Nature's Witness: Winter Gem

A photographer captures a migrating redpoll’s stop for a snack

  • Photograph by Marie Read
  • PhotoZone
  • Jan 30, 2018

AS LOVELY as any holiday ornament, a male common redpoll perches on an alder branch, where brown cones and drooping catkins offer a tempting snack. Bird photographer Marie Read placed the alder branch in her Ithaca, New York, backyard near feeders full of thistle, or nyjer, seeds, another favorite food of these passerine finches.

Photographer Marie Read

Nesting in Arctic tundra and boreal forest, redpolls may fly south in winter, occasionally in large numbers during irruption years. Read made this image during one such event in 2011, when scores of the birds flocked to her yard. Despite the snow, she sat for hours in a blind to capture the show.

“I’ve always been fascinated with birds,” says Read. “They’re so colorful and full of life.” Author of four books on birds, Read also lectures on bird-friendly gardening, teaching how to transform yards into bird havens. One of her tips: “Don’t clear away dead flowers that can feed the birds,” she says. “My yard is a total mess!”

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More from National Wildlife magazine and the National Wildlife Federation:

Nature's Witnesses »
Natural Inquiries: Redpolls »
Tips for Winter Bird Feeding »
Help Birds Weather Winter »
See Last Issue's Nature's Witness »

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