At this time of year, we are treated to a variety of bird species that make their home in more northern ranges most of the year. As they are short-distance migrants, birds like Redpolls migrate somewhat shorter distances in comparison to other species that make long treks to and from tropical locales.
During the winter months, Common Redpolls and the closely related Hoary Redpolls make their way down into Canada and some northern United States. More often than not, these two species can be found intermingled within flocks and deciphering the two can be challenging at times.
Both the Hoary and Common Redpoll are small and energetic birds native to the arctic tundra, featuring beautiful shades of red in different areas of their plumage. While both birds sport some red colouring, the Common Redpoll feature brown and white feathers on their back, white wing bars, a red vest on their chests and a small patch of red feathers on their forehead.
The Hoary Redpoll, while similar in size and basic colouring does not have as prominent of a red vest as displayed in the male species of Common Redpoll. The Hoary will sport a more white colouring throughout its plumage as this bird is native to an area a little more north than the common redpoll.
Another difference indicator can be the bills of these birds. When viewing these two species up close, the bill of the common redpoll will feature more yellow colouring, while the bill of the hoary redpoll is paler in colouring.
Keep these key differences in mind while out birding this winter and see if you are able to spot a hoary in a flock of commons as they begin to show up over the next few months.