COMMON REDPOLL(Acanthis flammea) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Common Redpoll male has a red forehead and some washed up red on the breast. The top parts and sides are streaked medium brown, and the under parts are grey. The conical bill is yellow. Females are similar but don’t have red on the breast. Bird is approximately 12 cm (5 inches) long.
NAME: The ‘poll’ part of the English name ‘Redpoll’ refers to an old word for ‘head’.  The Latin genus name ‘Acanthis’ means ‘a bird fond of thistles’, in reference to the bird’s diet. As for the Latin species name ‘flammea’, it means ‘flame’.
HABITAT: Coniferous and mixed boreal forest, tundra scrubland, weedy fields.
DIET: Summer- mainly insects and spiders, also tree seeds. Winter – mainly seeds. When feeding on tree seeds, redpolls have the ability of shaking them off the tree, and eating them after they fall on the ground. They also are easily attracted to bird feeders.
NESTING: The nest is usually placed in the lower part of a tree or shrub. An average of five light green eggs are laid, which are incubated by the female. Chicks are fed mostly by the female.
DISTRIBUTION: The common redpoll breeds in the arctic regions of Canada, Europe and Asia. Common redpolls can cross continents when migrating. They are year-round residents south of that range. Their migration grounds include southern Canada and the northern USA, as well as most of Europe and Asia. Some vagrants have been reported as far away as Hawaii (see note below on bird vagrancy).
ON PEI: The common redpoll does not breed on Prince Edward Island, and has never been observed in the summer. It is an ‘irruptive’ species, which means it can be uncommon or very common in the fall and winter, depending on food sources.
CONSERVATION: The common redpoll population is estimated at more than 150 million, and the species is not considered at risk.
NOTES: The common redpoll is a small bird in the Finch family. This bird is well equipped to survive a harsh habitat with extra feathers, and can withstand temperatures even lower than minus 40 (C and F). It can also dig a small tunnel in the snow to keep warmer.  As with the Blue Jay, the common redpoll also has a throat poach to store seeds for future consumption. In the winter common redpolls forage in flocks that can number in the thousands.
Vagrancy: In biology this means an animal going way outside its normal range. For birds, this can happen when there are storms and they get blown off course. On other times, the bird simply wanders in a different direction than usual. Here’s an article about vagrancy in birds.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Pine Siskin, Purple Finch (which is slightly larger), House Finch, Hoary RedpollHere’s an article to help distinguish the common redpoll from the hoary redpoll.

Common Redpoll - Feb. 22, 2013 - © Kathy McCormack
Common Redpoll – Feb. 22, 2013 – © Kathy McCormack
Common Redpoll - Jan. 25, 2015 - © Wanda Bailey
Common Redpoll – Jan. 25, 2015 – © Wanda Bailey
Common Redpoll - Jan. 4, 2013 - © Joanne Dunphy
Common Redpoll – Jan. 4, 2013 – © Joanne Dunphy