds of grasses, sedges, and wildflowers. During summer, they also eat spiders and insects.

Where do they take up residence? Common Redpolls primarily reside in the arctic tundra and boreal forests of Canada, and they occasionally show up in large numbers in the northern U.S. and as far south as the central U.S. They are more commonly migrants during the winter months in Illinois.

When and where do they breed and nest? The breeding range of the Common Redpoll extends across the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. They place their nests over thin horizontal branches or crotches in lower levels of spruces, alders, and willows. Their clutch size is typically around five (5) eggs. They may have up to 3 broods per year. The incubation period is approximately eleven (11) days. Young Common Redpolls will leave the nest after approximately two (2) weeks.

Where do they migrate? Common Redpolls are irregular or irruptive migrants, moving south in winter only as patterns in food supply change – not due to cold temperatures. On a roughly 2-year cycle, redpolls come quite far south in winter - occasionally reaching the central or southern United States.

What is their conservation status? There is no concern. Common Redpolls are numerous. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 160 million, with 22% wintering in the U.S. They rate a 7 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. They are not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. Common Redpolls breed in the far north, away from large numbers of humans and many of their environmental impacts.

Do they make any interesting sounds? The song of the Common Redpoll is a long series of twitters and rising buzzy trills: chit-chit-chit-chewee, tu-tu-tu-tseeet, chit-chitchit-zeeeet. Its common call is a chattering ch-ch-ch-chweee, rising in tone on the last, longer note. Here is a link to the sounds of the Common Redpoll.

Interesting Facts About the Common Redpoll:

  • Common Redpolls - “polar bears” of the bird world - breed around the world in habitats that ring the Arctic Ocean.

  • Common Redpolls can survive temperatures of minus 65 degrees Fahrenheit; during winter, they may stay warm during the night in tunnels under the insulating snow.

  • Redpolls have throat pouches for temporarily storing seeds; they may fill their pouches with seeds and then fly away to swallow the seeds in a more protected, warmer spot.

  • A few banding records have shown that some Common Redpolls are incredibly wide ranging: a bird banded in Michigan was recovered in Siberia; others in Alaska have been recovered in the eastern U.S.

  • The oldest known Common Redpoll was nearly eight (8) years old.

  • A group of redpolls are collectively known as a "gallup" of redpolls.

For more information on the Common Redpoll and sources of information used in this blog (these are the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit All About Birds, Audubon Society, eBird, and Bird Watchers Digest.  And the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides a wonderful source of information for anyone interested in learning more about birds.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, plants and insects. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.

 

Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!