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: Redpoll Question  ( 9279 )

Steve Spitzer

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Redpoll Question
« : January 07, 2008, 05:38:14 PM »
I posted some pictures of Redpolls taken at the golf course at the Sidney Marovitz Golf Course in Chicago.  I know nothing about Redpolls, but possibly one of these is a Hoary Redpoll?












This shot has been modified by Greg as described.
"I blew up your last shot and dodged the shadows under the tail a bit (about 10%) so we can see them more clearly:"






Steve Spitzer

Greg Neise

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Re: Redpoll Question
« #1 : January 07, 2008, 06:58:23 PM »
Using David Sibley's character index, I believe that this bird would score 11 or 12. Without a better look at the rump, it's very hard to determine.  Sibley writes:

"I've done a series of sketches (below) showing the range of coloration of undertail coverts, flanks, and rump. I have tried to match Troy's published reference photos. You need to see each feature well enough to match it to a number, then you can add up a total score - a sort of "paleness index". Troy simply divided the range of scores into thirds: the darkest third he called Common, the palest third Hoary, and the middle third he left unidentified. This is arbitrary, but at least it's somewhat objective. Numerically, a male (pink breast) with a score from 14 to 18 was called a Hoary in Troy's paper, a score from 3 to 7 would be Common, and from 8 to 13 intermediate. For females and immatures (no pink) it only took a score of 11 or higher to qualify as a Hoary, since no female-type scored higher than 13, and a score of 3 to 6 indicated a Common; leaving 7 to 10 intermediate (I'm using the straight numbers, Troy adjusted so that the lowest score was 1)."

Here's his sketch and scoring system:



To my eye, this bird has undertail score of 4, sidestreaking: 4 (look at how pale the side of the neck is in the first picture compared to the bird on the left), and rump/back score: 4 (although the back alone may be closer to 5).

Also, a couple things to note: a) the weather was unseasonably warm (warmest January 7 in 104 years!) and it was drizzling. b) I don't know if it's relevant, but this bird's "boots" look quite fluffy. This is especially noticeable in the second picture. The face and crown (especially immediately behind the red "poll") seem quite pale also, compared to the bird next to it.

Anyway, thanks to all who would offer a knowledgeable opinion...this is an interesting bird...and an interesting exercise.

Cheers,

-g
« : January 08, 2008, 04:54:05 PM Admin »
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Steve Spitzer

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Re: Redpoll Question
« #2 : January 07, 2008, 09:08:51 PM »
If I should see the bird again I will try and get a better picture.  These are so tiny it hard to get the bottom side.  The ones in this post were taken kneeling in mud.
Steve Spitzer

Greg Neise

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Re: Redpoll Question
« #3 : January 08, 2008, 08:00:48 AM »
David Sibley responds, via ID FRONTIERS:

I'll reply to this question now, and try to find time to add more later. The comment under these photos  http://www.ilbirds.com/index.php?topic=1769.0 on the ILBIRDS forum giving the bird an index score between 11 and 12 is, I would say, overly generous. The undertail coverts that we can see (not much) seem to show a small dark streak on one of the smaller undertail coverts coming up along the side of the tail. So the score for that would be *at most* 3, and more likely 2. The flank streaking looks solid and broad, with about equal dark and white bands, so I would put that between 2 and 3. Only a tiny fragment of the rump is visible (the index is only meant for the rump, not back color). What we can see is a few gray marks on the lower rump, which puts it *at most* 4, and possibly 3 or even lower. Note that redpolls tend to have more white on the lower rump than the upper, so it's possible that this bird could move its wings and reveal a heavily streaked upper rump like index 2. So I would say the highest possible score for this bird would be ten, and more likely something like 7.5.

If we can use Troy's numbers with this index, this bird should be called intermediate, and closer to Common. All that being said, the frosty-gray back is another feature suggesting Hoary, so maybe that tips the balance a little more towards Hoary. This is a bird that, if seen in northern Alaska, would probably blend just as easily with a flock of Hoaries there as it does with Commons here. I don't think we should call it a Hoary, but at the same time it would be incorrect to dismiss it as a "pale Common". It is intermediate.

For comparison, check out this photo recently posted in Massachusetts:



This one scores higher on the index ( I'd say undertail coverts 4 or higher, flanks 4, rump not visible) and it's similar to the birds I photographed in New York. I would feel pretty comfortable calling it a female Hoary.

David Sibley

Concord, MA


###

Me: David, thank you! This is exactly the kind of discourse I had hoped to generate...basically, I would like to be told why this bird is NOT (or likely not) a hoary redpoll. The paleness and pattern on the back is what prompted me to post this ID question in the first place. 

As for the side-streaking, if we weight the flanks as more important, the bird scores between 2 and 3 as David says. In comparing the photos to his sketches, I was weighting everything equally from neck to flank. I can see virtually no streaking on the side of the neck forward of the shoulder, compared to the bird on it's immediate left in the first photo...which is how I came up with 4. The side of the neck (if taken by itself) looks 4-5 to me. Also in the first and second pictures, the streaking looks finer than the blurry streaks of the common redpolls next to it.

Lastly, I weighted the back coloration/pattern equally with the rump when comparing the photos to the sketch, not realizing that that feature was not meant to be factored in the scoring.

-greg
« : January 08, 2008, 08:10:41 AM Admin »
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NAL1212

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Re: Redpoll Question
« #4 : January 08, 2008, 12:01:47 PM »
   I went to Indiana 12/06/07 to photograph the Hoary Redpoll reported there.  Not being an expert in bird identification, I relied on some Indiana birders to ID these birds.  Byron Butler and John Kendall seemed to rely on the culmen size (bill) and a butterscotch color on the breast to ID the Hoary over the Common Redpoll.  Here are some photos to throw into the discussion.
IMG]http://i54.photobucket.com/albums/g95/NAL1212/Dec%2006-2007%20Hoary%20Redpoll/IMG_9240-1copy.jpg[/IMG]

IMG]http://i54.photobucket.com/albums/g95/NAL1212/Dec%2006-2007%20Hoary%20Redpoll/IMG_8719-1copy.jpg[/IMG]
« : January 11, 2008, 06:04:57 PM NAL1212 »

ybcuckoo

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Re: Redpoll Question
« #5 : January 08, 2008, 04:25:30 PM »
I too am a novice when it comes to redpolls but have been following discussions on the Cayuga List.  The experts there (Cornell folks) say there is a lot of variation in redpolls but there should be a wow! factor when you actually see a Hoary.   The punched in look of the bill/face is the best indicator.   Furthur north in Ontario, Canada birders were hoping to find the 4 types of redpolls this winter (Southern and Greenland of both species) which has rarely happened.
Jeff Smith

Greg Neise

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Re: Redpoll Question
« #6 : January 08, 2008, 04:46:54 PM »
I too am a novice when it comes to redpolls but have been following discussions on the Cayuga List.  The experts there (Cornell folks) say there is a lot of variation in redpolls but there should be a wow! factor when you actually see a Hoary.   The punched in look of the bill/face is the best indicator.   Furthur north in Ontario, Canada birders were hoping to find the 4 types of redpolls this winter (Southern and Greenland of both species) which has rarely happened.

That's what I had assumed myself, until the last couple of weeks. I was reading David Sibley's Holiday (Redpoll) Photos, and there he offers this picture:



He offers the following notes on that photo:
...is a shot from a few minutes later, and there on the left is a paler bird - a female Hoary-type!

Notice the grayish back without the brown scapulars of the Commons, the clean white facial markings and pale neck. But it's certainly not "obvious". Below [above] is the same bird moments later next to a Common.

Again, compare the ground color of the sides of the back (and scapulars). Commons typically have two white stripes down the center of the back, contrasting with brown stripes towards the sides. On Hoary the back is more uniform - white in the center and pale gray on the sides. Towards the rear, where the rear scapulars overlap the wing coverts and tertials, Hoaries have the scapulars edged whitish so the rear edges of the back are paler, where the same feathers on Common are just brown. The pale edges of wing and tail feathers are whiter and broader, the supercilium is unstreaked white, and the sides of the neck are pale and faintly streaked.


A couple more of his shots:


"...another Hoary-type (more subtle) with its back to the camera."


"...a Common in similar pose.

Notice the difference in back color and pattern. The pattern and extent of wing markings is similar (and extremely variable) in both species, but Hoaries often look whiter there. And below is the same Hoary-type with its head up:

Notice the short, stubby bill, pale neck sides, "frosty" back and wings.


I can certainly see the differences he mentions, but not hardly the "wow" factor of the bird in Nolan's pictures. To my eye, the bird that Steve photographed looks as much a "hoary-type" as anything pictured here.

He wraps it up by saying: "After this experience I suggest that back color is one of the best things to look for as a first-cut. Then try neck-side markings, bill size, streaking on flanks and undertail coverts, and then other features. The paler color of Hoary is expressed as an overall whiteness and "clean" or "frosty" appearance." Here's a crop of Steve's first shot:



But aside from the possibility that this bird may have been a hoary (it does look "clean and frosty" compared to the bird behind it and to the left), my main reason for starting this discussion was simply to try to get a firm grasp on redpoll ID (as much as that is possible)...and this bird is a perfect topic starter.


« : January 09, 2008, 01:26:33 PM Admin »
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bbumgardner

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Re: Redpoll Question
« #7 : January 08, 2008, 06:17:17 PM »
I got to see the IN Dunes Hoary more than probably anyone else (by default since it was my feeders!).   Got a great crash course in Hoary ID at that time.  Unlike Butler and Kendall, I found bill culmen length un-useful for me. 

I picked it out right away the next morning first by the overall frosty pale look, then by the lack of streaking on the sides, and "punched face" or "porpoise head" look.  At the time, the butterscotch chest was notable because no other redpolls there showed that. 

My first look at the photos above, before scrolling down seemed to be CORE.  With Sibley's scoring, I couldn't get a good enough back shot on this bird to give it more than a 3, coverts more than 3, and my streaking score would be a 2. 

Still makes for great discussion, and gives us practice for when the real thing shows up.  Lot of winter left...

NAL1212

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Re: Redpoll Question-
« #8 : January 09, 2008, 06:06:19 PM »
   I have added two more pictures both taken on Dec 6,2007 at the Indiana Dunes State Park.  The pictures were taken about one hour apart so I am not sure it's the same bird.  The pictures do seem to represent the point better, about the smallness of the culmen and slight butterscoth on the breast, than the other photos.

this photo shows a darker Common Redpoll behind the Hoary.

« : January 11, 2008, 05:53:14 PM NAL1212 »

 

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