Friday, January 13, 2012

"Hornemann's" Hoary Redpolls and other yard birds

A half an hour after sunset yesterday I looked out at our feeder hoping to see the Northern Flying Squirrel that's been a frequent visitor to our platform feeder. Instead I saw a lone, large pale white redpoll foraging below. I quietly stepped into the yard and snapped a photo from a distance of about three metres. This of course was a male "Hornemann's" Hoary Redpoll, perhaps the least observed of the four subspecies of redpoll in North America.
During the winter of 2010-2011 we had an excellent opportunity to study and compare all four taxa. With the arrival of this 'snowball' we again have both subspecies of Common Redpoll and Hoary Redpoll, that is:
  • "Southern" Common Redpoll (Acanthis flammea flammea)
  • "Greater" Common Redpoll (Acanthis flammea rostrata)
  • "Hornemann's" Hoary Redpoll (Acanthis hornemanni hornemanni)
  • "Southern" Hoary Redpoll (Acanthis hornemanni exilipes)
[The story of last winter's invasion by diverse redpolls into northern Ontario was featured, in the format of a 'photo salon', in the winter issue of North American Birds. The article is available here (pdf). It provides a thorough review of the finer points and limitations of redpoll identification.]

This morning, the male Hornemann's Hoary Redpoll was back, this time among other redpolls, Purple Finches, Evening and Pine Grosbeaks. Although I wasn't able to get any great photos through our kitchen window,  I snapped a couple that show the larger size of the Hornemann's Hoary Redpoll - the larger size is critical to distinguishing this subspecies from the smaller exilipes Hoary Redpoll.

The three  birds in the foreground, from left to right, are (1) "Hornemann's" Hoary Redpoll (m), (2) Purple Finch (f) and (3) "Greater" Common Redpoll (f?).

[click on images to enlarge]

Here are a few more shots from our yard from today and yesterday.

Another view of the Hornemann's Hoary Redpoll.
In the last week we've seen a huge influx of Pine and Evening Grosbeaks into the town of Marathon.

Northern Cardinal at the northern limit of its breeding range in Ontario.
A female White-winged Crossbill checked out all of the offerings.

A male flammea or "Southern" Common Redpoll.
A proven method of preventing cats from harming wildlife...

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