Tag Archives: Lesser Redpoll

More on those pesky redpolls

The redpoll complex seems to have been a popular topic for a debut post…  Good feedback on orange-/yellow-/golden-polled redpolls suggests that they are uncommon – but not that unusual – and that was new to me at least. Hugh Insley even commented that among the redpolls he’s catching in northwest Scotland, 10–20% may have golden rather than red polls. Many thanks to Phil Woollen for this pic of a handful of Lessers on Hilbre in late March…

…and to Graham Catley (http://pewit.blogspot.co.uk/) for this cracking pic of Arctic Redpolls at Skalelv Varanger in mid June.

As for working out the differences between Lessers and Mealies, it was interesting to see a range of views of what the Shetland birds were and on what the most helpful features are. I guess I was encouraged to find that it isn’t just me scratching my head. Members of both the Irish and Welsh records committees got in touch to say ‘Welcome to our world’ – redpolls are one of the most difficult groups to assess, even with good photos (check out some of last month’s posts here); while obs wardens Steve Stansfield on Bardsey and Dave Walker at Dunge suggest that they are increasingly struggling to separate some birds – even in the hand!

Comments below the original post suggest that the biggest problem is the variability of Common Redpolls, and the occurrence of small, brown Mealies. Is there an expanding hybrid/intergrade issue out there somewhere? Or maybe it’s just that the current taxonomic arrangement doesn’t serve field birders all that well – ? Whatever it is, there is clearly a problem in spring, when at least some Lessers lose their warm, buffy tones. Maybe vocalisations are a better basis for ID? Maybe I’m going to have to bite the bullet and learn how to do sonograms…