Common Redpoll (Carduelis flammea) - local seasonal appearance

Based on 118 observations in Seymour township, Northumberland county, southeast Ontario, 1999-2015.

The common redpoll is a common sight at winter bird feeders. Either we failed to notice this little bird in earlier years (up to 2008), or it is favouring the area more in recent winters. It is a winter finch (for those of us in southern Ontario). More than 95% of the sightings summarized here were made in the winters of early 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015, suggesting an increasing frequency and intensity of winter irruptions from the north. Such events may bring other birds, such as the rarer crossbills. The breeding range in Ontario extends from Moosonee northwest to the Manitoba border (Cadman et al., 1987, pp.561-562). It is commonly found north of the boreal forest, and has a circumpolar distribution in the northern hemisphere. The addition of new data (Cadman et al., 2007, pp.618-619) confirms that the bird nests along the northern James Bay and Hudson Bay coasts, generally between late May and mid-June.

The common redpoll is an irregular visitor to Presqu'ile provincial park, roughly 40 km to the south, from late October to early April (LaForest, 1993, pp.385-386). It is not present every year, but is seen perhaps three years out of five. The highest numbers are generally seen in February (the Trent Hills data are consistent with this). Indeed, the latest substantial flock, of 35-40 common redpolls, was seen at feeders in Campbellford on 06 February 2015, the first sighting of the species that year, after which smaller numbers (often just 1-3 birds) were seen in the following few weeks.

The story is much the same in Peterborough county, to the northwest. The bird is an irregular winter visitor and migrant (Sadler, 1983, p.163). Extreme dates are 24 October to 30 April, again consistent with the more-recent sightings in Seymour Townshuip.

View the provisional 17-winter (1998-2015) monthly data summary (356-kb pdf file) -
Note - data complete to Sunday 08 March 2015: further sightings anticipated in the following month.


Cadman,MD, Eagles,PFJ and Helleiner,FM (1987) Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario. Federation of Ontario Naturalists and Long Point Bird Observatory, published by University of Waterloo Press, 617pp.

Cadman,MD, Sutherland,DA, Beck,GG, Lepage,D and Couturier,AR (editors) (2007) Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario, 2001-2005. Bird Studies Canada, Environment Canada, Ontario Field Ornithologists, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and Ontario Nature, 706pp.

LaForest,SM (1993) Birds of Presqu'ile Provincial Park. Friends of Presqu'ile Park, Brighton, Ontario / Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, 436pp.

Sadler,D (1983) Our Heritage of Birds: Peterborough County in the Kawarthas. Peterborough Field Naturalists / Orchid Press, Peterborough, ON, 192pp.

Graham Wilson, 08 June 2013, update 08 March 2015

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