Carduelis flammea
Birkenzeisig / Mealy Redpoll / Sizerin flammé / Carduelis flammea (Acanthis flammea)
Carduelis flammea / common Redpoll / Birkenzeisig

© Jacob Spendelow

Scientific classification













Carduelis flammea
Carduelis cabaret
Carduelis hornemanni
Carduelis exipilis
Carduelis rostrata
carduelis flammea feminina/ common redpoll female / Birkenzeisig Weibchen

© Jacob Spendelow

cock feeds his chicks




The relatives

Arctic Redpoll
(Acanthis f. hornemanni)

A.f. exipilis
Hoary redpoll
(Acanthis f. exipilis)

Lesser redpoll
(Acanthis f. cabaret)

The redpoll belongs to the genus of siskins. A closely related species, the hoary redpoll (A.hornemanni), is equal in size, but distinguished in color by the conspicuously white rump and the brighter upper and underside.Some ornithologists see the hoary redpoll as subspecies of flammea. Broader subspecies's are: A. f. cabaret, also called alpine redpoll (British islands and Alps), A. rostrata p., (Greenland). The nominate form has bright red coloration on the forehead and a black chin. The male shows bright red at the chest too, otherwise greyish brown. The female has only weak red trace, if at all, on the chest. The Alpine redpoll is smaller and browner.

In England, northern and middle Scandinavia as well in the Alps, theredpoll is a migratory bird. He is a winter guest also in almost all of Europe with the exception of Spain, Portugal, parts of France, southern Italy and southern Greece. Birches and alder must be available in his habitat. His cousin, the common siskin, was imported into New Zealand during the last century. There are now large populations of the bird living there. They inflict great damage in fruit orchards, where they consume the buds of trees. Like his cousin the common siskin, the redpoll is a good climber. He consumes buds, young shoots, seeds of alders, birches and various weeds. In summer, particularily when raising young, he feeds on insects. His song, often performed during flight, is a pleasant twittering. Pleasant trills are often woven into the high pitched and metallic flight call. The song is overall somewhat tinny and rough.

Length: 12 cm -- 15 cm depending on subspecies, weight 14 g . male:
back of the head, neck, cheek and back are gray-brown with dark brown striping. Rump reddish, forehead and chin black, with creamy white striping above the eyes. The top of the head is bright red. Throat, chest and sides are pinkish red. Flank streaky-black, abdomen white, wings and tail darkbrown, 2 wing bars brown; Female and male in the first year of life are without the pink underside and rump, otherwise are colored like the male Fledgling without white rump, back of the head, and undersideand without black mask, otherwise similar to the female.
To protect against the harsh climate of his native country the redpoll builds a solid, warm upholstered nest. Depending on tree population it can either be attached as high as a man, lower or even on the ground in the undergrowth. The four to five eggs whichare, geenish blue, with reddish tinge and spots (18 x 12 mm) are laid only in May and hatch in two weeks. If the youngsters are fully feathered, they look similar to the female, only the red badges are still missing. A single brooding per year, per pair is possible in short nordic summer. If food gets scarce in the redpoll biotopes in winter, sometimes the birds come in large numbers. In the meantime, the redpoll has so seldom been seen in the Germany, that that it had to be taken from the "potentially endangered" list, onto the "red list".

Tending and keeping:

Redpolls like to build their nest on a "nesting block" (Sabelscher Nistklotz) or emperor-nests with evergreen jewelry. They use flax fibers to build it. Redpolls are beyond all doubt, the easiest wild birds to cultivate .Nest-building starts after the pairs are formed, mostly in April. They very frequently build her nests free-standingly but the nesting helps mentioned above are also accepted. The nest is built by the female, the male participates from time to time, too. The nest usually contains five eggs. Incubation takes 12days, and is done soley by the female. The youngsters leave the nest after 14 days. During the hatching of the eggs the female, like all other finches, is very carefully fed by the male. After the hatch, the female passes the food brought by the male on to the chicks. The male feeds the chicks as well. Unlike the literature I can confirm that the redpoll often makes to 2, rarely even 3 broods per year. The diet of this species is very similar to the goldfinch and common siskin, therefore I do not repeat it.

Arctic & Hoary redpoll

Carduelis hornemanni / exipilis

The mealy redpoll is a small finch. It is larger and paler than the very similar lesser redpoll. It is streaky brown above and whitish below with black streaks. It shows two white lines on the folded wing. It does not breed in the UK, but is a passage migrant and winter visitor, particularly to the east coast.

Where does it live?
Inland spruce forests
Areas with birch, alder and spruce trees
Coastal areas

Where to see it
There is a possibility of seeing this species on the east coast of Britain in the autumn or winter. Birds then move west in search of food, so can turn up in suitable habitat inland.

What does it eat?
Small seeds from birch, alder and spruce, and insects.

What does it sound like?
Its call is a trilling ‘tji-tji-tji’.

When to see it
October to April.


The white-rumped forms are often classified as separate species from the striped-rumped forms. According to Wolters (1975-1982) all forms are the same species.  Under this classification, three subspecies are recognized:
a. Flammea: flammea, cabaret, disruptis, rostrata.,
b.Hornemanni: hornemanni, exilipes;
c.Islandica: monotypical, islandica is regarded as the transitional form between the other subspecies.
The general tendency is that the feather density increases toward the Pole, and the length of the extremities, especially the legs, decreases. Among most forms we have a more or less fluxuating cross-relationship. An exact determination of the subspecies is therefore, scientifically not possible.

160 000 breeding pairs are to be found throughout Britain but rarely south and west of Birmingham.
A further 70 000 pairs breed in Ireland.
There are another 1.2-2.4 million breeding pairs,
mostly across Britain, Ireland, northern Scandinavia and the Alps.

Source ©BirdGuides 2001 and NABU

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