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"Problem Redpoll" - Grå / Polarsisik - 
Carduelis spp.

 

Redpolls are not the easiest group of birds to deal with and are far from being my strongpoint. This pale individual turned up at my feeder together with a much larger and darker individual. The pale unstreaked rump raised the possibility of this bird being an Arctic Redpoll. Responses to appeals for help on various mailing lists came back with varying responses - with more than half going for Arctic.

The bird fed only on the ground giving only fleeting views of its rump and almost nothing of the undertail coverts - thus thwarting positive identification. A fleeting glimpse of the undertail coverts showed that there was one longish central streak there, probably around 2mm in width.

The large (>15mm) white and unstreaked rump is a major point in favour of Arctic Redpoll - it seems large enough and white enough to exclude Mealy. This should be enough of a clincher in itself really.


As for supporting features, the upperparts seem to be buffish brown with a broad white mantle (although I have seen plenty of Mealys with this white area). The face seems rather plain with little streaking on the ear-coverts. The greater covert wing bar is white and broad (but then the accompanying Mealy also shows this). The beak is small and "pushed in" - there is no comparison between these two birds!

The fact that this bird was noticeably smaller than the accompanying Mealy Redpoll is to me the main point against Arctic, the streaking towards the flanks seems a bit on the broad side and the buffish patches on the sides of the upper breast all make me a little doubtful as to this birds identity.

If this bird is an Arctic it would seem to be a first winter  Coues's Artcic Redpoll - Carduelis hornemanni exilipes - it is way too streaked and too small to be C. h. hornemanni. Other features that seem to discount C. h. hornemanni are that the upperparts are not appreciably grey toned and that the bill is too small.

An "Icelandic" Redpoll could also be a contender - as these can resemble Coues's.  Probability wise it is perhpas more likely to be a Coues's rather than a Icelandic Redpoll.

Links to other Redpoll galleries on this site:
Lesser Redpoll
Common Redpoll
Arctic Redpoll





All images on this page were digiscoped with a Nikon Coolpix

Possible Arctic Redpoll Problem Redpoll
Tjeldstø, 29 January 2006 Tjeldstø, 28 January 2006

The accompanying bird, pictured below was clearly larger - something that may go against the pale bird being an Arctic - perhaps this Common (Mealy) Redpoll is one of the abnormally large examples that can occur. 

Common (Mealy) Redpoll Common (Mealy) Redpoll
Tjeldstø, 28 January 2006 Tjeldstø, 28 January 2006


Problem Redpoll Possible Arctic Redpoll
Tjeldstø, 28 January 2006 Tjeldstø, 28 January 2006





Problem poll Problem poll
Tjeldstø 01 February 2006 Tjeldstø 01 February 2006






Pale redpoll rump Problem poll
Tjeldstø 01 February 2006 Tjeldstø 01 February 2006

To me this bird looks as good an Arctic as some of those that have been circulated as such on the internet.

In fact the main reason I want to nail this birds identity is because it was in my garden. Had I found it elsewhere I may well have given it up as too much of a headache.....

References
Birdwatch March 1996, Rump stakes, Jimmy Steele
Birding World 18, no. 2, Greenland, Iceland and Hornemann's Redpolls, Mike Pennington & Mickey Maher

Redpoll Links:
Steve Mann's Redpoll page

Jukka Väyrynens homepage about Redpolls!
Redpoll ID
Jean Iron Redpoll ID


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