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Carduelis Flammea Oulu 2007 03 04.JPG
Common redpoll in Oulu, Finland
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Fringillidae
Subfamily: Carduelinae
Genus: Acanthis
Borkhausen, 1797

Acanthis flammea
Acanthis cabaret
Acanthis hornemanni



The redpolls (in Britain also historically known as redpoles)[1][2] are a group of small passerine birds in the finch family Fringillidae which have characteristic red markings on their heads. They are placed in the genus Acanthis.[3][4] The genus name Acanthis is from the Ancient Greek akanthis, a name for a small now-unidentifiable bird.[5]

The taxonomy of redpolls is unsettled, with several different very closely related[6] forms of redpolls which have been considered as anything from one to five species.[7] Some studies[8][9] favour three species, but this is certainly not definite. Global lists currently support either two species (Common and Hoary Redpoll)[10] or a single species (Common Redpoll).[11] Most recently, genomewide analyses found differences in gene expression but no genetic divergence, suggesting that plumage forms have originated recently, within a single interbreeding lineage, and do not represent species boundaries.[12]

All redpolls are northern breeding woodland species, associated with birch trees (although there are introduced populations in the southern hemisphere, in New Zealand and nearby Subantarctic Islands). They are small 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 four to seven eggs in a nest in a tree or, in the case of the Arctic redpoll, a large bush. They can form large flocks outside the breeding season, sometimes mixed with other finches.

The species are:

  • Arctic redpoll (Acanthis hornemanni)
    • A. h. hornemanni (Greenland Arctic redpoll)
    • A. h. exilipes (hoary redpoll)
  • Common redpoll (Acanthis flammea)
    • A. f. flammea (mealy redpoll)
    • A. f. islandica (Icelandic redpoll)
    • A. f. rostrata (Greenland redpoll)
  • Lesser redpoll (Acanthis cabaret)


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, Vol Q-R. Oxford University Press. 1971. p. 310. 
  2. ^ Montagu, George (1831). Ornithological Dictionary of British Birds (2nd ed.). London: Hurst, Chance and Co. pp. 409–411. Retrieved 12 March 2016. 
  3. ^ Arnaiz-Villena, Antonio; Alvarez-Tejado M.; Ruiz-del-Valle V.; García-de-la-Torre C.; Varela P; Recio M. J.; Ferre S.; Martinez-Laso J. (1998). "Phylogeny and rapid Northern and Southern Hemisphere speciation of goldfinches during the Miocene and Pliocene Epochs" (PDF). Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences. 54 (9): 1031–1041. doi:10.1007/s000180050230. PMID 9791543. 
  4. ^ Zuccon, Dario; Prŷs-Jones, Robert; Rasmussen, Pamela C.; Ericson, Per G.P. (2012). "The phylogenetic relationships and generic limits of finches (Fringillidae)" (PDF). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 62 (2): 581–596. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2011.10.002. PMID 22023825. 
  5. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London, United Kingdom: Christopher Helm. p. 29. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4. 
  6. ^ Seutin, G.; Ratcliffe, L. M. & Boag, P. T. (1995). Mitochondrial DNA homogeneity in the phenotypically diverse redpoll finch complex (Aves: Carduelinae: Carduelis flammea - hornemanni). Evolution 49(5): 962–973. doi:10.2307/2410418 (HTML abstract and first page image)
  7. ^ Knox, A. G. (1988). "The taxonomy of redpolls". Ardea. 76 (1): 1–26. 
  8. ^ Herremans, M. (1990). Taxonomy and evolution in Redpolls Carduelis flammea – hornemanni; a multivariate study of their biometry. Ardea 78(3): 441–458. HTML abstract
  9. ^ Sangster, George; Knox, Alan G.; Helbig, Andreas J.; Parkin, David T. (2002). "Taxonomic recommendations for European birds". Ibis. 144 (1): 153–159. doi:10.1046/j.0019-1019.2001.00026.x. 
  10. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David (eds.). "Finches, euphonias". World Bird List Version 5.4. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  11. ^ "Common Redpoll Carduelis flammea". Birdlife International. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  12. ^ Mason, N.A.; Taylor, S.A. (2015). "Differentially expressed genes match bill morphology and plumage despite largely undifferentiated genomes in a Holarctic songbird". Molecular Ecology. 24 (12): 3009–3025. doi:10.1111/mec.13140. PMID 25735539. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Knox, A. G., and P. E. Lowther (2000). Hoary Redpoll (Carduelis hornemanni). In The Birds of North America, No. 544 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
  • Knox, A. G., and P. E. Lowther (2000). Common Redpoll (Carduelis flammea). In The Birds of North America, No. 543 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
  • Marthinsen, G.; Wennerberg, L.; Lifjeld, J.T. (2008). "Low support for separate species within the redpoll complex (Carduelis flammea–hornemanni–cabaret) from analyses of mtDNA and microsatellite markers". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 47: 1005–1017. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2008.03.027. 

External links[edit]