Once redpolls deplete their Arctic birch and willow seed supplies, these sprightly northern finches irrupt (make a mass, temporary migration) southward into any area with ample seeds—old fields, grassy roadsides, forest thickets, and your garden. Redpolls arrive in a swarm of happy energy, each bird handsome with red cap, black chin, gray striping, and rosy pink wash on the breast.
Listen for redpolls’ hoarse swee-ee-ee calls. They sound like goldfinches.
Look for redpolls when the weather is bitterly cold. The birds will irrupt as far southward as the southern United States, but are more common in the northern states and southern Canadian provinces.
Try to spot a hoary redpoll (with a larger, paler, unstreaked rump) in a flock of common redpolls.
Feed redpolls thistle seed from hanging tube feeders and thistle bags. Spread thistle seed, sunflower chips, and crushed peanut hearts on the ground to accommodate birds that can’t get a spot on the feeders.
Did you know that some redpolls stay in the Arctic all winter? They are the only songbird to do so.