Siskins are probably the easiest of the three to identify, small and slim with a bright yellow rump and black streaked white flanks. They’re also quickest onto the feeders where they deftly pick out seeds. I tend not to feed Niger these days but they seem to favour sunflower hearts and the smaller seeds in the Ultiva® No Grow No Mess Mix.
The bright burnt orange of the Brambling stands out among it’s Chaffinch cousins. I rarely get more than one or two individuals and they tend to forage on the ground below the feeders along with the Chaffinches. Look out for the splendid black hood of the males with some coming into breeding plumage.
Redpolls, are arguably one of the birds many garden birdwatchers find hardest to identify judging by the number of ‘What’s this?’ posts on social media. I’ve been lucky enough to get both Lesser Redpoll and Common Redpoll in the garden over the years. I prefer to refer to the larger/whiter Common Redpoll as ‘Mealy’ Redpolls as they are not ‘common’ here in Britain. Where as Lesser Redpoll is by far the most numerous and likely to be encountered Redpoll species. Migrant Mealy Redpolls from Scandinavia can and do get mixed in with Lesser Redpoll flocks, but with time and good views can be picked out.
Part of the challenge with redpolls generally is that there is a huge amount of individual plumage variation as well as differences between males, females, juveniles, breeding and winter plumages. Most field guides can’t depict or describe all of these subtle variations. They are however the only one of the ‘brown finches’ (redpolls, Linnet and Twite) likely to turn up on most garden feeders.