About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Little brown bird with red head and striped wings

Hello, I’m trying to identify little birds the size of goldfinches. They are little brown birds on my finch feeder that have red heads, black faces and well defined lines on the wings. I’ve never seen them before. Can you help? ~ Lansing, MI

What you’ve described sounds like a Common Redpoll (Carduelis flammea). They are small brown and white birds with streaked sides and two white wing bars. They also have a red forehead and black feathering on the face around a yellow bill. The males are distinguished from the females by red feathers on the upper chest.

Ted Black’s Birds of Michigan field guide describes the Common Redpoll as a predictably unpredictable winter visitor. They eat a variety of foods including birch and alder seeds or sunflower and nyjer thistle seed at the feeders.

They eat up to 42 percent of their body mass every day; storing seeds in a throat poach in their esophagus to eat at a later time. Their focus on food helps make wintering redpolls remarkably fearless of humans.

Their common name is derived from the color and “taking a poll” or counting heads. The species name Carduelis flammea means “goldfinch flaming”.

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