Beak of the Week – Common Redpoll

Common Redpoll (Acanthis flammea)
Family: Fringillidae

The Common Redpoll is a small finch with a stubby, conical, yellow bill, a dark spot beneath its bill, a red spot on its forehead, dark wings, and dark streaking on the flanks, and upper body. An adult male will have a rosy wash to the breast.

As a form of negative communication between redpolls, a Common Redpoll may puff its feathers, open its bill, and flash its dark chin spot at another Common Redpoll. This is a frequent enough occurrence as Common Redpolls flock in large numbers. On the other end of the behavioral spectrum, you have courtship behavior. During courtship, males will feed possible mates seeds, and will vocalize while slowly flying around in circles. When it is finally time to build nests, the females are the ones who do the heavy lifting. Redpolls build their nests closer to the ground, often in willow, alder, and spruce trees. When building in the tundra, low ground cover can be used for a nesting site in place of trees. Common Redpolls will sometimes dig tunnels within the snow to roost more warmly during cold winter nights.

They normally winter in the northern-most parts of the United States, as well as in Canada. This species can be found year-round in Southern Alaska, and in northeastern Canada. During irruptive years, Common Redpolls can be found in the northern parts of the southern states and there is at least one accepted record for the Upper Texas Coast.

By Sarah Lefoley, Conservation Technician, Houston Audubon
📸 Photos by Mick Thompson, Greg Lavaty, Gillfoto

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