Browner Mealy Redpoll

Often Overlooked

Local redpoll interest went up a notch at the end of last week. ‘Blue’ (Pete Wragg) called to say there seemed to be quite a few Mealies amongst a larger flock of Lesser Redpolls at Ulley C.P. I popped along next morning. Good flock of 80 + redpolls. Many Lesser but I reckoned on up to 15 Mealies at least. About 4-6 birds were obvious: stand-out large pale grey lookers. My others were less obvious , subtly whiter eyebrow and rear ear coverts, bit whiter underneath. Though it’s not easy! The redpoll flock was skittish and regularly rearranged itself, so hard to know how often new birds/ or repeat sighting are being recorded. Others only felt happy recording c4 Mealies. As ever with redpolls the problem is degrees of confidence and where to draw the line!

So here’s a proper ‘brown’ Mealy. Trapped by Andrew Chick in his Lincs. garden last Saturday. It’s brown (and the visible red on breast tells you it’s a male)! It also had a wing length of  77 mm.

Here’s a little working hypothesis to help with browner Mealies. Pointed out by Andrew and I agree it may have some merit. Most/many Lesser Redpolls have buffish wash to the undertail coverts which contrasts with whiter ventral region. The undertail coverts can be streaked but it tend to be weakly marked/ harder to see streaks on Lessers. Some appear to have virtually plain buff washed undertail coverts. Even on this brown Mealy however the undertail coverts are white with prominent blackish streaks in the undertail coverts.

Maybe there are more Mealies in that local flock than you thought?

‘Brown’ Mealy Redpoll. Lincolnshire. 29th January 2011. Andrew P. Chick (above 2 photos)

Small patch so white on the forehead, above the eye and rear of the ear coverts may suggest Mealy Redpoll, but they are hardly stand-out features. Very easy to overlook a bird like this. Larger size (of some) might attract attention in direct comparison with a Lesser, but the undertail coverts may provide a useful clue.

An easier ‘pale’ Mealy Redpoll, Bourne Wood, Lincs, January 2001. Andrew P Chick (same bird in next 2 photos). In comparison with Lesser Redpoll.

Ulley C.P. Redpolls

Here, a couple of Mealy Redpoll from last weekend. These are amoung the group of 4-6 obvious grey type Mealy’s.

And a browner Mealy at Ulley. Subtle pointers include whiter flanks than Lesser, subtle white ‘fan’ around ear coverts, more extensive white over back/rump (which it does a good Arctic Roll impression with when fluffed up) and white undertail coverts with more obvious black streaking than on Lesser. There is more fun to be had with redpolls this winter!

9 thoughts on “Browner Mealy Redpoll

  1. Calvin

    Have had countless hours of “fun” trying to separate mealies from lessers at the feeders in the garden in West Cork this winter. Life was much easier when their were just “redpolls” ;-).

    Knew I definitely had one mealy in amongst the lesser gang… now convinced there could be at least one or two more.

    Thanks for the post… and thanks for the guys over on the Birdwatch Ireland facebook page for pointing me in this direction.

  2. Harry Hussey

    Hi Calvin,
    Where in west Cork are you? The closest Mealies that I had been aware of were in Co. Limerick: they’re usually quite rare anywhere in Ireland, but seem to be scattered here and there this winter. Any pics?
    Harry Hussey, Cork city

  3. Calvin

    Hi Harry,

    I’m down between Rosscarbery and Leap. Only ever seem to get decent shots of the definite lessers… but will keep trying as soon as the weather improves.

    Going to get @CorkBirdNews to pop up here for a second opinion… but pretty confident there is one definite mealy amidst a bunch of 10 or so redpoll that have been hanging around since the first cold spell, and another couple that are a bit on the brown side, but based on this post and others are certainly mealy contenders.

    Will keep you posted.


  4. Harry Hussey

    Hi Calvin,
    Yeah, I heard from Colin that he has been in touch with you, certainly sounds intriguing anyway. Know that I came away from Coonagh last month sure of having seen one Mealy, but we could have seen three: the birds up there were very mobile, and some birds may have been genuinely tricky on top of that, so it was a little frustrating!

  5. Pingback: Mealy Redpoll (Carduelis flammea flammea) in West Cork | Writing, life and other animals

  6. Judy Tailby

    Hello OMG I thought I was crazy!!! I have been watching the birds at my house I live in Central Alberta and I have all of these birds. The Browner Mealy are mean little sh*ts! Just lately they are attacking all the others. I have Hoary, Commom Redpoll and Lesser as well. I go through a 5 gallon pail a week in feed. I have noticed the ones with the rusty coloured head as well. It is funny that the Red-breasted Nuthatch is the boss over them all. Do you really think they travel this far in the winter? Thanks You Judy


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