Oh My Goodness, The Redpolls Have Irrupted!

Male Common Redpoll working at a sunflower seed.
Male Common Redpoll working at a sunflower seed. | Source

It was February, in the middle of a snowstorm that dumped over a foot of snow here. I heard the excited chirps high in the tree tops while I was shoveling my way to the woodshed. They were small birds, and there were myriads of them! Perched in the dark grey branches on a cold, grey day I found it hard to pick out any colors at all. Besides that, my glasses would become covered with snow every time I looked upward!

Male American Goldfinch
Male American Goldfinch | Source
purple finches in snowstorm
purple finches in snowstorm | Source

We usually have large flocks of goldfinches that hang around all winter. That was my first guess, and my second guess was purple finches.

I had read in Audubon magazine that this might be a good year to see purple finches during the wintertime. Although I had seen several purple finches the week before, these did not sound like the lovely and bubbly purple finches that usually appear in spring. Nor did they say “zeee-zee” as do the goldfinches.

Having finally reached the woodpile, I gathered up enough wood for the day and headed back to the warmth of the house. By then my fingers and toes were frozen, and my one thought was to start a fire and warm up.

The next day the sun was shining intermittently. As I glanced out toward the bird feeders I noticed that all 6 of them were loaded with small birds. It was time to fill the feeders anyway, so I again grabbed my shovel and worked my way out to the hungry birds. By now they were covering the ground beneath the feeders searching for morsels on the snow.

Flock of Common Redpolls under feeders.
Flock of Common Redpolls under feeders. | Source

These friendly little guys didn't mind my presence at all. In fact a couple of them flew so close that I could feel the air from their wing beats. The nearer I came the more I realized that these were definitely not goldfinches. Nor were they the purple finches I had seen a week earlier. I had never seen these birds in person before in my life!

Once I recognized them as beautiful, cheery little common redpolls, I knew I had an irruption on my hands! That term in this context applies to a sudden large influx of birds that have ventured out of their known territory to find food. There was an irruption of Snowy Owls just last year in the American Plains. If you know anything about ‘Harry Potter’, you know that Hedwig was his snowy owl.

Redpolls are members of the finch family; they live and breed in the arctic and Canada. They move as far south as extreme northern New York State normally. Male Common Redpolls have splashes of red on their chest feathers, and are heavily streaked on their sides and underparts with dark brown. Redpolls especially love nyjer (thistle) seed. It seems they are not picky though, because they were swarming all over the suet feeders and the sunflower feeders as well as the thistle feeder. They wear bright red patches on their foreheads and have black chins and faces, and yellow beaks. Look for a bold white wing bar as well as a short notched tail.

Common Redpolls in tray feeder.
Common Redpolls in tray feeder. | Source

My chickadees seem to give these small red finches free reign at the feeders, but the juncos are not intimidated by their numbers at all. They chatter excitedly to one another, and seem to always be in motion. Redpolls have a unique way of socializing and sharing by passing a seed from one bird down the line to another, which then passes it along to yet another, and so on. Their song is very sweet, and I mean that quite literally because that is what they actually sing: ‘swe-e-e-eet’.

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Female Common Redpolls on nyjer tube feeder. Female Common Redpoll on sunflower gazebo feeder. Another view of Redpolls on nyjer feeder. Male Common Redpoll eyeing sunflower seeds in hanging tray feeder.
Female Common Redpolls on nyjer tube feeder.
Female Common Redpolls on nyjer tube feeder. | Source
Female Common Redpoll on sunflower gazebo feeder.
Female Common Redpoll on sunflower gazebo feeder. | Source
Another view of Redpolls on nyjer feeder.
Another view of Redpolls on nyjer feeder. | Source
Male Common Redpoll eyeing sunflower seeds in hanging tray feeder.
Male Common Redpoll eyeing sunflower seeds in hanging tray feeder. | Source

My Short Video of the Redpolls at the Bird Feeders

Are You Familiar with Little Redpolls?

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Along about the time the redpolls had begun to work at the newly-filled bird feeders, a deer made its way into their field of vision. They all rose in flight as one and filled the upper branches of nearby trees. Once they realized the deer was not a threat, the whole ‘gallup’ (the collective name for a group of redpolls) flew back and settled in comfortably as they chowed down.

In my research I found that, according to Whatbird.com, Common Redpolls sometimes are found as far south as the Carolinas, Oklahoma and northern California. They enjoy the arctic climate and tunnel under the snow to shelter against the frigid nights. To date they are considered a bird of least concern, meaning their numbers indicate a healthy, normal population without fear of extinction any time soon.

I wouldn't mind having these friendly and colorful American finches around here on a regular basis. However, I would need a second job to keep them in seeds! Still, I feel quite honored that they chose my backyard as their temporary home away from home. It’s always fun for me to discover a bird I've never met before!

Common Redpolls are very active!
Common Redpolls are very active! | Source

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24 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

Pearl, I have never heard of Redpolls. There must be hundreds of different kinds of finches. Thanks for the education; I always learn something new with your hubs.


carol7777 profile image

carol7777 3 years ago from Arizona

Love this hub and I love the photos of birds. Great job and I always enjoy learning something new. Voting UP and pinning.


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States

A charming hub--and informative, too. Your pictures are fantastic! You must have been really patient!


shiningirisheyes profile image

shiningirisheyes 3 years ago from Upstate, New York

Would you believe I have never actually seen a Redpoll. You have created an impressive natural observatory my friend. Beautiful and awesome.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Thank you Billy! So glad you learned something new. I think life is more fun if we can continue to learn throughout our lives. I had heard of Redpolls before, but had never seen one other than in books. So this was a real treat for me. I appreciate your supportive comments and you, my friend! Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Oh Thank You Carol! It was a real treat for me to see these energetic little birds up close and personal. So glad you enjoyed this article. And thanks for your vote and pin; they are always much appreciated.

Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Thank you Jill, for all the great comments! These cute little birds are sort of hams at heart I think, because they didn't mind my taking pictures at all. In fact, I was right in the middle of the whole big flock and they just kept right on doing their thing! So glad you stopped by as always,

Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hey Irish! From what I can gather in my research about these neat little birds, they do this irruption thing roughly every 3 to 5 years or so. Keep watching your feeders, you may be pleasantly surprised one day! I had the same thing happen about 20 years ago with the beautiful Evening Grosbeaks. They were here about a week monopolizing all the feeders. I thoroughly enjoyed them, but haven't seen them since. Thank you for the lovely compliments and votes. I'm always glad when you stop by! Pearl


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 3 years ago from Fife, Scotland

What a smashing hub!!! Being in Scotland the Redpoll is a new bird to me but they are adorable!! It's also great to know that at least some of our species do have healthy populations - that brought a huge smile to my face!

This was a beautiful hub and here's hoping these lovely wee birds are not giving you too much work - they sound as if they really like your food! LOL!

Voted up!!


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

Hi Pearl;I love yopur hubs because they are so interesting and easy to learn from. \I have to admit too that I had never heard of a Redpoll but have now and I know so much about this beautiful bird.Here's to so many more hubs for us both to share on here up.I vote up,across and share all around. Have A great day.

Eddy.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Seeker, so nice to see you! I am so glad you stopped by to visit and discover this adorable bird. This morning they were all chatting excitedly when I filled the feeders. They waited patiently high up in some nearby trees. The next thing I knew they were covering the feeders and singing so sweetly. It is a blessing to me that I have had the opportunity to watch and learn about these sweet little birds.

Thank you for your lovely comments and for the vote. They are very much appreciated!

Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Dear Eddy, I am so glad you enjoyed this article. I have had such a wonderfully pleasant time watching these cuties. When the sun hits their foreheads just right, that red 'tam' positively glows! Every time I open the front door I hear their bubbly sweet song. And that's a great comfort in the middle of winter with so much snow on the ground! They make me feel as though spring were right around the corner.

Thank you my friend for all the votes and shares. You are a wonderfully supportive friend who I treasure!

Pearl


Bumpsysmum profile image

Bumpsysmum 3 years ago from Cambridgeshire

I have heard of but never seen a Redpoll. They don't get over to our part of UK. Interesting piece, I find your Hubs informative and enjoy reading about your feathered friends.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Thank you Bumpsysmum for your kind and supportive comments. If I have made the information enjoyable to read, then I have succeeded in my writing goal! These cute little Redpolls were new to my grateful eyes. I had only seen and heard about them in books. Now I have a chance to learn about them firsthand. They are still here every day crowding all the feeders, including the suet. I can't help but feel happier after I've watched and heard their happy chattering.

I always appreciate your visits and your comments!

Pearl


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

Okay, I have to run outside and see if there are any Redpolls ... I live in NY as well, Ulster County to be exact. I love watching the birds and have my feeders close to a window. Great information Grandma!

Your pictures are always amazing....what type of camera do you use?

Well, from one bird lover to another, I voted this up, useful, and interesting.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi tilsontitan, I'm always glad to see another Upstate New Yorker and fellow bird watcher/lover! Yes, see if you can spot these little gems at your feeders. If you do, please be sure to let me know!

I use a Canon Powershot camera. It is just a point and shoot, but it takes great pictures and video as well. That's what I used for the short video I just uploaded and added to this hub. Thank you so much for your great supportive comments and compliments, and also for the votes. They are all very much appreciated. I'm so glad you stopped by!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

Love the video! I have a Cannon Power Shot too! Even wrote a hub about it. My problem is I need to get outside instead of taking pictures of the birds through the window.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi tillsontitan, Thank you for checking out the video. This Canon is so easy to use, and because the birds were very friendly I was able to stand quietly very close by. I do have a tripod I'm going to work with soon. And I'm thinking about getting some camo fabric to drape over me while standing in the woods behind the feeders. I should be able to capture some good closeups. I'm going to check out your hub about the power shot camera!

Maybe you'll be able to head on outside during this warmup! Good Luck.

Pearl


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 3 years ago from East Coast, United States

Thanks for sharing this mini invasion of redpolls. Have not seen any around here - they are so cute! We keep a bird feeder in the yard, and every once in a while, see something new. What a thrill to see a bird you've never seen before, anywhere, right in your own back yard!


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi Dolores! I was pleased to share this experience of the redpolls in my backyard. You're right, it is such fun to discover a bird that you have only rarely, or never, seen before. They are the cutest and friendliest little birds; I think even friendlier than my sweet chickadees!

I'm so glad you stopped by for a visit and left such a nice comment. It's always fun to hear from a devoted bird lover like myself!

Thank you,

Pearl


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 3 years ago from sunny Florida

How cool...they have teamwork down to a science...passing the seeds down the line..who would have 'thunk' it. This was a special experience for you, I know. It is exciting enough to have our 'usual' birdies come visit but to have one that is totally unexpected is amazing.

Thank you for this detailed account of your experience.

Sending some Angels to you today this 17th day of our new year :) ps


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

ps, thanks so much for your encouraging and supportive comments. You always make me feel very special. I felt so blessed to be able to experience these wonderfully cute and friendly little birds. Most of them seemed to have moved on, but there are still a couple of stragglers. That's okay, they have been replaced by cheerful goldfinches still dressed in their winter greens. I look forward to their spring outfits of sunshine yellow!

Thank you for the Angels, and I'm sending some back to you my friend.

Pearl


Movie Master profile image

Movie Master 3 years ago from United Kingdom

Hello Pearl, I have never heard of these Redpolls before, your hubs are always so interesting and informative and I love your photos.

Thank you!

Voted up and shared, best wishes Lesley


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi Lesley, coming from an accomplished photographer that is high praise. Thank you! I enjoy your interesting articles and poetry as well. It's a real joy and inspiration to see your beautiful photos, and the words you choose really echo that beauty. Thank you so much for your supportive comments, the vote and share.

Pearl

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