No Commoner

OK, there’s a back story. I bet you didn’t see *that* coming.

House finches were one of the first birds I learned to identify after I “took up” birding, if my haphazard participation in this activity can be so characterized. It was a capability born of opportunity, not any particular effort on my part. We saw many such finches in Phoenix, nesting in the roof overhang. The males were easy to identify due to their bright breeding plumage; the females were obvious because they were hanging around with the males.

Then I started seeing them at home. Lots of them. Now when I see a flitty, finch-sized bird with red on its head, I naturally default to house finch.

Male house finch with seed in beak

Last week, after I refilled the feeder, a mixed swarm of small flitty birds came to partake: juncos, black-capped chickadees, and the afore-mentioned default house finches. Or *were* they house finches?

I caught one on camera through the window and across the yard. The photo isn’t a candidate for National Geographic cover, but it’s definitely clear enough for identification. And no, it’s definitely not a house finch.

That left the common redpoll, a visitor to feeders in Western Ontario and Manitoba or so I’m told by people who have it as *their* default when they glimpse a flitty, finch-sized bird with red on its head. All right then.

Today, in a perfunctory sort of way, I decided to close the loop with Merlin, my bird-identification app. Then I confirmed its identification with the Cornell Lab’s website.

Surprise! It’s another flitty, finch-sized bird with red on its head. May I present no common redpoll, but a slightly fuzzy hoary redpoll. And a first for me.

A first-ever sighting of a hoary redpoll

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12 Responses to No Commoner

  1. Jim Robertson says:

    Nice catch Isabel!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim R – Thanks – and lucky, too. They were hardly sitting still. For all I know there were also common redpolls in the swarm.

  2. And with an expression of tender rebuke, “How could you not see, Isabel, that I am not as other birds?”

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Tender rebuke, eh? Is that what you see? I was thinking more miffed, but this perception says more about the look-interpreter than the look-maker, I expect.

  3. Alison Uhrbach says:

    Very cool!! I had never seen house finches around when we lived in Central Alberta (although I’d seen lots in Victoria, BC visiting my mom) When we moved to Edmonton, suddenly they were everywhere, along with the red polls – but – I’ve never seen a hoary redpoll! Now I’ll be on the lookout! This morning I had a downy woodpecker, redpolls, two kinds of nuthatches, and assorted sparrows at my feeders. I love how they all arrive at once, as if someone just announced “coffee time!”

  4. Don’t you love unforced research!? I like the photo, because it shows the hoary redpoll as truly alive with motion.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Judith – “In motion” about describes him, for sure. Some birds rarely sit still (effectively “never” for my reaction speed) – apparently snow buntings are much the same, or so I hear from a bird photographer I know.

  5. Tom Watson says:

    Wonderful pictures, Isabel.

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