Family Finches (Fringillidae)

Least Concern

Redpoll (Acanthis flammea)


French: Sizerin flammé German: Birkenzeisig Spanish: Pardillo norteño

Fringilla flammea


, 1758,

Norrland, Sweden


Increasing trend in recent years to treat this species as three, “Lesser Redpoll A. cabaret”, “Common Redpoll A. flammea” and “Arctic Redpoll A. hornemanni”, has been shown to represent arbitrary divisions of a continuum of morphological characters, as reflected in the genetic uniformity of all populations throughout its range#R#R#R. However, for information these divisions are retained here as subspecies groups. Proposed race holboellii (described from C Germany) considered a longer- and slender-billed variant of nominate with slightly longer wing and tail, and slightly deeper pink in adult male; may predominate at N edge of Asian breeding range from Yamal Peninsula E to NE Siberia and in winter in Russian Altai, but intergrades with nominate occur in W Europe. Affinities of Icelandic population, which includes dark and pale birds, unclear: dark birds, like rostrata in size and plumage (but with marginally shorter bill and wing and paler rump), proposed as race islandica, but differences slight; pale birds, like hornemanni in bill size and plumage (but usually separable by buffish, not white, wingbars and edges of remiges, and heavier streaks below) and in wing and tail measurements to race rostrata, may have originated in Iceland, but now apparently rare and widely replaced by invading rostrata, although intermediates occur; available DNA evidence does not support recognition of islandica#R. Birds from Argyll, in SW Scotland, described as race disruptis on basis of more tawny-brown upperparts with purer black streaks, but differences reflect individual variation. Has hybridized with Linaria cannabina. Five subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. f. cabaret (Statius Müller, 1776) – Lesser Redpoll – British Is, SW Norway, S Sweden, Denmark, and N & NE France E to S Belgium and Netherlands; also N & C Germany, Alps (from SE France E to Austria) and Carpathians (SE Czech Republic and S Poland, possibly also N Romania). Widespread in NC & S Europe in non-breeding season.
  • A. f. flammea (Linnaeus, 1758) – Common Redpoll – from Iceland and Scandinavia E across N & C Russia and Siberia to Kamchatka and Bering Sea, S to C Urals, N Mongolia, Stanovoy Mts, Amurland and Sakhalin, also N North America from Alaska E to Newfoundland; winters S to NW & C Europe, C & E Asia S to Mongolia, NE China (S to Jiangsu), Korea, N Japan (S to N Honshu) and N & C USA (S to Oregon, Colorado and South Carolina).
  • A. f. rostrata (Coues, 1861) – #RNE Canada (C & E Baffin I and N Labrador), W & SE Greenland and Iceland; winters E Canada (Manitoba, N Quebec, Labrador), NE USA, Iceland and NW British Is.
  • A. f. exilipes (Coues, 1861) – #Rextreme N Eurasia from N Norway, N Sweden and N Russia E to Bering Sea and Anadyrland, and in N North America from W & N Alaska E in Canada to N Yukon, N Nunavut and N Manitoba; winters N Europe and S in Asia to N China (NW Xinjiang, Gansu and E Inner Mongolia) and Sakhalin, and throughout Alaska and Canada and S Greenland.
  • A. f. hornemanni (Holboell, 1843) – Arctic Redpoll – N Canada (Ellesmere I, Axel Heiberg I, Devon I, Bylot I, and N & E Baffin I) and W & E Greenland; winters S to C & NE Canada (to N Quebec and Labrador) and NE USA (New England).
  • Introduced (flammea) to New Zealand.

    Descriptive notes

    12·5–14 cm; 10–17 g. Medium-sized, grey to grey-brownish, streaky finch with pale wingbars, short, conical bill and slightly forked tail. Male nominate... read more


    Song, often a longer and more varied series of rattling, chatter and musical calls; territorial... read more


    In N of range breeds in lowland treeless tundra and dry heath with dwarf birch (Betula)... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly seeds, buds and small invertebrates. Seeds and buds include those of birch, spruce, alder, larch (Larix), juniper, ash (... read more


    Season late Apr to Aug; single brood in N of range, elsewhere two broods (possibly only in years with good food supply). Monogamous;... read more


    Resident, migratory and irruptive. Small numbers resident in N Europe, but majority migrate to non-... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common to locally common; in non-breeding areas can be only local or erratically common. Estimated European population 1,200,000–2,400,000... read more

    Recommended citation

    Clement, P. (2019). Redpoll (Acanthis flammea). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 15 December 2019).