The redpolls are back! I always look forward to seeing those tiny splashes of red mixed in with the drab olive yellow of the finches. It seems a bit early — I’ll have to check my journal from last year — but they are very welcome. The photo is a bit dull because I snapped this in a hurry through window glass. :)
Redpolls are members of the finch family, and get along well at the feeder with their cousins, the gold finches. According to Wiki:
The Redpolls are a group of small passerine birds in the finch family (Fringillidae) which have characteristic red markings on their heads…
All redpolls are northern breeding woodland species, associated with birch trees. They are small dumpy birds, brown or grey-brown above and with a red forehead patch. The adult male’s breast is washed in red, but in females and young birds the buff breast and white belly are streaked with brown. The bill is small and yellow. Some birds, particularly young ones, are difficult to assign to species.
They are primarily seed-eaters, and often feed acrobatically like a tit; their diet may include some insects in summer. They have a dry reeling song and a metallic call. They lay 4-7 eggs in a nest in a tree or, in the case of Arctic Redpoll, a large bush. They can form large flocks outside the breeding season, sometimes mixed with other finches.
I didn’t know they were associated with birch trees, but there are several large stands close by. Wherever they hang out, they are a welcome diversion “in the bleak mid-winter”.