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Common Redpoll

Carduelis flammea

Length: 5.25 inches Wingspan: 8.25 inches Seasonality: Winter / Migrant
ID Keys: Red cap, black chin patch, short stubby bill, pink wash on chest (male), dark brown streaks on sides

Common Redpoll - Carduelis flammeaThe Common Redpoll breeds in the Arctic, but is an irregular winter migrant to southern Canada and the northern United States.  They are well adapted to cold climates, even having a small pouch in their throat where they can store food, allowing them to dart out into the cold and collect a large amount of food, and then return to a protected perch to slowly ingest it.  They will often visit bird feeders, where they are often extremely tame.

There is some question as to the species status of Common Redpolls and their close cousins the Hoary Redpoll.  Hoary Redpolls do have distinct differences from Common Redpolls, with a tiny, stubby bill, much paler coloring overall, and far less streaking. But there are intergrades between species, and recent genetic analysis has found only very small differences, indicating they may be better treated as one species.


Uses brushy areas for breeding, such as forest clearings, forest edges, thickets of dwarf birch or willow, and shrubby areas on the tundra.  Can be found in a variety of semi-open habitats during the winter.  


Primarily feeds on seeds. Also will take buds, catkins, and insects. In our yard in winter, when they do visit, they are attracted more to the catkins on our paper birch than they are to even the feeder complex with niger and sunflower seed.


Forages at all levels vegetation and also on the ground.   Gregarious, usually foraging in flocks outside of the nesting season. 

Breeding Map:

Non-breeder in South Dakota.  The nest of a Common Redpoll is a cup of grasses, small twigs, mosses, and feathers.  The female usually lays 4 or 5 eggs, and she does all of the incubating.  When the eggs hatch, the female does most of the feeding of the young. The young fledge after about 2 weeks.

Common Redpoll Song / Calls:

A trilling followed by a bubbly twittering that may go on for some time. The calls of a Common Redpoll include a trilling, a repetitive series of sweet chee-chee-chee notes, or a nasal call rising in pitch.


Summers in northern Canada and Alaska up through the Arctic Circle.  In winter, they are very irregular migrants, moving only short distances southward during some winters, and moving well into the continental United States in other winters.

Interactive eBird Map:

Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Common Redpoll sightings

Similar Species:

Common Redpolls are one of several small finch species with streaking on their underparts that are found in South Dakota (some just during the winter months). Here are species most likely to be confused with a Common Redpoll:

Hoary Redpoll - Carduelis hornemanni House Finch - Haemorhous mexicanus Purple Finch - Haemorhous purpureus  Pine Siskin - Carduelis pinus 
Hoary Redpoll House Finch Purple Finch Pine Siskin

Conservation Status:

Systematic surveys in North America have shown rather substantial declines in Common Redpoll populations over the last few decades. Population trends are more mixed in the European part of their range, where numbers appear to be more or less stable. Reasons for the North American decline aren't clear, but are likely a combination of habitat loss and climate change. Overall, however, Common Redpolls are found across a very broad geographic range and are common in parts of that range.  The IUCN lists the Common Redpoll as a species of "Least Concern".

Bird Feeders:

Will come to feeders for sunflower seeds, millet, and niger ("thistle") seed (with the latter typically being their favorite for their visits in  my yard). Note the biggest attractant of Common Redpolls in my yard hasn't been the bird feeders, but the catkins on a large Paper Birch in our landscaping. The catkins also attract other finches all winter long (House Finches, American Goldfinches, Pine Siskins).

Further Information:

Photo Information:

 December 2004 - Sax-Zim Bog in northern Minnesota - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Common Redpoll photos.

Audio File Credits:

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Common Redpoll - Species Range Map
South Dakota Status: Irregular winter visitor, most common in the northern part of the state.

Additional Common Redpoll Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Common Redpoll 1 - Carduelis flammeaCommon Redpoll 2 - Carduelis flammeaCommon Redpoll 3 - Carduelis flammeaCommon Redpoll 4 - Carduelis flammeaCommon Redpoll 5 - Carduelis flammeaCommon Redpoll 6 - Carduelis flammeaCommon Redpoll 7 - Carduelis flammeaCommon Redpoll 8 - Carduelis flammeaCommon Redpoll 9 - Carduelis flammeaCommon Redpoll 10 - Carduelis flammeaCommon Redpoll 11 - Carduelis flammeaCommon Redpoll 12 - Carduelis flammeaCommon Redpoll 13 - Carduelis flammeaCommon Redpoll 14 - Carduelis flammea