Mar 312011
 

Lesser Redpoll (top) v Mealy Redpoll comparisonThe mealy redpoll that spent the winter hanging around my garden is still making regular appearances at the feeders. During the recent spell of decent weather I managed to get these shots of first a lesser, followed a few seconds later by the mealy on the same station at the seed-feeder. Identical light, identical camera settings, etc. make for an interesting comparison.

It highlights the significant differences between two birds that in Ireland are still considered sub-species of the common redpoll, but in the UK are split into different species.

The Lesser Redpoll (Carduelis flammea cabaret / Carduelis cabaret) is on the top, the Mealy Redpoll (Carduelis flammea flammea) is on the bottom.

Click on the pic to see a larger version.

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Feb 082011
 

lesser redpoll and mealy redpoll in West CorkOnce upon a time, not very long ago, I used to be content with the notion that a redpoll was a redpoll was a redpoll. All that changed just over a month ago when a mealy redpoll (Carduelis flammea flammea) joined the gang of lesser redpolls (Carduelis flammea cabaret) visiting my garden bird feeders.

I get lesser redpolls in the garden every winter, and lovely little birds they are too. But back in early January I was casually watching a few of these charming little finches jostle for position on the feeder, when I noticed one bird in particular that looked very different. It was noticeably chunkier, and much paler in appearance – more of a frosty grey-brown than the usual warm brown and buff tones of the lessers.

I dived for the books… and opened up a real can of worms. Redpoll identification, it turns out, can be a real NIGHTMARE!

After a bit of reading, comparing and some more watching… followed by more reading and head-scratching, I was convinced that the paler bird was a mealy redpoll — the nominate sub-species of the common redpoll (Carduelis flammea flammea).

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