LESSER REDPOLL (Acanthis caberet)


This small, streaky brown finch spends its time in mixed woodland, particularly birch, or gardens where it can be seen hanging upside down feeding on seeds and invertebrates. It has only recently been viewed as a separate species from the Common Redpoll. It is a resident breeding species in the UK, with larger numbers breeding in Wales, Scotland and Ireland. It is less common in central England where it can be seen visiting during the winter.

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Alert Status:

Red - 22% decline ↓

Estimated number of UK breeding

pairs: 260,000 (updated 2016)

Listen to lesser redpoll song:


As the name suggests this relatively small finch has a red poll which is a small patch of feathers on their head. A slightly lighter red colour can be seen on their breast. The belly and rump are a light brown/buff colour while the upper parts including the head and cheeks are a dark mottled brown with very dark brown/black wings. Outside of the breeding season, the red markings become less obvious. Telling them apart from common redpolls is tricky, while they are smaller this can be hard to see.

Average Length: 11.5 cm

Average Lifespan: 2 Years

Average Wingspan: 20 - 22.5 cm

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Lesser Redpoll diet

They mostly feed on seeds, particularly from birch and alder, and small invertebrates. They have become more common in gardens across the UK and will visit feeders.

How to feed: Bird feeders

What to feed: Any bird food mix, especially small seeds.

Lesser redpoll breeding and nesting information

Lesser redpolls form monogamous bonds for a single breeding season, but no longer. Female lesser redpolls build a nest, sometimes with help from the male, out of leaves, twigs, moss, bark, and other materials. These nests are usually located close to the trunk of birch and pine trees. The female lays 4 or 5 eggs and incubates them alone for around 12 days before they hatch, while the male brings her food. The chicks are then fed for a further 2 weeks by both parents before they fledge. As they lay their first eggs in May, they often produce 2 broods before the breeding season ends.

Threats to lesser redpolls

While overall the populations in the UK have remained the same, some areas have seen declines leading to them no longer being resident in central England. The causes of these declines are not well known. One of the main factors thought to be impacting the population is the reduction of young woodland. This habitat provides the lesser redpoll with its favoured tree species, birch. However, the general loss of woodland throughout the UK could also be driving this decline.

How you can help

Supply food and water in your gardens, especially during winter.

Petition local areas to reforest areas to create young woodland.

Consider planting birch in your garden as the maturing tree will provide food for this species.

Fascinating Fact

There are three different species of redpoll in the UK, the Common redpoll, the Lesser redpoll, and the very rare Arctic redpoll, and telling them apart can be very tricky!
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BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Acanthis flammea. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/redpoll-acanthis-flammea. Accessed: 30/08/2023

British trust for ornithology (2023) Lesser Redpoll | BTO - British trust for ornithology. Available at: https://www.bto.org/understanding-birds/birdfacts/lesser-redpoll. Accessed: 30/08/2023.

Burgess, M.D., Bellamy, P.E., Gillings, S., Noble, D., Grice, P.V. & Conway, G.J. (2015) The impact of changing habitat availability on population trends of woodland birds associated with early successional plantation woodland. Bird Study 62: 39–55. doi: 10.1080/00063657.2014.998622

Fuller, R.J., Noble, D.G., Smith, K.W. & Vanhinsbergh, D. (2005) Recent declines in populations of woodland birds in Britain: a review of possible causes. British Birds 98: 116–143.

Hewson, C. M., Amar, A., Lindsell, J. A., Thewlis, R. M., Butler, S., Smith, K., & Fuller, R. J. (2007). Recent changes in bird populations in British broadleaved woodland. Ibis, 149(SUPPL. 2), 14–28. https://doi.org/10.1111/J.1474-919X.2007.00745.X

RSPB (2023) Lesser redpoll bird facts: Carduelis Cabaret, The RSPB. Available at: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/lesser-redpoll/.  Accessed: 30/08/2023.

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