Chirps and Cheeps

A Photo Journal of My Birding Experiences & Observations

My birding blog site


  Another Hoary!

Published: November 20, 2020
Tags: Rarities, hoary redpoll

What a winter this is already turning into!  The number of redpolls I've been seeing (mostly flybys) is amazing.  There have been none at my feeders yet - but I think we need some snow for that to happen.

A couple of entries back, I mentioned seeing my first Hoary Redpoll at the Buffalo Waterfront.  It was great to finally see one - but it wasn't a real satisfying experience because the little bugger disappeared fairly soon after I saw it and I never got a photo of it.  I've been birding almost eleven years now and that was my first Hoary Redpoll, so what are the odds of seeing a SECOND one just a couple of weeks afterwards?  Not high, I can assure you!  But lightning DID, indeed, strike twice and I had an exceptional experience with my second Hoary Redpoll along the lake and south of Buffalo.

A friendly female redpoll paid no attention to me as it foraged in a field of goldenrod, gleaning seeds from the dry and ripened seed heads.  A couple of times, I literally had to back away from her when she flitted over to new plants near me just so I could continue photographing her.  She had no fear of me at all, which was so refreshing!

I noticed she appeared on the lighter side and I thought she was quite stunning, but to be honest, I held no hope that she actually was a Hoary, mostly due to the laws of probability as well as the fact I've been wrong about them so many times in the past.  But later on, when I was looking through the photos, I noticed her small, pushed-in bill, her limited red cap (poll), a clear and unmarked undertail, and only minimal streaking along the sides.  Hmmm... I started to get serious about suspecting a Hoary.  I submitted the photos to some experienced eBirder reviewers to get their opinions and, between them and a winter finch group on Facebook, I got a nearly overwhelming response that she was, indeed, a Hoary Redpoll of the southern subspecies.  Thrilling!

Wait - now, I need to rein it in.  It's very possible the Hoary Redpoll will one day get lumped with the Common Redpoll, the Greater Common Redpoll, and quite possibly their European cousin, the Lesser Redpoll as well.  In extensive DNA testing done by researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, no DNA variation was found that differentiates the three species.  So, while the AOU digests this and then debates yanking a species off our life lists, I will enjoy this little gem for as long as I have her!

Enjoy the photos; I don't think I could have encountered a subject any more accommodating than this little sweetheart!

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My favorite capture of her

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Hoary Redpoll

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Hoary Redpoll

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Hoary Redpoll

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Hoary Redpoll

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Hoary Redpoll

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Hoary Redpoll

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This image pretty much sealed it for me - it really shows how unmarked her undertail is.

Reply from: Ann Powell on 12/14/2020 1:10 PM
 She is very appealing.. Thanks, Sue.
Reply from: Sue on 12/14/2020 2:19 PM
 Thanks very much, Ann! She sure was fun to encounter!


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