Hornemann's Redpoll in Ontario

Jean Iron jeaniron at sympatico.ca
Sat Feb 9 11:11:57 EST 2002

Hello Ontbirders,

The Hoary Redpoll comprises two subspecies (races). This winter there have 
been several reports of the larger nominate race known as "Hornemann's" 
Hoary Redpoll or "Greenland" Hoary Redpoll (Carduelis hornemanni 
hornemanni). The Ontario Bird Records Committee (OBRC) requests 
documentation of the hornemanni subspecies.

Hornemann's Redpoll breeds in the high arctic. It is a great rarity in 
Canada south of the subarctic even in winter. Adding to its extreme rarity 
is Hornemann's much smaller population size compared with the "Southern" 
Hoary Redpoll (C.h. exilipes), which is the usual form seen in southern 
Ontario. Hornemann's apparently survives the subarctic winter in wind swept 
areas where dwarf birch seeds and grass seeds are exposed. A similar 
strategy is used by ptarmigan which feed on exposed willow buds.

To my knowledge there are fewer than 5 records of Hornemann's Redpoll in 
southern Ontario. There's a specimen record of Hornemann's from Galt (now 
part of Cambridge) from about 1863. I examined this skin a few years ago in 
the Royal Ontario Museum. The legendary George North of Hamilton, who often 
studied the Galt skin when it was housed in Hamilton (now in ROM), looked 
many years for Hornemann's Redpoll, but saw only one in his lifetime at 
Aldershot on 23 March 1958.

Hornemann's is best identified by direct comparison with "Southern" Common 
Redpoll (C.f. flammea) or exilipes Hoary Redpoll. Remember that even 
exilipes Hoarys can appear larger than flammea Commons because whiter birds 
"loom" bigger than darker ones. Also, beware of Hoarys that look bigger 
because they are more fluffed up. Beware too that the "Greater" Common 
Redpoll (C.f. rostrata) is closer in size to Hornemann's; Greaters are more 
common than Hoarys some winters. For a good photo of a Hornemann's with 
Commons, see page 239 of the summer 1988 issue of American Birds, Volume 
42, Number 2.

For more information on Hornemann's Redpoll in Ontario, see North, G. 
(1983). Greenland Redpoll. The Wood Duck 36: 119, and Pittaway, R. (1992). 
Recognizable Forms: Redpolls. Ontario Birds 10(3): 108-114.

We can expect to see more redpolls at feeders in February and March and 
probably into April as natural food supplies diminish. If you see or 
photograph a Hornemann's Redpoll, please send your documentation to the OBRC.

Happy redpolling,

Ron Pittaway
Minden, Ontario
E-mail: jeaniron at sympatico.ca

Jean Iron <jeaniron at sympatico.ca>

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