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Hoary Redpoll: The Race has Just Begun

Updated on March 9, 2015

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Would you believe that this bird has two subspecies?

  1. The first one, in addition to parts of Canada, is of Greenland. It is named Greenland or Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll (C. h. hornemanni).
  2. The second one breeds in the tundra in North America and Eurasia and is named Coues’s Arctic Redpoll (C. h. hornemanni).

Interesting facts:

What we know as the Hoary Redpoll here in North America is not its true name. In reality it is named the Arctic Redpoll (C.h. hornemanni).

At least that is what it is named in North America, in Greenland and neighboring parts of Canada its name is Coues's Arctic Redpoll (C. h. exilipes). In northern North America - in the tundra - and in Eurasia are where it breeds.

The Hoary Redpoll stays warm even in quite cold temperatures. How does it do this? It has very fluffy feathers on areas of its body that are bare on other birds. If the temperatures may get too warm, it could pull out a few of the feathers for the reason that they will have others take their place in just a few days.

The Latin name for this species honors Jens Wilken Hornemann, the Danish botanist.

Range map

This is a Hoary Redpoll range map.
This is a Hoary Redpoll range map. | Source


The Hoary Redpoll breeds along the Arctic coasts from western Alaska, across northernmost Canada, and the northern coasts of Greenland. It moves southward in the winter through much of Alaska and Canada and the northern states from North Dakota on the east coast.


This is a photo of a male Hoary Redpoll. Churchill, Manitoba
This is a photo of a male Hoary Redpoll. Churchill, Manitoba | Source

Hoary Redpoll (Carduelis hornemanni)


It has a length which measures from head to tail somewhere within the range of 4.5" - 5.5".

When the wings are wide open they span to the region of 9".

The weight of this bird when it is adult is generally within 0.4 - 0.7 ounces.


The male Hoary Redpoll has a red cap and a black chin patch. Its upperparts are a buff gray and brown-streaked while its underparts are brown-streaked and washed pink. It also has a pale gray – or white – rump with few or no streaks plus it has coverts which are unstreaked. On the sides of the bird the wings are black with two white bars on each wing. Its tail is notched and the tail, legs and feet are also black.

You could say that it is similar to the Common Redpoll but the Hoary Redpoll has a smaller bill (plus the unstreaked rump and coverts).


The female looks basically the same as the male except for the pink on the underparts.


The immature male resembles the adult female.

Redpoll feeding


You will see them near willow, alder and birch, grasses and weeds eating the small seeds. In the summer they will also eat many types of bugs. They often hang upside-down on small branches because they feed as gleaners. You will also see these birds visiting bird feeders, especially those feeders with thistle seed, if you live within their range.


The nest is a cup which is made of plant fluff and twigs, grasses and rootlets, hair and feathers.

There is a center layer made of root fibers, fragments of juniper bark and lichens.

It is then decided to line thickly with a layer of either feathers or plant fiber and an inner layer of down, willow buds and reindeer hair.

The finished nest is placed low in a small tree or in a shrub, but it may also be concealed by a rock or a clump of tundra vegetation.

Hoary Redpoll eggs

This is what Hoary Redpoll eggs look like.
This is what Hoary Redpoll eggs look like. | Source


Eggs: The process begins with the mother laying between 1 - 7 pale green to pale blue eggs, which are lightly spotted with brown near the large end.

Incubation Period: She keeps them warm for 11 days and watches over them. After which they hatch into newborns.

Fledgling Period: Then after hatching the young birds are helpless and still need their mothers care. For another 9 - 14 days the young birds stay in the nest with their mother due to fact that the young are altricial.

Broods: H. Redpolls only lay their eggs once per year so if any young do not make it, or any eggs do not hatch, they must wait until next year for more.


In the summer the bird stays on the tundra. It breeds in open subarctic coniferous forest and scrub, and sheltered river edge areas on the tundra.

In the winter weedy pastures and roadsides are more in its favor.


In flight, it has a series of metallic chips but when feeding on the ground it has different calls. They are soft and twittering.

The calls of the Hoary Redpoll are sharper than the calls of the Common Redpoll.

Behavior of the Arctic Redpoll:

It is partially migratory. November is when they are most likely to travel southwards and they return north again in March and April.

Conservation status:

This redpoll has a large range and is on ‘Least Concern’ list, as was the other redpoll.

26,000,000 individuals is the estimated global population of the Hoary Redpoll. I had heard that there are no show signs of that count becoming any lower which would call for them to be added to the IUCN Red List. That is why they are Least Concern.


Antonio Arnaiz-Villena et al, have gathered the data of phylogeny.

Phylogeny is in biology. Briefly, it is the study of relationships which are evolutionary (or the change of life/species on earth). Phylogeny comes from phylogenetics which was a Greek word. There is also phylon which means 'tribe, 'clan' and 'race'. One other word is genesis which means 'origin', 'source' and 'birth'.

The result is putting phylon and genesis together to get phylogeny - their study of taxonomy groups.

Have you heard of the Greenland Redpoll?

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Female Greenland Redpoll

Here is a female Greenland Redpoll.
Here is a female Greenland Redpoll. | Source

Greenland Redpoll (C. h. hornemanni)


The race in Greenland – which is sometimes called “snowball” – is a very large and pale bird but it also has a small beak, white rump and many a time has more yellow than grey-brown tones in their feathers.


The females, even though they are still pale, have more streaks on their breasts, their sides and their rumps.

Other facts:

The Hoary Redpoll rarely shows up in the northern United States since it basically breeds and winters at a greater distance north than the associated Common Redpoll. They do not interbreed even though their ranges cross at times, despite the fact they have been considered by some experts to be two forms of a single species.

  • It stays warm in extremely cold temperatures due to having very fluffy feathers on its body.
  • It may pluck out some these feathers if it becomes too warm for them because these feathers will grow back.
  • There is a Danish botanist, by the name of Jens Wilken Hornemann, who is commemorated for the species name.

Your birding list.

Are redpolls in your backyard?

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© 2013 The Examiner-1


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    • The Examiner-1 profile imageAUTHOR

      The Examiner-1 

      5 years ago

      That was my fault - I forgot to delete the second when I copied it. Thank you for noticing.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      At the bottom of your material, check Male/Female. They are listed twice.

    • profile image

      The Examiner-1 

      5 years ago

      Thank for the compliment aviannovice.

      I will check for duplication but what makes you think that? I automatically use the HP copyright on all new Hubs I write before I publish them.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Great article. CHeck for duplication on the hub(I have had that glitch happen to me, as well.) As usual, another fine piece of ornithological info!


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