[Mystery bird] Common Redpoll, Carduelis flammea, photographed in Mary Ann Creek Rd & Chesaw Rd, Okanogan County, Washington State. [I will identify this bird for you tomorrow]
Image: Marv Breece, 18 December 2007 [larger view].
Canon EOS 350D 1/500s f/5.6 at 300.0mm iso400.
Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.
Rick Wright, Managing Director of WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, writes:
Tiny finches feeding from snowy birches or alders -- in North America and in the Old World as well -- can be presumed to be Carduelis, the "winter" finches par excellence. Our quiz bird's red cap, black chin, and dark streaking below eliminate siskins and goldfinches from consideration, and identify the bird neatly as a redpoll. On current knowledge, the rather long bill and heavy streaking are probably sufficient to identify it as a Common Redpoll.
Redpoll taxonomy is a vexed issue, with different authorities recognizing different numbers of taxa. In North America, Common Redpolls occur alongside Hoary Redpolls in Alaska, Canada, and in some years the northern US. The winter of 2007-08 was one of those years, with Hoaries found widely south of the Canadian border. Good discussions of many birds thought to be "borderline" have led to the interesting theory that Hoary Redpolls, unlike most desirable rarities, are probably underreported out of range, most birders declining to "call" any but the pale, flat-faced extremes and thus, presumably, letting many less clear-cut individuals go as Commons. Add the identification challenge to the taxonomic uncertainties, and we have a bird that is mysterious in more ways than one!
I'm calling that a Common Redpoll, a bird I've never seen. The red cap combined with the streaking, beak, and body shape is enough to say it's a redpoll, and the beak being both relatively large and relatively yellow (plus the bird's location in Washington state) help me call it a Common.
The lack of visible streaking on the undertail coverts gives me pause; Sibley has an illustration showing more streaking on Common, less on Hoary, but I'm going to attribute that to this shot's angle. That is, I suspect I might not actually be seeing that area of the bird, with the belly feathers blocking my view. And I can't reconcile that beak with the Hoary's stubby little pale thing.
Agree with John on Common Redpoll for the reasons he stated. Although, I don't think the photo actually shows the undertail coverts. I think that is the bird's belly.
The other field mark is the fact that Redpolls love birch seeds, and that is what this one seems to be feeding on!
Gorgeous image. Thanks.
Ah yes, common during the Christmas Bird Count in Anchorage, Alaska: Common redpoll.