top of page

The return of the redpolls

Updated: Feb 24, 2023

Redpoll feeding on seeds of Sorbus frutescens, many years ago

The summer of 2018 was not a good gardening summer in the southern and western regions of the country. A very cold spring was followed by a cold and wet summer. It rained most days in June (there might have been one dry day) and the temperature struggled to reach 10°C (50°F). When the birch (Betula pubescens) and rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) trees flowered in early June, the constant rain and cold prevented the fertilization of most of the flowers. It stopped raining in mid-July and August bore some resemblance to summer. But the damage was done. The annual banquet of seeds and berries in September was very sparse, so sparse that the redpolls (Acanthis flammea islandica) disappeared completely from the Reykjavík area in early winter. I don't know how big an area it was, but I did not see a single redpoll all winter and they were still missing this summer.

The summer of 2018 a pair nested in a spruce tree in my garden and let their presence be known constantly. There are a number of large birch trees in my garden, so I often see large groups of them feeding on the abundant amount of seed during the winter. But there was nothing to be had last winter and the redpolls had to move on in search for food.

This summer, 2019, was the opposite of last year. An unusually warm spring was followed by an exceptionally warm and sunny summer. It might have been a bit too sunny, as it hardly rained for weeks. September was filled with the song of thrushes, red wings (Turdus iliacus) and European blackbirds ( Turdus merula), feasting in the rowan trees.

And today I noticed a small group of redpolls in the rowan tree outside my dining room window. They were feeding in the birch trees close by. I have to admit that it made me very happy to see that they were back. And although there is an abundant crop of birch seeds this fall, I will make an effort set out feed for them this winter. Just in case.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page