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Old Sunday 14th January 2007, 09:52   #1
tominadel
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ID help needed-fastidious replies only please

SIGHTING HISTORY: The bird was initially sighted feeding on alder tree nutlet seeds on December 16, 2006 during an Iowa, USA, Chistmas Bird Count. It was observed for 30-40 minutes by two experienced birders who, due to the cooperation of the bird, had time to consult reference. The bird has remained in and near the alder trees from the 16th to present affording many photographic opportunities, with special consideration given to the undertail coverts, bill and culmen with many photo's offering an excellent gestalt of the bird. It should be noted that differing opinions as to what this bird is has prompted me to post this query.

INITIAL CLASSIFICATION; Using ABA standard diagnostic techniques which included the initial gestalt of the bird and field marks, the pair of observers classified the bird as a Common Redpoll Finch, albeit a pale one at that. Diagnostic features taken into consideration were the overall darkness of the scapulars and underlying feathers, wide wing-bar, bill length being approximately 14mm and streaking along the flanks. The red "cap" seemed posterior to classic Common, but variation of this mark occurs within the species, so this trait, while noted was not a deciding factor in determining the birds identity in the field. The distance of 1-2 mm appeared to be in the field within limits of Common. Undertail coverts appeared to have little streaking, but the observers noted winter plummage in Common (especially pale ones) often can hide this crucial identifiying field mark. Also, while cooperative, the bird offered few glimpses of this critical identifying mark.

INTRIGUE: Many people believe this bird to be an Arctic or Hoary Red Poll Finch. which is contrary to the initial field observer's conclusion. This is based largely on the photographic evidence which, taken after the initial sighting, has offered many a chance to view them at great length. Also, this bird, while not necessarily rare in Iowa during irruptive years if Common, is exceedingly rare if Arctic. Also note, this bird has been presented to the Iowa Ornithologists' Union's records committee for review, and since some observers (other than the initial) are now calling it a Hoary Redpoll Finch.

QUESTION: Since none of you will be able to see the bird in person, you will need to rely on the photographic record of the Iowa Redpoll to determine its identity. Please diagnose the bird and post your reply in detail. Please keep an open mind regardless of the title of the photograph offered in the links. I will post one thumbnail photo of which I have written permission to do, the others must be viewed via web link. Also, photographic processing, camera and lighting appear to make this bird look like more than one, but I can assure you they are all the same bird. Thank you, have fun.

This link you will need to click on ID help needed on the upper left to access the images
http://www.iowabirds.org/photo-gallery/

These links are to private nature photographer's websites

http://www.smedesphoto.com/hoary_redpoll.htm

http://www.vividpix.com/temp/Brenton_Redpoll/index.htm
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Old Sunday 14th January 2007, 12:52   #2
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Sorry this won't be a fastidious reply, just some words to sympathise !

The situation here in (South/West) Europe is extremely complicated, and it's just getting worse since the enigmatic islandica seems to be not as sedentary as it should !!! Perhaps the situation in North America is simpler since islandica is improbable.

As a rule, clear and non ambiguous views of both rump and undertail coverts are essential, combined with aging and sexing. Good luck

Last edited by Th_SQ : Sunday 14th January 2007 at 13:00.
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Old Sunday 14th January 2007, 13:48   #3
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Again not a fastidious answer, more of a wave a white flag...and a slightly flippant are you sure this is the same bird in all the photos response. The best I can do for you is bump this up and hope one of the real Redpoll-philes checks in. Come on you Shetland boys - where are you!
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Old Sunday 14th January 2007, 15:12   #4
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My biggest concern is the pale pink on the breast that doesn't seem apparent in your attached photo. Once again, probably not as fastidious of an answer as you are looking for, but I want to say Hoary for at least the link photos due to the pale pinkness of the breast, the overall color, and the bill size.

But I am in no way an expert on Redpolls and hopefully, as Jane said, one of the 'Shetland boys' will respond soon!
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Old Sunday 14th January 2007, 15:17   #5
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Have been spending a lot of time looking at Redpolls over the last two winters here in Sweden and would say that this bird is indeed most probably a Hoary Redpoll, a second winter male bird. Please note that my experience with Redpolls is completely based on Redpoll here in Europe, namely Lesser Redpoll(cabaret), Mealy Redpoll(flammea) and Arctic Redpoll(exiples). Supporting factors for the Id as follows..

1. The clean rump. Traces of pink in the rump help sex the bird as a male. The picture on the vividpix site furthest to the right of five images shows a clean upper rump of an extent I have never seen on Mealy Redpoll (flammea) here in Sweden.

2. The reduced streaking on the flanks and more particularily the snow white underparts and flanks. This is another strong positive favouring ID as a bird of Arctic origin... Common Redpolls almost always display dirty brownish tones on the flanks.

3. The presence of subtle yellowish sulphur tones in the ear coverts, mantle and scapulars.

4. Essentially white undertail coverts. There is a very thin dark shaft on the longest undertail covert as well as another couple of very faint streaks, however, this is completely acceptable on an immature bird of Arctic origin and not unusual. Common Redpoll(flammea) generally shows much broader and extensive streaking on the undertail.

5. Isolated, well marked appearance of red forecrown. This is due to the overall paleness of the rear crown, nape, ear coverts and throat.

6. General pallid cold appearance.

7. Breast colour. Subtle light rose pink hue typical of Arctic birds.

As regard measurements I can tell you there is huge variation in bill size with much overlap. It seems wing and tail length may be more reliable for ID in large individual Hoary's. Arctic Redpoll(Hornemanni) typically shows a wing length between 80-91mm, with the tail between 55-69mm. It is by far(potentially) the largest of the north american species. Arctic Redpoll(islandica) is next with wing length 74-84mm and tail length 55-69mm. Common Redpoll(rostrata) is simular to Icelandic birds with wing length 72-82mm and tail length 52-63mm. Note that all of these measurements apply to male birds.

Hope this can be of help to you. I will say the the Redpoll group is complex and has frequently seen me tearing my hair out with frustration. There is a huge degree of individual variation and much overlap of features. I feel the safest way of sure identification is by means of cumalative positives in plumage. Some birds however are best left unidentified. This bird however displays a host of features in line with that of an Arctic bird in my opinion...

I am taking you at your word that all the photos are indeed of the same bird! The photo you have attached looks a little off with some of the rest, is it possible this one has accidentally been mixed up with the rest or is it just a darker image... I have based my ID on the link photos, several of which are of superb quality and light. There are several good quality photos of flammea Redpoll on my blog at the linkbelow should you wish to view them. Again I would remind you that my observations are based solely on european birds...

Last edited by buzzard12 : Sunday 14th January 2007 at 16:30.
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Old Monday 15th January 2007, 10:05   #6
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Photographs of redpoll finch

Having personally led each photographer to the redpoll finch, I can affirm most assuredly the bird is indeed the same in each image. A team, 30 strong, searched in vain for additional redpolls within 5 miles of the alder trees. Such a quandry photographic records can behold upon the viewer. Image processing, camera used, settings, lighting and angle can lead the viewer to the conclusion that more than one finch is amongst the alders. This is not the case. I dearly wish it were as comparison in the field of several birds would have a huge impact on this tricky ID. Especially, if nothing else, size comparison between finches.

It would appear insurmountable that the Carduelis hornemanni camp holds the advantage on this one. But the flammea side will argue that both finches can look similar, and that the undertail streaking is often hidden by overlapping white feathers. While still others offer their dissent as saying this bird is unidentifiable as intergrades occur where ranges meet. This opinion, while I guess plausible, I find to be very unlikely, since that point of view would propel the bird, (which if indeed hornemanni and thus considered accidental here) into a category which would make the bird even rarer than it already is. I also personally believe this dissent is just a way out of thoughtful dialogue.

The vividpix image on the left-hand side of the page, arguably is the best overall image of the bird. As stated, I was with Scott, the photographer, (and every other photographer who has submitted photographs) that day. The bird shows a little paler in his photograph than viewed naked eye. The thumbnail image is dark, so the bird falls somewhere in between.

With many thanks to Buzzard12's well thought discussion, I ask is there anybody who would side with the flammea camp?

Respectfully submitted,
Tom

Last edited by tominadel : Monday 15th January 2007 at 10:28.
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Old Monday 15th January 2007, 10:27   #7
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There is a world of difference between saying "ID not certain as hornemanni" and its flammea. I'll go and poke a few of the resident Redpoll enthusiasts!
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Old Monday 15th January 2007, 10:31   #8
tominadel
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Yes, Jane, certainly. Thank you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jane Turner
There is a world of difference between saying "ID not certain as hornemanni" and its flammea. I'll go and poke a few of the resident Redpoll enthusiasts!
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Old Monday 15th January 2007, 11:40   #9
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I should add, the photo in the thumbnail and found under the first link to the Iowa birds website gallery need a little clarification. The thumbnail photo and subsequent photos in the Iowa birds gallery which are named MBrown, JBissell and PRoisen were taken before any intrigue was involved or birding record was on the line. Be that as it may, after reviewing the photographs one last time, perhaps the JBissell photo (under Iowa birds) most accurately depicts what the bird's jizzt and color when viewed naked eye is in the field. Many would love to add their name to an Iowa record bird, and thus adds to the intrigue with the photographs. Thank you,
Tom
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Old Monday 15th January 2007, 14:11   #10
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With many thanks to Buzzard12's well thought discussion, I ask is there anybody who would side with the flammea camp?

Respectfully submitted,
Tom[/quote]


Just to clarify I fall on the side of an arctic bird, hornmanni on this one...
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Old Monday 15th January 2007, 15:11   #11
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My only slight concern would be the apparent length of the bill favouring flammea, but as buzzard12 points out, there is overlap. So i too am in the Arctic Redpoll camp.

Edit - have just checked the vividpix site, and have become even more convinced of the ID. As well as all of the features stated by buzzard12, the white fringes to the primaries are an additional indicator towards Arctic.

Last edited by Frenchy : Monday 15th January 2007 at 15:14.
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Old Monday 15th January 2007, 17:23   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frenchy
My only slight concern would be the apparent length of the bill favouring flammea, but as buzzard12 points out, there is overlap. So i too am in the Arctic Redpoll camp.

Edit - have just checked the vividpix site, and have become even more convinced of the ID. As well as all of the features stated by buzzard12, the white fringes to the primaries are an additional indicator towards Arctic.

The length of the bill is very variable, it is the depth of the bill that gives Arctic Redpolls the more conical, smaller billed appearance in the field. This feature is however only noticable in smaller billed individuals in the field... The Arctic (exiples) I have seen have varied hugely and I have found the size of the bill to be of dubious value for many individuals. Also, judging the culmen to be straight in the field(have read this is a feature of Arctic widely) is fraught with difficulty and now I don't bother with this. Photos of flammea bear this out, often it is impossible to see anything other than a straight culmen in both species in a still photo!

Was the bird trapped, presumably it was if the bill was measured. Were wing length and tail length measurements taken????

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Old Monday 15th January 2007, 20:49   #13
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Having been pushed off the fence by Jane I'll comment.

I saw the photos of this bird when they were first posted on the net in December, and they looked very indeterminate then - which is why I kept quiet.

I can understand the problems. I would expect such an obvious male to be a more obvious bird, the bill does not seem quite as stubby as one might expect for an exilipes Hoary/Arctic and, contrary to what some have stated, pure white (or narrowly streaked, as in this bird) undertail coverts are not unknown in flammea, although I have only seen males with pure white.

All that said, I would have little problem accepting the bird as an Arctic/Hoary on the evidence of the vividpix photos. I see no characters which are outside the range I expect for Arctic/Hoary and I cannot see how flammea can have such a large white rump, white undertail coverts, narrowly streaked white-based flanks, white primary fringes, white wing-bar and such a blank, hollow-cheeked face.

I was not so certain when I saw the first few photos, and there are still a few which make it look a bit grubby, but these are the ones taken in shade and often with flash. I don't believe the vividpix photos can be so affected by artefacts from the camera and would guess that they are the most accurate. They certainly look perfectly exposed and, as Frenchy says, i suspect they clinch the ID.

I also think the original observers' initial caution was fully justified.

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Old Monday 15th January 2007, 20:55   #14
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It was a gentle push... thanks Mike. JanJ sent me an extensive PM too. I'l wait to see if he posts. I remain a conscientious objector on Redpolls - I get less and less confident with time!
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Old Monday 15th January 2007, 21:24   #15
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The thread is a bit too complicated for my poor English and I just want to be sure : all pictures refer to one and only one bird ???

Last edited by Jane Turner : Monday 15th January 2007 at 21:29.
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Old Monday 15th January 2007, 21:29   #16
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Yes they do
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Old Monday 15th January 2007, 21:39   #17
Th_SQ
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jane Turner
Yes they do
Oh really ? Thank you. Amazing to see how shapes and colors may be different.
Tail shape appears pointed or rounded to take just one example (which makes aging not easy ....).





>> Last edited by Jane Turner : Today at 23:29.
Oops, did I make a mistake, Mistress ?
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Old Monday 15th January 2007, 21:55   #18
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No I did!
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Old Tuesday 16th January 2007, 10:21   #19
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Many thank's to all for comments on this interesting little bird. As one who has been befuddled, nay, fuddled is a better word, in the past by this species in Northwest Ontario, Canada, this dialogue from international birders is exactly what is needed. Never have I had the opportunity to view a bird as cooperative as this one anywhere. Having had a nasty snowstorm move through yesterday, the bird remains faithful to his territory feeding among the alder trees. The new snow made the finch look much more pale, along with the -6 F temperatures he looked very arctic indeed! So on this one, unless persuaded otherwise, I am going to over-rule my birders who made the initial call of flammea, along with my gratitude to them for their caution, and change the historical record to hornemanni. albeit, the bird will forever by noted as one of special intrigue. Sometimes in this hobby of ours we get starry-eyed and wishfully see common birds as rarities for one reason or another, but seldom do people see rare birds and err on the side of caution, through up a flag, and say this bird just doesn't look quite right so let's be true to history and make the call on a species so rare in Iowa, USA, it is considered accidental and as such highly unlikely to be here. Retrospect birding is very easy indeed if afforded the opportunity, but, making the call to the best of your ability, using all the experience you can muster in the field is not always so.
As always, thank you Bird Forum members for your thoughtful wisdom.
Respectfully,
Tom
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Old Tuesday 16th January 2007, 18:24   #20
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Taking for granted that all pictures refer to the same bird (I find this amazing but we have to trust Tom) and ignoring islandica.

My reasonning (debatable of course) :

Red rump and breast + rounded tail feather (on most (but not all ..) pictures) + no sign of moult contrast => adult male

Now :
- http://www.iowabirds.org/photo-galle...RAllen-010.jpg
and http://www.iowabirds.org/photo-galle...12242006%2Ejpg
show quite a few streaks on the undertail-coverts
- http://www.iowabirds.org/photo-galle...A-RAllen-0.jpg shows a not-pure-white rump with some streaks.
- http://www.iowabirds.org/photo-galle...ll%2D072%2Ejpg shows a "typical" flammea bill

Adult male hornemanni should be the most easy (or least difficult) to identify. The points listing above would be too surprising in my opinion to sustain that identification. Best not identified as such for me.
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Old Tuesday 16th January 2007, 21:00   #21
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Quite understandible Th_SQ's agony over the Redpoll here. I have gone through the images and also had difficulties to see that they all where of the same bird. In a PM to Jane I mentioned that the only pic. I was pretty sure of being an Arctic was this one:

http://www.vividpix.com/images/pages_r2_c1.jpg

Being aware of the difficulties to separate many Redpoll/Arctic, especially 1cy birds, I think that the shape of the undertail streaks is acceptable for exilipes and the rump patch, which is broad enough, with a hint of pinkish and vaguely streaked is acceptable for a 2cy male. A problem (?) would be the bill size and its quite fascinating to see in the vividpix link how the impression of bill size changes in pic. 2 to pic.5 as also can be seen here, first and second pic. (same bird)

http://www.sofnet.org/index.asp?lev=1804&typ=1

(1k hanne = 1cy male, 1k hona = 1cy female)

Further on bills, check these flammea bills and notise besides size the slightly curve near the tip, which also exceed the tip of lower mandible in many:

http://web.telia.com/~u15702529/falt...sisknabbar.htm

and look at the second exilipes at the bottom of this page:

http://web.telia.com/~u15702529/falt...nas_nabbar.htm

and this one from December:

http://www.uof.nu/Galleri/images/Gal...osiska1_FL.jpg

2cy exilipes Nov.

http://www.bingsmarken.se/Bilder/snsis_sta_bo.jpg

According to tailfeathers of 1cy which are pointed, but occasionally can be renewed in some, from a few up to all.

JanJ
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