Category Archives: common redpolls

Redpolls at the feeder

common redpoll 1A couple of the redpolls that have been visiting the mountain off and on since December 21 started showing up at the bird feeders yesterday. This male was particularly aggressive this morning, driving all other birds from both sides of the big feeder before settling in to nosh on sunflower seeds. But by early afternoon, he or another male had learned to share the larger of the round feeders, and to forage on the ground with the other birds as well.

This has also so far been a good winter for house finches and goldfinches, both of which have been coming to the feeder in great numbers. We haven’t seen any purple finches since December.

common redpoll 2



common redpolls

We have a flock of common redpolls visiting the mountain for the first time in many years. Mom first sighted them at the edge of the Far Field on December 21, and I spotted them again (and took the above picture) on December 28, along the edge of First Field near the uphill end of the deer exclosure. Both times they were feeding on black birch seeds. That’s a red maple in the photo, though — my attempts to photograph them in the birch had spooked them a little. Still, they are very unwary of humans, since they don’t ordinarily see very many of them in the Artic and Taiga. Their twittery calls are unmistakeably finch-like, but not as high and squeaky as, say, goldfinches.

Redpolls have been spotted all over Pennsylvania this month. They, like the pine siskins that have also been visiting, are one of the so-called irruptive species: birds that usually reside in the north woods, but that shift far to the south on winters when the seed crop fails.

Common Redpolls feed primarily on the catkins produced by birch and alder trees. When catkin production is low, Common Redpolls leave these areas and irrupt into areas where food is more plentiful. Common Redpoll irruptions can be extensive, ranging as far south as the Middle Atlantic States or central Kansas.

Will evening grosbeaks be next?

— Dave