Greenland and Lesser Redpoll


Yes, a definite BOOM! They’re back!

Following our Geosetter visit, RR, PVH and I checked further south. A small crop yielded three redpolls. One obligingly perched on wires and was clearly a Lesser Redpoll, (as expected so far!). As it flew up one of the other two joined it and returned to the crop. A bit of luck and we managed some good view. OOF. Bird two was not a Lesser!

As we slowly took the bird in I could see a redpoll which was larger, longer-boded bird than the Lesser with a paler headed look. I was quickly struck by the crisp white wing bar- which was THIN and crisp white fringes to remiges and rectrices. Might be an odd way of going about it- but I kind of started in a Mealy direction but the wing bar was wrong. Then the flanks they were wrong for Mealy too. And the flanks were not Lesser for sure;  really heavily streaked but too swarthy in among the ground colour for Mealy. I had not (bizzarly!) not even thought about North-western/ Greenland Redpoll yet. With none reported in Shetland/ anywere in UK I guess I was not ‘in the zone’.

I think RR first articulated – ‘North-western’. YEP! What a star (the redpoll not RR).

So what in the slowish process of ‘taking it in’ grabbed me as most important in ID process (probably different every time!)

Not a Lesser (head colour, wing bar colour, ground colour to flanks etc)

Greyish looking head and thin white wing bar and fringes to flight and tail feathers

Flanks not deep buff (Lesser) but swarthy- not cleaner like many Mealy

Upperparts very plain deep earth- brown and lacking paler tramlines often present on Mealy.

Closer inspection/ discussion

Heavy streaking reaching right around to breast centre

DEEP bill base (compare bill depths of two birds below)

Heavy, broad undertail covert streaking- no buff tones visible

again emphasing long body shape, crisp white fringes and more UNIFORM tone to dark UPPERPARTS.

CALLS: Then both birds flew out of the crop and I got recordings of both calling. Get in! Impression? One call sounding deep-pitched than the other. I am waiting until back home to process the call recordings- worried about messing them up. However I was chuffed to bits with that redpoll encounter. Some NW Redpoll action and some calls to compare. Let’s go! Roger again came up trumps with the camera. Excellent photos of both birds in poor light:


Lesser Redpoll


Above. Lesser Redpoll, South Mainland, Shetland 5th Oct. 2015. Roger Riddington


Greenland (aka North-west Redpoll)



Above all photos. Greenland/ NW Redpoll, South Mainland, Shetland 5th Oct. 2015. Roger Riddington

4 thoughts on “Greenland and Lesser Redpoll

  1. Pete Aley

    I’m pleased to hear you found “North Western” during this week because I found a few Redpolls on Shetland during the same time which I also concluded were North Western, but heard of few other reports (and the only definite sightings on Fair Isle the week before were Lessers). So I was beginning to wonder if I was the only one. Even then, several had to remain as “Commons”, with Mealy a possibility. Not easy.

    I wonder if these birds were in willows? I find is the primary habitat for Redpolls on Shetland.

    Lovely pics by Roger – as usual!

    1. Martin Garner Post author

      Hi Peter

      Well ditto- I thought ours was the only one! Did you get any pics? I have some sound recordings- typically slightly deeper but not had chance to ‘work them up yet’ and do comparisons


  2. Pingback: Greenland Redpolls calls | Birding Frontiers

Leave a Reply