Ontario residents are starting to notice redpolls in their travels. These Chickadee-sized songbirds from the north are winter visitors that head south in years when the seed crop on birches is poor. They are being seen in small flocks and occasionally larger ones with dozens of birds but have yet to appear widely.
Named for the red marking on the forehead, redpolls are finches that spend most of their time in weedy fields until the snow becomes deep. That’s when some start showing up at feeders. I have seen a finch sock feeder covered in over 20 birds devouring Nyjer seed. They also eat sunflower seed.
There are two varieties, the Common Redpoll, and Hoary Redpoll. The latter is whiter, with fewer streaks on the sides and an unstreaked rump. This bird is quite uncommon so you might only find one in 100-150 birds. Adult male redpolls have a pinkish blush, lacking in the females and young males.
By Brian Morin
Publisher of Ontario Birding News