Redpolls: maybe too subtle

The Common Redpoll invasion continues. After the first crazy surge of 75+ at a time, it’s settled down to a daily breakfast and dinner crowd of between 25 and 35. They can still empty a pound of thistle seed in two days and enjoy sunflower seed in moderation too. A friend reports seeing them forage in a large forsythia bush, and they’ve cleaned off the standing weed heads in my yard.

Of course when any bird shows up in hordes like that, a good birder keeps her eyes peeled for the anomaly. Is it, could it be, a Hoary Redpoll?

This is a Common Redpoll. Brace yourself for teh cute.

Common Redpoll

Common Redpoll

And this one — it’s lighter. A bit larger. Beak a bit petite. Less streaky on the sides and undertail. But is it light/large etc enough?

Hoary or just pale?

Hoary or just pale?

We’ve all been racking our brains trying to sort out the incredibly subtle differences between Common and Hoary Redpolls. Sibley has page after insanely detailed page trying to sort them out.

Then yesterday I read this article suggesting that we’re all wasting our time. What we’re seeing is Common Redpolls, period, and their plumage is too variable to sort out. The post itself is light in tone though backed up with studies, but there’s some real serious ornithology going on in the comments.

So what are the odds of seeing a Hoary Redpoll, if the beast even exists? Pretty good if I travel to the Arctic tundra. Around here? Maybe. Just maybe.

Categories: Bird photos, Feeder birds, Uncategorized, What am dat bird? | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Redpolls: maybe too subtle

  1. Upstate Ellen

    We have similar numbers of redpolls here, so I look for possible Hoary Redpolls among them, but I don’t think I’d be able to call one a Hoary for sure without a second opinion.

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