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Number of species: 84

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Common Redpoll - Acanthis flammea

Common Redpoll has a partial preformative molt but no prealternate molts. There is considerable variation in appearance of Common Redpolls, including within age and sex classes. As such, while extent of pinkish plumage can be suggestive of age and sex, it is advisable to always check the wing and tail for additional clues, especially for individuals with an intermediate amount of colouration.

Ageing and sexing of Common Redpolls is complicated to some extent by the occurrence of two subspecies. Descriptions are based primarily on the more widespread flammea subspecies; generally the notes also apply to the larger rostrata subspecies, but it tends to be somewhat darker, and with less extensive pink/red.

Quick tips

  • Examine the greater coverts - on FCF (HY/SY) birds there is generally a contrast between darker replaced inner feathers with pale to white tips versus slightly paler outer feathers with buff tips; note that some individuals replace all greater coverts in their preformative molt, such that the contrast is between the greater and primary coverts. On DCB (AHY/ASY) birds the coverts are uniform in appearance.
  • Look at the outer rectrices - they are narrow and distinctly pointed at the tip on FCF (HY/SY) birds, and somewhat broader and more rounded on DCB (AHY/ASY) birds, but note that some intermediates are difficult to classify.
  • Consider the overall plumage - individuals with particularly extensive red and pink patches are usually DCB (AHY/ASY) males, while individuals lacking red aside from the crown are typically FCF (HY/SY) females; intermediates may be FCF (HY/SY) males or DCB (AHY/ASY) females.

Species account prepared by McGill Bird Observatory (2018). Last updated by Marcel Gahbauer (Mar 2022)

The molt categories displayed below may be filtered by month.


Click on any image below to bring up the side-by-side comparison tool.

Individuals not in molt

FCJ - (HY: July - September)
Pale beige-gray overall, lacking black in throat and red on crown
No images available yet
FCF - (HY/SY: August - following September)
Contrast between replaced median and greater coverts that are darker and with whitish tips, versus paler unreplaced greater coverts with buffy tips and paler primary coverts; rectrices generally narrow and pointed; pink absent to limited (F) or light to moderate (M) on cheeks, breast, and flanks
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DCB - (AHY/ASY: August - following September)
Greater coverts all with whitish tips; rectrices often somewhat broad and rounded; pink light to moderate (F) or extensive (M) on cheeks, breast, and flanks
Thumbnail - MG2-2650-25774-Acanthis_flammea_AOU_7_52-3213.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2650-25774-Acanthis_flammea_AOU_7_52-3211.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2650-25774-Acanthis_flammea_AOU_7_52-3212.jpg
Thumbnail - MG2-2690-79935-Acanthis_flammea_AOU_7_52-3189.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2690-79935-Acanthis_flammea_AOU_7_52-3187.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2690-79935-Acanthis_flammea_AOU_7_52-3188.jpg

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Individuals in active molt

FPJ - (HY: July - August)
Similar to FCJ; some natal down remaining and/or juvenile flight feathers still growing in
No images available yet
FPF - (HY: August - October)
Similar to FCF; body feathers, some to all median coverts, some to all greater coverts, and rarely the central rectrices being replaced
No images available yet
SPB - (SY: August - September)
Flight feathers being replaced, with retained juvenile primaries, secondaries, and/or primary coverts distinctly pale brown and quite worn
No images available yet
DPB - (AHY: August - September)
Flight feathers being replaced, with retained primaries, secondaries, and/or primary coverts either distinctly adult (generally dark and less worn) or intermediate
No images available yet

Applicable unknown plumage/age classes

Molt classes Age Months Key traits
M-FPF / UPU (FPF, SPB, DPB) U August - September Undergoing preformative or prebasic molt, but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FCF / UCU (FCF, SCB, DCB) U/AHY January - December In formative or basic plumage (molt completed), but cycle is not reliably distinguishable

Number of species: 84

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