If identifying Hoary Redpoll is not enough of a challenge for you, maybe you’d like to look for subspecies of Hoary and Common Redpolls?
First, check out this map from the Canadian Atlas of Bird Banding.
This shows selected western band recoveries of Common Redpolls, and the obvious suggestion is that some of the Common Redpolls being seen in the east right now might be coming from Alaska! Troy (1983) shows a map with a similar pattern, including a redpoll that traveled from New Hampshire to Barrow, Alaska, and another that traveled from Michigan to Siberia. Lots of redpolls also come to the eastern US from the north or northeast, but we should not assume that we are only seeing redpolls from the nearby subarctic regions.
Both species of redpoll are represented in Greenland and Baffin Island by larger and more distinctive subspecies. These “Greenland” Hoary Redpolls are large and very pale, while the “Greenland” Common Redpolls are large and dark. An excellent summary of status and identification is in Pittaway (1992). Greater Common Redpoll can appear in the eastern US in significant numbers some winters, outnumbering Hoary (Pittaway 1992, Wetherbee 1937). Hornemann’s Hoary Redpoll is the rarest subspecies in the US, but has been recorded at least south to Maryland and west to Michigan.
Common Redpoll Carduelis flammea
Southern C. f. flammea
Greenland (Greater) C. f. rostrata
Greater is distinguished from Southern by:
- larger size
- darker color
- larger bill with curved (bulging) culmen
- said to have more upright posture and harsher calls
Extensive discussion and photos of this subspecies can be found in several other posts on this site.
Hoary Redpoll Carduelis hornemanni
Southern C. h. exilipes
Greenland (Hornemann’s) C. h. hornemanni
Hornemann’s is distinguished from Southern by:
- larger size
- even paler color
Some photos and discussion of Greater Common Redpolls from Toronto already this winter are available here. And a detailed discussion with photos of specimens by the Maryland/District of Columbia Records Commmittee is here (beginning on page 16).
Update Jan 2010 – photos of a very pale female (which maybe typical for this subspecies) from Newfoundland are on Dave Brown’s blog.
Pittaway, R. 1992. Recognizable Forms: Redpolls. Ontario Birds 10(3): 108-114
Troy, D. M. 1983. Recaptures of Redpolls: Movements of an Irruptive species. J. Field Ornithol., 54: 146-151.
Related posts and pages:
- Four redpoll taxa in one photo Michael Butler of Marathon, Ontario sent me the remarkable photo below, showing all four taxa...
- Redpolls – main page Common Redpoll Carduelis flammea Hoary Redpoll Carduelis exilipes Redpoll Identification notes Distinguishing Common and Hoary...
- Where do Hoary Redpolls winter? In considering the true status and distribution of Hoary Redpoll, I realized that I had...
- The Redpoll Questions More thoughts on redpolls after yesterday’s post, prompted by my own nagging doubts and a...
- Greater Redpoll photos Maybe I should change the name of this blog to “All about Redpolls”, but I’ve...
- Redpoll Identification Some updates 4 and 6 December -check out Jochen’s comments and blog post here With...
- Another large pale redpoll A new photo by Dan Berard shows what looks like an intermediate large redpoll, and...
- Urging caution when identifying Common Redpolls Redpoll identification is challenging because Hoary and Common Redpoll seem to show an unbroken continuum...