Bird of the Week

Also known as the Arctic Redpoll, Hoary Redpolls are uncommon visitors to the Northern United States; they occasionally coexist with Common Redpolls at bird feeders. The stunning ice crystals that form on bright, cold winter nights are called “hoarfrost” and the Hoary Redpoll is very familiar with this phenomenon. This little finch lives far from most people, on the northern tundra, where it nests and endures harsh winters. “Redpoll” alludes to this bird’s berry-red head patch, while “hoary” also alludes to its icy plumage.

This bird endures the one of the coldest of biomes anywhere, living mostly above the Arctic Circle where temperatures average -20ºF. Hoary Redpolls live in scrub and thickets and winter along woodland edges and fields.

Unlike most other birds, the Hoary Redpoll’s body is covered with fluffy body feathers. These aid the bird’s ability to stay warm in bitterly cold weather. A redpoll may remove some of its body feathers to shed some of its insulation during exceptionally warm weather. In a few days, the feathers regrow!

Nest sites are similar to the Common Redpoll but may be closer to water, often over shallow water; in willows, alder, spruce, tamarack, birch. Where otherwise suitable sites are unavailable, Hoary Redpolls nest in cavities in driftwood.

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Hoary Redpoll Fun Facts

The name Arctic Redpoll is used in Europe and Hoary Redpoll in North America.

Migrates by day, in flocks, sometimes mixed with Common Redpolls.

Redpolls can store seeds in pouches in their esophagus.

Like many arctic animals, Hoary Redpolls are rather tame around humans and will even land on people.

Hoary Redpolls can survive temperatures all the way
down to -88ºF!

Young hatch at about 9-14 days, and leave the nest in another 9-14 days.

Males do not defend their nest.

Hoary Redpolls are part of the finch family.

They will bury themselves in the snow to stay warm.

Hoary Redpolls demonstrate a remarkable capacity for adjusting their migratory behaviors in response to the changing conditions of their environments.

Click here to watch a Hoary Redpoll foraging in the snow.

Click here for a close up look.