Monday, March 30, 2009

Again redpolls

Yes, another post on redpolls. These guys are incredibly photogenic, and indeed I can't get enough of photographing them. You might think there's nothing much else going on at this hawk watch in Whitefish Point... and you'd be right, actually. For the moment, things remain slow. Yesterday we got hammered with snow all day, and today the world was a fresher white. Eagles were the only raptors seen on migration today, but they were all high. Usually Bald is the more numerous eagle around here, but today I saw more Goldens, five in total.

The bird at the top, pensively looking down, is a Hoary Redpoll. Its ghostly pale appearance and the short, stubby bill are better clues for Hoary than for Common. But all these things are so subtle.

The bill shape is more obvious on this side view of the same bird. It appears to be a female or an immature.

Adult male Common Redpolls are quite colorful in breeding plumage. The cherry red breast on this individual is typical for that species. Hoary Redpoll males tend to have a pink wash on the breast, nothing as bright as this.

Kinda more like this... Except this is not a Hoary! Yes, it's pale and yes, it looks like it has that pink wash on the breast, but take a look at the next picture - of the same bird.

Now it's obvious that this is a Common Redpoll, with a longer bill and more streaking on the flanks than Hoary Redpoll would have. The cheek also seems a little too dark for Hoary. Still, the bird looks deceptively pale overall, and that pink color on the breast also is suggestive of Hoary Redpoll. This individual is a pale young male Common Redpoll, whose reddish color on the breast is just coming on. It's a result of normal feather wear: as the white edges wear off, the more reddish part of the breast feathers become exposed.

This last bird illustrates very well the necessity for combining several field marks when trying to separate the two redpoll species. Not all pale redpolls are Hoaries!

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