Common or Mealy Redpoll

Common or Mealy Redpoll © Mathias Putze

Common/Mealy Redpoll Acanthis flammea (Linnaeus 1758)

Appearance: Brown and white birds with heavily streaked sides.  Small red forehead patch, black feathering around a yellow bill, and two white wingbars. Males have a pale red vest on the chest and upper flanks. Variation is great across the subspecies.

Irruptions Winter 2020-21: After several years of small to no irruptions of Common Redpolls in the northeast, it looks like we’re in for at least a modest flight into the Northeast and probably Great Lakes states.  Bring on the redpolls!

Natural History: Common/Mealy Redpolls are regularly found in the boreal and taiga regions of Canada occasionally southward into northern half of the United States in irruption years.
Common/Meraly Redpolls in Europe are regularly found in Fenno Scandia regularly southward into Central Europe in irruption years.

Common/Mealy Redpoll Acanthis flammea flammea
-> N Europe, Siberia, Alaska and Canada
Common/Mealy Redpoll Acanthis flammea rostrata (incl. ssp. islandica)
-> NE Canada, Greenland, Iceland

Object of study: Vocalizations and plumage variability. Please send photos if you have a redpoll you’re not sure of what species it is. We hope to help people with ID’s of Hoary Redpolls.

Flight call: A clipped and dry che or chit, given singly or more usually as 2 or 3 calls, or even longer series of chee-chee-chee or chit-chit-chit.   Resembles chyet-chyet or chet-chet of White-winged Crossbill, but is dryer and softer as if coming from a smaller bird. Some calls similar to Pine Siskin but without the raspy or throaty quality.

Food Sources: Likes to eat small seeds of trees and shrubs, especially birch, willow, alder, spruce, and various grasses, sedges and weed seeds. It will visit nyjer or sunflower seed feeders of all shapes and forms including nyjer seed socks.

Irruptions: For many years it irrupted in numbers biennially southward to the Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern States, but irruptions have been less common the past decade; also irrupts with less frequency into Pacific and Mountain West States.

For more on Common/Mealy Redpolls see here:

FiRN Needs: Sound recordings from the entire distribution area would be appreciated.

email Matt