Wildlife Lessons-Seeing Red


A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.  ~Maya Angelou




I can tell you the lesson of this recent wildlife sighting immediately….do not judge a book…well you know the rest.  When I saw the bird above, at first I thought it was a House Finch.  The House Finch has come to be more common around here after being introduced to NY from the western US in 1940….so my immediate reaction was, it’s a House Finch.



DSCN1706But when I stopped to look longer, I noticed the back of the bird was a bit different.  Then I looked closer at their heads and…wait….this was not a House Finch.  So I began snapping lots of shots, and did a search for small, red-headed birds.



Almost immediately the name Common Redpoll came up, Acanthis flammea.  And when I looked outside again, there was a quite a flock of these small finches, covering the patio, searching for seed between the bricks as the snow had retreated quite a bit.  They didn’t stay long, but long enough for me to observe and listen to these cuties.



DSCN1702And when I searched pictures I had taken from a few days before, I found had taken pictures of these birds who resembled the House Finch in the big ash trees.  I easily recognized them by the deep rust-red patch on their foreheads and distinctive white bars on their wings.  Males also have a pale red vest (like in the top photo).



If you live in Canada, the northern US or close to the Arctic Circle, you will see these birds as they migrate South from their breeding grounds in the Arctic tundra in winter.  They like to hang out in open woods and weedy fields, and it is estimated their numbers are in the millions.  It seems the noisy, energetic Redpolls I saw were heading back to the Arctic to breed.




red birds collageIn April we also saw many other red birds.  On the bottom and top left are the male and female Northern Cardinal.  The female was feeding on the lichen of the ash tree.  I have spied other birds feeding on lichen too.



On the right are pictures of the Red-Bellied Woodpecker.  Woodpeckers love our suet feeders and can be seen lining up or swooping others at the feeder to make their intentions known….get moving fella, I want some suet too.  The cardinals pick up the dropped suet under the feeders.  The center picture is a male Downy Woodpecker.  I hear them constantly chattering and talking to us when we are out in the garden, especially if we are near the suet feeders.




Here are some interesting facts about Common Redpolls:

  • Common Redpolls survive temperatures down to –65 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Sometimes Common Redpolls will tunnel into the snow (at least a foot long and 4 inches deep) to stay warm during the night if the temps are extremely low.
  • Redpolls have throat pouches for storing seeds. Once they fill their pouches, they fly away to swallow the seeds.
  • Although winter redpolls eat mostly birch seeds, they also eat other tree seeds, and seeds from grasses, sedges, and wildflowers.  And if seeds are scarce they also eat insects.
  • Common Redpolls have been found to travel great distances; from Michigan to Siberia and Alaska to the eastern U.S.




With this wildlife story, I am joining in the meme Wildlife Wednesday hosted by Tina@My Gardener Says that happens the first Wednesday of every month, and with Saturday’s Critters hosted by Eileen@Viewing nature with Eileen that happens every Saturday.






I leave you with another thought about birds and nature.  Feel free to download this photo and share.


All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.