Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2013-01


Common name:

Hoary Redpoll

Scientific name: Carduelis hornemanni [Acanthis hornemanni]
Date: 12/30/2012
Time: ca 1250 hours
Length of time observed: overall, ca three hours (intermittent), probably less than two minutes direct observation
Number: one
Age: undetermined
Sex: undetermined (suspect female)
Location: Thistle feeder and crabapple tree at Johnson residence at 8426 East Brush Creek, Jensen UT 84035
County: Uintah
Latilong: = 4025 2 N 109 22 1 W
Elevation: ca 4900'
Distance to bird: variable, one to five meters
Optical equipment: Sony SLT A-55 with Sony 75-300mm zoom lens
Weather: clear to partly cloudy, under an inversion layer with some fog
Light Conditions: murky-bright, complicated by the fact that the feeders are outside a (less-than-spotless) south-facing window. ,
Description:        Size of bird: ca goldfinch-size Our goldfinch population is pretty variable as to size)
(Description:)       Basic Shape: blocky
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: light/frosty with brown markings and red cap
(Description:)            Bill Type: small, straight, very short,
(Description:)                              
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
general size and light/frosty coloration, small black throat and red forecrown areas on a generally light head, short, yellow bill.

The Sibley Guide to Birds describes Hoary redpoll as having a stubby bill with straight culmen emphasized by fluffy nasal feathering ; the bird in question appears to have these characteristics (best seen in image 3898).
The Sibley Guide to Birds describes Hoary redpoll as having limited to very little pale pink on the breast. The bird in question appears to have this characteristic; a slight hint of very pale pink is visible in image 3905.
The Sibley Guide to Birds describes Hoary redpoll as appearing fluffier and thicker-necked than the Common redpoll. All three submitted images, taken over a period of three hours during the warmer part of the day, suggest a very fluffy bird. The thick-necked or stocky build is best seen in image 3898.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: None noted
Behavior: active, nervous, flighty,perch briefly in crabapple tree, then dart into thistle feeder briefly, seldom still.
Habitat: Rural yard, in Upper Sonoran zone; with cottonwoods and various brushy ornamentals; surrounding hills with low sagebrush and other desert flora.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
The only species likely to be confused is the Common redpoll. The Common and Hoary redpolls are described as similar in behavior, diet, and preferred habitat. Neither redpoll is at all frequent in Utah, although both have been reported at least once. I did not find a report of either from Uintah County. The reported average size difference of is unlikely to be useful to me, even if I saw the two side by side. Streaks on the undertail coverts appear to vary across the full spectrum, although on average there are differences by species and sex; this field mark is unlikely to be significant in the case of any single bird, and in any case, it has not been possible to get a clear look at the undertail. The references generally agree that identification of the two redpolls strictly by color is confounded by the fact that Common redpolls can be quite light overall. All sources agree however, that although the Common redpoll can be quite light, the Hoary redpoll is notable for a light, overall frosty appearance; that is consistent with my overall impression of the bird s coloration. The bird compares most favorably with the Hoary redpoll illustrations and photos in all of the sources.
The following details were most influential in my identification of the bird as a Hoary redpoll.
The Thayer Handbook describes the Common redpoll: tame and easily approached. This bird was nervous, flighty, and very active.
The Sibley Guide to Birds describes the Common redpoll as having a dark face extensive black throat brown head . This bird has a light face, lacks extensive black in the throat area, and the head behind the red patch is white to light gray with fine, dark gray to brown stripes.
The Sibley Guide to Birds and other sources describe and/or illustrate the Common redpoll as having more or less extensive pink to buffy wash on the breast and flanks, the bird in question lacks any hint of such coloration on the flanks (best seen in images 3898 and 3905).
The Sibley Guide to Birds describes Hoary redpoll as having a stubby bill with straight culmen emphasized by fluffy nasal feathering ; the bird in question appears to have these characteristics (best seen in image 3898).
The Sibley Guide to Birds describes Hoary redpoll as having limited to very little pale pink on the breast. The bird in question appears to have this characteristic; a slight hint of very pale pink is visible in image 3905.
The Sibley Guide to Birds describes Hoary redpoll as appearing fluffier and thicker-necked than the Common redpoll. All three submitted images, taken over a period of three hours during the warmer part of the day, suggest a very fluffy bird. The thick-necked or stocky build is best seen in image 3898.
To summarize, the redpoll (Carduelis sp.) observed and photographed at the Johnson feeder on December 30, 2012 appears more consistent with Hoary redpoll (Carduelis hornemanni) than with Common redpoll (Carduelis flammea) in terms of behavior, physical details of the bill and body shape, coloration, and overall appearance; I believe it is a Hoary redpoll.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
No prior direct experience with redpolls
References consulted: I consulted several references. The Stokes Field Guide to Birds; Western Region(1995) and the American Bird Conservancy s Field Guide; All the Birds of North America (1997) were not particularly helpful, as they lacked detailed information on the identification of these two redpolls, which can overlap considerably in general appearance. My identification of the bird as a Hoary redpoll rests mainly on the details in two references: The Sibley Guide to Birds (1st edition, 4th printing, 2001) and the Thayer Birding Software program Birds of North America; Gold Edition (ver. 5.5.1).
Description from: Notes made later
Observer: Clayton E. Johnson
Observer's address: P. O. Box 31, Jensen UT 84035
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: none
Date prepared: January 1, 2013
Additional material: Photos
Additional_Comments: Other birds present were Am. Goldfinches (ca 50), White-crowned sparrows, Pine siskins, House sparrows, Song sparrows, House & Cassin s finches, various juncos, and a Harris s sparrow.
Although the day was clear to partly cloudy, photographic efforts were complicated by an inversion layer with some fog, and the fact that the feeders are outside a (less-than-spotless) south-facing window.
The initial impression and the characteristic most notable to the direct view was an overall light/frosty impression; this characteristic is somewhat subdued in the photos, due to the lighting conditions. The three image captures: ALPHA_55_3897, ALPHA_55_3898, ALPHA_55_3905) were in RAW format (ca 15MB each); images submitted herein are in JPEG format, and reduced in size for emailing.