Added information regarding Redpolls for any of you who are
> From: Jean Iron <[log in to unmask]>
> Date: December 18, 2007 9:27:44 AM EST (CA)
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: [Ontbirds]Redpoll Challenge - 4 subspecies
> The Redpoll Challenge: This is a major redpoll winter in southern
> Canada and the United States. The legendary George North of
> Hamilton, Ontario, once saw all four North American redpoll
> subspecies in the same flock on 23 March 1958 near Hamilton (North
> 1983, Curry 2006). Fifty years later this could be the winter to do
> it again. On 15 December 2007, Ron and Doug Tozer found a big
> "snowball" Hornemann's" Hoary Redpoll (nominate hornemanni) on the
> Minden Christmas Bird Count. This is the rarest redpoll in southern
> Canada. On 14 December 2007, I saw two "Greater" Common Redpolls
> (rostrata) at our feeders in Toronto and there have been several
> other recent reports. With these two High Arctic subspecies and
> probably record numbers of "Southern" Hoary Redpolls (exilipes) in
> flocks of "Southern" Common Redpoll (nominate flammea), we have all
> four North American subspecies in southern Ontario this winter.
> Below I summarize the basic information needed to understand and
> identify redpolls with links to photos.
> Taxonomy: The American Ornithologists' Union (1998) recognizes two
> species: Common Redpoll (Carduelis flammea) and Hoary Redpoll (C.
> hornemanni). Each has two subspecies (races) breeding in North
> America. Discussion about lumping or splitting redpolls has been
> off the "radar screen" in recent years. The four subspecies are
> described below.
> 1. "Southern" Common Redpoll (nominate flammea): This is the
> commonest of the four subspecies in southern Ontario. It is the
> standard to which the other three are compared. In most plumages,
> it is noticeably streaked on the sides, undertail coverts and rump.
> However, adult males in winter have more contrasting whiter rumps
> (fewer streaks and often pinkish) than on worn breeding birds.
> Adult males are pink-breasted. First year males are somewhat darker
> and often washed with light pink. Adult females usually lack pink
> (sometimes tinged) and first year females are the darkest and most
> heavily streaked of the four age/sex classes.
> 2. "Greater" Common Redpoll (rostrata): This large and dark
> subspecies breeds on Baffin Island and Greenland. Greater Redpolls
> are a winter visitor in small numbers to the southern parts of
> eastern Canada from Ontario to Newfoundland (Godfrey 1986) and to
> the northeastern United States. Greaters are more frequent than
> Hoarys in some winters (Pittaway 1992). The Greater is larger
> (averages 14.0 cm compared to 12.5 cm for flammea) and heavier.
> Other field marks are the Greater's thicker bill and somewhat
> darker and browner coloration with conspicuous heavy streaking on
> the underparts usually extending to the undertail coverts. Adult
> male Greaters have "red of underparts less extensive and less
> intense" than flammea (Godfrey 1986). Males lack red on the malar
> area, which flammea males usually have (Beadle and Rising 2006).
> Some observers describe Greaters as House Finch-like. See the
> excellent identification article on Greater Redpoll by Beadle and
> Henshaw (1996) in Birders Journal 5(1):44-47, illustrated by
> Beadle. The differences between the two Common Redpoll subspecies
> are usually obvious when the two are together for comparison
> (Peterson 1947).
> 3. "Southern" Hoary Redpoll (exilipes): This subspecies breeds in
> the Low Arctic and much of its range overlaps that of the
> "Southern" Common Redpoll (flammea). It is the much commoner Hoary
> subspecies, and is similar in size to the flammea Common Redpoll.
> During redpoll flight years, it is usually possible to find a few
> classic adult male exilipes Hoarys. Compared to the "Southern"
> Common Redpoll, they are more frosted with white rumps, have
> lightly streaked flanks and very lightly streaked to pure white
> undertail coverts. Adult females and especially first year females
> can be noticeably streaked. Exilipes Hoary is similar in size to
> flammea Common, but may look slightly larger because of its whiter
> plumage. Hoarys have shorter, more obtuse (stubby) bills imparting
> a distinctive "pushed in face" appearance. Many females are
> identifiable by overall paler coloration and bill shape.
> Individuals appearing intermediate between exilipes and flammea are
> best left unidentified.
> 4. "Hornemann's" Hoary Redpoll (nominate hornemanni): This is the
> largest, palest and rarest redpoll. Hornemann's breeds in the
> Canadian High Arctic Islands and Greenland and is a great rarity in
> southern Ontario and Quebec. Hornemann's is larger (averages 14.0
> cm) than "Southern" Hoary (exilipes) which averages 12.5 cm. It is
> whiter with less streaking on the sides and flanks and has
> immaculate white undertail coverts. Adult males have less pink than
> exilipes, some showing only a trace of pink suffusion on the
> breast. Females and first year birds are recognizable if compared
> directly to the two small subspecies, flammea and exilipes, by
> their larger size. See the excellent article on redpoll
> identification by Czaplak (1995) in Birding 27(6):446-457. His
> photo of Hornemann's on page 448 is correctly identified in my
> opinion. Note larger size of the Hornemann's in the photo in
> American Birds 42(2):239, which is reproduced on Jean's website
> link below. See also Doug Tozer's photo and Ron Tozer's detailed
> description of the recent Ontario "Hornemann's" on Jean Iron's
> website link below. See David Sibley's website link below.
> A. Why is there so much plumage variation in redpolls? A flock of
> one subspecies of the Common Redpoll (flammea) will show four
> plumage types: adult males, adult females, first year males and
> first year females. Since there are four redpoll subspecies, a
> large flock potentially could have 16 plumage types, plus
> considerable individual variation.
> B. What is the Greenland Redpoll? Historically, the name Greenland
> has NOT been used in North America to describe the rostrata
> "Greater" Common Redpoll (Peterson 1947, Todd 1963, Bent 1968,
> Terres 1991, etc.). However, Greenland Redpoll is the European name
> for "Greater" Common Redpoll (Newton 1972, Jonsson 1993, etc.).
> Most North American publications use Greenland Redpoll for
> "Hornemann's" Hoary Redpoll (Nash 1905, Macoun and Macoun 1909,
> Taverner 1953, North 1983, etc.). The name Greenland causes
> confusion. Most of our Hornemann's Hoary Redpolls and Greater
> Common Redpolls are coming from Canada, not Greenland. To avoid
> confusion, it is preferable to include the subspecies scientific
> name after the common name, particularly when first mentioned:
> (flammea), (rostrata), (hornemanni) and (exilipes).
> TAKE THE REDPOLL CHALLENGE: This is the first winter in decades to
> match George North's Ontario record of four redpoll subspecies in
> one day. Even more amazing, all four were in the same flock. I am
> not aware that North's record has been matched in southern Canada
> or the northern United States. However, Roland C. Clement saw all
> four subspecies on 12 March 1944 at Indian House Lake in northern
> Quebec (Lat 56 15' 0 N, Long 64 42' 0 W) south of Ungava Bay close
> to Labrador. Clement in Todd (1963) reported "a feeding flock of
> mixed migrants that contained ten rostrata, thirty flammea, two
> hornemanni, and about six exilipes."
> Three websites with redpoll information and photos.
> Jean Iron <http://www.jeaniron.ca/2007/Redpolls/index.htm>
> Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station in Toronto <http://
> David Sibley <http://sibleyguides.blogspot.com/> Scroll down to
> Tuesday December 4.
> Acknowledgements: I thank Michel Gosselin of the Canadian Museum of
> Nature for information on redpoll taxonomy and identification. Doug
> Tozer kindly provided his photo of the recent Minden "Hornemann's"
> Redpoll. Jean Iron and Ron Tozer made many helpful suggestions.
> Literature Cited: I can supply full references.
> Ron Pittaway
> Minden and Toronto ON
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