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Lesser is More

A first proper trip out with the new lens this weekend and I thought I’d go to the local nature reserve just to get a feel for it and see what it could do. All the usual suspects were on show but there was one star, a lesser redpoll.

The reserve has been well known in the past as a good place to see these birds in the winter months but recently they have been a rarer sight so it was great to have one close up. There was only one but they generally are seen in small flocks at this time of year.

Lesser Redpolls have tiny beaks that are adept at handling fine seeds so if you want them to visit your garden a niger seed feeder is a good place to start, although this one was enjoying the sunflower hearts.

Lesser Redpolls have a red forehead (from which the name ‘red-poll’ is derived). The first time I ever saw one I thought it was a sparrow with a bloody head!! During the breeding season, a peachy-red colour extends down the throat and neck of males, and to a lesser extent in females. Both sexes have black streaking on their backs and have a small black ‘goatee beard’. The pink flush on this one suggests its a male heading toward the breeding season.

There are three types of redpoll, Common or Mealy, Lesser and Arctic with the Common and Arctic being quite rare in the UK.

Lesser Redpolls are a sociable bird and a few pairs will often nest close together in a small colony. They nest in trees generally a young conifer which provides plenty of cover and the nest is an untidy cup of twigs, grass, and plant stems. It will then add a soft lining plant material, feathers and hair. They usually have two broods a year of between four and five eggs. The female incubates the eggs alone, but both parents feed the young.

Outside of the breeding season they form larger flocks which often include other birds such as Siskins. They are however currently a red list bird so if you live close to a wood don’t forget to put out some niger seeds or sunflower seeds and you may start to have some new visitors dropping in.

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