Common Redpoll

Common Redpoll

Key facts

Scientific name: Acanthis flammea

Status: Winter visitor and passage migrant, occasional breeder

Breeding birds: 1-4 pairs

Wintering birds: 300 birds 

Conservation status: Amber

Family: Finches

Length: 12 – 14 cm

Wingspan: 20 – 25 cm

Weight: 12 – 16 g

Description

Adult male common redpolls in breeding plumage have dark grey upperparts with brown streaking and white fringes on their mantle feathers and spaculars. Their pale grey rump is tinged with pink and their uppertail coverts are greyish-brown with darker centres. Their tails are dark grey with narrow buff edges. They have dark brown upperwings with a white double wingbar and pale edges on their flight feathers.

Common redpolls have pale grey underparts with a pink throat and breast. They have a white belly and undertail coverts sometimes with dark streaks, and their flanks and the sides of their belly are streaked with brown.

Their lower forehead, lores and chin are black, and their upper forehead and forecrown are deep red. Their crown and nape is pale grey with dark streaks and they have a narrow, pale supercilium and a thin, dark eye stripe. Their cheeks and ear coverts are pale grey with a pink wash on the lower parts.

They have a short, conical shaped bill which is dull yellow with a black tip. Their eyes are dark brown and their legs and feet are black.

Out of breeding season male common redpolls are paler and greyer on the head and nape. The upperparts are pale brown and the tail is dark grey with pale grey fringes. Their throats and breasts are white or grey with brown streaks and their flanks are tinged with brown.

Adult female common redpolls are similar to males but there is much less pink on the face, breast, or rump, or it is absent altogether. They have heavier streaks on the back and the rump and the underparts are pale brown. Their black chin patch is duller and more rounded than the male’s.

Juvenile common redpolls resemble the female but without any pink and they are more heavily streaked on the underparts.

Breeding

Common redpolls breed from late April to August. They build their nests about 5 metres from the ground in a tree or a shrub. It is built by the female although the male sometimes helps collect material, and is constructed from grass, twigs, and moss, and lined with feathers, down, and animal hair.

Common redpolls lay 4-6 pale green eggs with dark spots and lines which are incubated by the female alone for 11-12 days. She is fed on the nest by the male. Chicks leave the nest at between 9-14 days and become independent at 26 days.

Feeding

Common redpolls eat seeds, catkins, and buds from willows, alders, birches, and small conifers. During breeding season they will supplement their diet with insects.

Common Redpoll

Where to see them

Common redpolls can be spotted in the UK between October and April. They can be found on the east coast in the autumn and winter before moving west in search of food.

Listen

Hannu Varkki/xeno-canto

Did you know?

The redpoll is also known as the mealy redpoll, particularly in aviculture. As well as two recognised subspecies, the lesser redpoll is also sometimes considered a subspecies of the common redpoll. 

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