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This article is about the species of birds in the finch family. For the breed of cattle, see Red Poll.
Carduelis Flammea Oulu 2007 03 04.JPG
Common redpoll in Oulu, Finland
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Fringillidae
Genus: Acanthis (but see article text)
Borkhausen, 1797

Acanthis flammea
Acanthis cabaret
Acanthis hornemanni



The redpolls 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.[1][2][3] The taxonomy of redpolls is unsettled, with several different very closely related[4] forms of redpolls which have been considered as anything from one to five species.[5] Some recent studies[6][7] favour three species, but this is certainly not definite. Global lists currently support either two species (Common and Hoary Redpoll)[8] or a single species (Common Redpoll).[9] 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.[10]

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. ^ 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). Cell.Mol.Life.Sci. 54(9):1031-41. 
  2. ^ Arnaiz-Villena, A.; Guillén, J.; Ruiz-del-Valle, V.; Lowy, E.; Zamora, J.; Varela, P.; Stefani, D.; Allende, L. M. (2001). "Phylogeography of crossbills, bullfinches, grosbeaks, and rosefinches" (PDF). Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 58 (8): 1159–1166. doi:10.1007/PL00000930. PMID 11529508. 
  3. ^ Arnaiz-Villena, A; Gómez-Prieto P; Ruiz-de-Valle V (2009). "Phylogeography of finches and sparrows". Nova Science Publishers. ISBN 978-1-60741-844--3. 
  4. ^ 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)
  5. ^ Knox, A. G. (1988). "The taxonomy of redpolls". Ardea 76 (1): 1–26. 
  6. ^ Herremans, M. (1990). Taxonomy and evolution in Redpolls Carduelis flammea – hornemanni; a multivariate study of their biometry. Ardea 78(3): 441–458. HTML abstract
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ Frank Gill & David Donsker (Eds). 2015. IOC World Bird List v 5.2
  9. ^ Birdlife International - IUCN.
  10. ^ Nicholas A Mason & Scott A Taylor. 2015. Differentially expressed genes match bill morphology and plumage despite largely undifferentiated genomes in a Holarctic songbird. Molecular Ecology. doi: 10.1111/mec.13140

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.

External links[edit]