Male. Note: frosty appearance and stubby bill.
  • Male. Note: frosty appearance and stubby bill.
  • Female

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Hoary Redpoll

Carduelis hornemanni
Members of this diverse group make up more than half of the bird species worldwide. Most are small. However their brains are relatively large and their learning abilities are greater than those of most other birds. Passerine birds are divided into two suborders, the suboscines and the oscines. Oscines are capable of more complex song, and are considered the true songbirds. In Washington, the tyrant flycatchers are the only suboscines; the remaining 27 families are oscines.
The finch family is made up of acrobatic seedeaters with conical bills and notched tails. Many are nomadic, wandering in winter in search of abundant seeds. Most finch species flock outside the breeding season, and many form flocks during the breeding season as well. Many finches have undulating flight patterns, and may give calls while in flight. They tend to inhabit forest patches and shrubby edges. Most finch species are sexually dimorphic and monogamous, and although the females alone generally incubate the eggs, both sexes help tend the young. Unlike many seed-eating birds that feed protein-rich insects to their young, many finches feed their young mostly seeds.

    General Description

    A close relative of the Common Redpoll and extremely similar in appearance, the Hoary Redpoll nests on High Arctic tundra in the Old and New Worlds. In North America it winters southward across Canada and rarely into the northern contiguous United States, usually in small numbers mixed in with flocks of Common Redpolls. In general Hoary Redpoll appears grayer (less brown) than Common, as if dredged in flour; it is also slightly larger and has a shorter bill. Specific field marks to look for include the Hoary’s unstreaked white rump; undertail coverts either unstreaked or with a single fine streak; and streaking on the sides less extensive and finer than on Common. Adult males are lightly flushed pale pink on the breast, as opposed to the uniform deep-rose breast coloration of Common. However, characteristics of the two species overlap, and not all redpolls can be safely separated in the field.

    Although irregularly common in northeastern British Columbia east of the Continental Divide, Hoary Redpoll is a casual visitor elsewhere in the province, as it is in Idaho. During the unprecedented irruption of Common Redpolls in the winter of 2001–2002 at least 15 Hoary Redpolls were reported in Idaho. Six of Washington’s 12 accepted records came during that same winter. Oregon has just two accepted records, both of them from the northeastern part of the state.

    Revised November 2007

    North American Range Map

    North America map legend

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