Arctic Redpoll and Mealy Redpoll

Change the ID Culture

Martin Garner


I am working on redpolls ID stuff, which is probably a bad idea to confess for host of reasons!

Here I want to have a look at more tricky Arctic Redpolls versus Mealy Redpolls.

It’s a classic conundrum.

I would argue we are starting, often on the wrong foot. Immediately.

Base line stuff:

The difference between many Arctic and Mealy Redpolls can be VERY subtle (more than is conveyed or believed?)

There are some overlapping characters (which is not the same as ‘intermediate’ individuals)

Starting Differently. More Art than Science.

When you watch lots of redpolls I think it gets easier. Reason? The brain is a marvellous vivid computer. What starts by looking the same ‘all gulls look the same’, after much exploring, study and watching of the nuances, subtleties, jizzy features, begin to come to the fore and the scary canvass of ‘look the same’  ades.

If you start with relax- take in overall jizz and try NOT to rush into one feature’s silver bullets’ that are supposed to nail it.  They don’t always work anyway.

Once you settle in then check the small features. Jizz first details seconds


Most Arctic redpoll are streaky. Really. They are. Which is annoying as they are supposed to nice a plain and white in redpoll folk lore. It’s often subtly different kind of streaking, but they are often streaky, even some adult males. Streaky is OK


So here’s an example for  fun- don’t’ get bogged down. I watched this one for ages. Roughly using that process at the time I thought it was an Arctic Redpoll. After churning it over, I still do. I have chosen this one as it’s about THE MOST streaky Arctic type I could find. Still the process of jizz, feel and familiarity (watching lost and lots of redpolls, both Mealy and Arctic where most fell into one box or another- IN THAT CONTEXT– this bird looked like it was a member of the Arctic pack and not the Mealy pack. I can’t convey that in photos like these.

Have a look, see what you think. I have chosen he photos that make it look more Arctic-like- indeed as I remember it the field. I have other pics which if presented alone might never be claimed as an Arctic. Art before Science. Avoid silver bullets.


Arctic onered14


red 6 Yes I have a  thickish central undertail covert. You jealous?

Mealy Redpoll


To compare a couple of Mealy Redpolls in same area that I wold not quibble over:

Mealy Redpoll b

Mealy two


Arctic Redpolls in-the-hand

To compare. Here’s some trapped birds. These are all Arctic Redpolls a few day later, mid March 2013 in Varanger, Arctic Norway.


arctic redpoll 3arctic streakyArctic streaky onearctic red 4


So whats this one?

What would you do wit this based not he images and no art before science? No field watching?

Be warned- it’s a bit streaky too.


arctic in f 3arctic in f 1arctic in f 5


Easier but streaky

And this is the wrong starting point- males- mostly adults look more like this.  We will mis-identify most Arctic Redpolls rif the only acceptable birds look like the ones in the photos below. Some are adult males.

arctic male ad male arctic


and finally one of my all-time favourites. Not sen many like this one

Arctic Redpoll gets Punked

May 2012 with Tormod. This adult male with zero streaking, just grey and white and crazy triangulated head with pink flushed body. Could be an advert for some toiletry product.

Arctic Redpoll Skallelv TAmundsen Biotope






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