If you’re an avid bird watcher, you’ve probably come across the terms “Lesser” and “Mealy” Redpoll quite often. These small finches are fascinating to observe and are relatively easy to spot, all thanks to their bright red cap and gorgeous plumage. But what exactly distinguishes Lesser from Mealy Redpolls?

What Are the Differences?

The Lesser and Mealy Redpolls are two species of small finches belonging to the family Fringillidae. These birds are native to the tundra regions of North America and Eurasia. Although quite similar in appearance, they can easily be distinguished by certain physical characteristics.

Lesser Redpolls are the smaller of the two species, measuring between 4.5 to 5.5 inches in length. They have a tiny, slender bill, a pale rump, and a deep reddish-brown cap. Their plumage tends to be more streaked and heavily marked than that of Mealy Redpolls, particularly on their breast and flanks.

In contrast, Mealy Redpolls are slightly larger, ranging from 5.5 to 6.5 inches in length. They have a bulkier bill, a grayish-brown belly, and a more extensive white area on their rump than the Lesser Redpolls. Their head cap is also more faded, appearing more like rosy-pink in color.

Both species prefer a similar habitat, mostly coniferous forests, forest edges, and open woodland regions. They can be spotted in large flocks, often feeding on seeds from alder, birch, and willow trees. During winter, they often travel great distances in search of food, which is why they’re observed in many parts of the world.

Redpolls tend to be non-migratory birds, but some populations located in the northernmost parts of their range tend to migrate southwards during winter. These little birds are highly adaptable and can survive extreme cold temperatures, an ability that is unique among other songbirds.


The Lesser and Mealy Redpolls are two species of small finches that share many similarities, yet each has its distinct physical features that set them apart. Despite being native to tundra regions located in North America and Eurasia, these little birds can be observed in many habitats worldwide.

They are fascinating to watch and have unique abilities that enable them to survive in harsh climates. Next time you’re out bird watching, be sure to keep an eye out for these two lovely birds!