The Redpoll is a very common bird in woodlands in Iceland. It is the only original Icelandic woodland bird. Its main diet is insects and Birch seed. In the last decades it has gradually learnt to feed on seeds from other tree species in our fast growing forests.
This autumn the Birch has failed to produce seeds here in the South for the second year in a row. This is also the case with seed production in Spruce trees this year.
Despite this there are a lot of Redpolls in search of feed in Hellisskógur by Selfoss. Their main feed this autumn seems to be seed from the Sitka alder (Alnus viridis ssp. sinuata) and from the plant Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria). Both of these are common in Hellisskógur and form seeds every year.
If there is shortage of feed for the Redpolls they are not shy to come into gardens and eagerly take to seed set out for them. If things are rough part of the stock might leave the country for southerly parts of Europe.
Although the Redpolls frequent our feeding trays, they are also diligent in nibbling on seeds from the Sitka Alder and Green Alder. Redpolls eat Birch seeds and all kinds of flower seeds, and insects in the summer time. However, after a cold and wet summer the availability of Birch seeds is scarce.
Recently flocks of Redpolls have been seen feeding on seeds in Alder trees in the South of Iceland.
This little guy is easily recognisable from others of its kind because it sports a white crown instead of the usual greyish brown forehead. This Redpoll was here in the garden two days in November and appeared here one day last week. We have not noticed this colour variation before among the thousands of Redpolls that have visited the garden in recent years.
July and August are usually the most peaceful months in the garden, meaning that there are not as many birds as in the winter months. We have continued putting out sunflower seed all summer so of course some birds come by regularly. Redwings, Blackbirds and Redpolls nested in our garden and in neighbouring gardens this summer. Most of these birds finished breeding in the end June except the Blackbird that breeds several times during the summer. According to our observations it is now breeding for the fifth time.
With the coming of autumn more and more birds appear in the garden and last week there were three Wrens here (ad+2 juv), a Goldcrest, Crossbills, Redpolls, Blackbirds, Redwings and Starlings.
Redpolls are the most common birds in our garden this winter. There are about one hundred of them that come here every day. They eat the sunflower seeds that we put out for them and the big old trees probably also play a part in the popularity of the garden.
I keep count of the birds that come here all year round. For information see my Weekly Bird Report.
I never tire of photographing these quick and adorable birds. The Icelandic winter with its endless twilight poses a challenge for me to constantly try to get better photos that are sharp and clear.
After a few years decline the Redpoll population seems to have grown considerably. The summer was extra warm and huge flocks are now seen in gardens and forests. Today there were 80 of them here in the garden.
They are feeding on sunflower seeds that we put out for them. Sunflower seed attracts a wide variety of birds into gardens. It is interesting to study the Redpolls different colour variations, no two are the same.
Redpolls are among the first birds to lay eggs in the spring and now the chicks have already started hatching. On my walk today I came across this nest in a spruce tree. Two chicks were in it but three were already out of it sitting on nearby branches, chirping incessantly for food. The parents must be very busy finding food for all these little mouths.
Again Redpolls have appeared in flocks in Selfoss hunting for food. In the last few days up to 40 have been in our garden. These chirpy and beautiful birds are welcome guests. Few of them were seen here before Christmas and birders and garden owners missed them and speculated as to their whereabouts. Some even maintained that the stock had declined or that Redpolls had fled the country. The truth is that enough seed was to be had in birch forests after a favourable summer. So there was no need for them to leave the forest in search of feed in urban areas. However, here they are again to the joy of probably everyone.
The photos are from this weekend in our garden in Selfoss.
Birch seeds are the main food for Redpolls in the winter months. Last summer a lot of birch seeds matured in the natural Icelandic forests so there is still enough food for them. Redpolls have not been seen in any numbers in gardens and there has been some concern that their numbers are decreasing.
Last winter was harsh and natural feed scarce. The numbers of Redpolls decreased considerably but the drop was far from drastic. In the last few weeks Redpolls have come in the garden in search of food on our feeding trays. The most we have seen recently is 18 birds together.
In summer the Redpolls often become rather rough and darker than in winter and spring. They probably replace old feathers (moult) and gradually take on a new and fresh plumage. To see the difference there is a picture from July 12 above and below another from the end of April.