I've been watching the flocks of Redpolls at my feeders closely this winter
looking for a possible Hoary, and today I might have found one. It was one
of just six Redpolls that visited today (I've had flocks of up to 70 over
the past few weeks), but it looked so different from the others that it
caught my eye immediately. Close inspection showed it had a small "dainty"
bill and a pushed-in face; the streaks on the side were indistinct and
blurry; the undertail coverts were white (couldn't see any streaks, but
didn't get a good view from underneath); the red cap and black bib were both
very small; no red on the breast; the overall color was light, but not
strikingly so. The main thing that caught my eye was that the body shape
was so different from the others: short, fat, and round. It's wings didn't
fold flat against the body, but stuck out. And it was more fluffy than the
So I checked the big Sibley and for the first time really noticed the 1st
year females. They are fat and round like the bird I saw. Aside from the
Common vs Hoary issue, I'm wondering why I haven't seen more of these 1st
year birds? I would think any flock should be a reasonable percentage of
first year birds. I don't remember this question being addressed on either
VTBird or NNYBirds listservs. Any thoughts?
Back to Common vs Hoary, I think this bird was at least as light on the back
and had even less distinct streaks on the sides than the 1st year Southern
race in Sibley. Also, when the others left, this one stayed behind for at
least 15 minutes, possibly indicating that it was only loosely associated
with the Commons. I'm leaning toward Hoary, but I'm still wondering why we
don't see more 1st year birds.