Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Common Redpoll - Acanthis flammea
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General Comments The Common Redpoll is still another "winter finch", one of the several very rare ones -- along with White-winged Crossbill and Pine Grosbeak -- to stray as far south as North Carolina. Redpolls are birds of the tundra, muskegs, and boreal forest borders of northern Canada and Alaska, but each winter they move southward in large numbers. However, only in a handful of these winters do birds typically reach Virginia, and usually several redpolls are seen in North Carolina within a given decade. In the state, redpolls are most likely to be seen associating with American Goldfinches or Pine Siskins, feeding in weedy fields, in alder thickets, or occasionally in treetops. Thankfully, redpolls are ardent feeder visitors, and most birders in the state probably saw their first or only Common Redpoll at such a location. Note that there are a handful of reports of redpolls annually (on eBird lists), but most of these seem to be of misidentified House Finches; reports with photographs are strongly encouraged for acceptance.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Sporadic winter visitor. Very rare along the northern coast (including the adjacent mainland and Roanoke Island), and casual elsewhere. Apparently no records for the western half of the region, including the Sandhills. There are more than 30 reports from the province, and the vast majority are from the Outer Banks. Mainly Dec to Feb (early date -- 19 Oct; seasonal late date -- 26 Mar). There are also two outlier reports in May (latest date is 21 May). In 2003, there was a record irruption of Common Redpolls on the NC coast, including 167 on the Bodie-Pea Islands CBC, which is easily a high count for the southeastern US [Chat 68:96 link]. (Other) Peak counts: 50, of which two flew onto the boat, seen about 85 miles northeast of Cape Hatteras, 11 Feb 1953; 18, Currituck Banks, 19 Oct 1977 -- a quite early date for such a large number of birds.
Piedmont Sporadic winter visitor. Very rare in the northern half of the province, and casual in the southern portion. There are about 31 reports, generally falling between Dec (early date -- 18 Nov) and mid-Mar (late date -- 14 May), with a peak in late Dec and early Jan (a CBC bias?). Peak counts: 6, North Wilkesboro, 29 Jan 1968; "small flock" (3?), Winston-Salem, 5 Apr 1953.
Mountains Sporadic winter visitor. Very rare, with only about 14 reports, almost all falling between 27 Dec and 5 Mar. Outside of this time window, there are single reports on 29 Oct 1939, 20 Nov 2020, and 18 Apr 2008. Peak counts: 12, Balsam Mountain Preserve (Jackson), 30 Nov - 1 Dec 2007.
Finding Tips The species is too rare and erratic to search for, and thus more than likely you will need to wait for a bird to show up at a feeder.
Attribution LeGrand[2023-03-28], LeGrand[2021-05-17], LeGrand[2021-03-06]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.