Common Redpoll / Acanthis flammea
If you live in Southern Ontario, be on the lookout for today’s bird – the Common Redpoll. They are not usually seen in the south end of the province but this year has produced fair to poor crops of birch seeds in the boreal forest so they are on the move.
Common Redpolls will visit bird feeders, often in fairly large flocks. We can distinguish them from the finches we normally see (House Finches, Goldfinches) by their red caps and their sharp but stubby yellow bills.
This is a holarctic species that breeds in Northern Canada, Alaska and Russia. In the winter it is found further south in Asia and North America, and also shows up in Ireland, the UK and Scandinavia.
The taxonomic status of redpolls is much-debated. In North America we recognize two species: Common Redpoll and, and Arctic (also known as Hoary) Redpoll. Each of those species has recognizable subspecies. The nominate subspecies of Common Redpoll – Acanthis flammea flammea – is the most-often seen in these parts (it’s the bird in the photo). The subspecies rostrata breeds in Greenland and Baffin Island but occasionally strays farther south. A third subspecies, islandica, is found in Iceland.
A fourth subspecies, A.f. cabaret, is deemed by the British Ornithologists’ Union to be a separate species called Lesser Redpoll.
The great fear among list-oriented birders (such as me) is that the powers-that-be will eventually throw up their hands and decide that there is just one species of Redpoll with six subspecies. This would be a tragic outcome.
And now, to catch up on some previous posts…
Bird of the Day #205 – Band-bellied Owl
Originally posted 31 October 2020
Your scary Halloween bird of the day is the Band-bellied Owl.
It’s a large owl that haunts the tropical forests of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, dealing silent death to any unsuspecting creature that wanders into its AOR.
This one was not amused at being outed. But apparently we were a bit too big to be slain, so he settled for glaring at us.
Sector Cachipay, Santa Mariá, Boyacá District, Colombia, February 2020.
Bird of the Day #206 – Blue Jay
Originally posted 1 November 2020
I have posted lots of exotic multicoloured birds over the past few months, but to my eye the humble dime-a-dozen Blue Jay is about as attractive as a bird can be. Not to mention that jays are Corvids, so they are much more clever than other birds. And feisty as well!
The subspecies we see in Canada is the Northern Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata bromia. Apparently it is the subspecies with the dullest plumage! So I’m looking forward to seeing the Coastal Blue Jay, who isn’t so plain and dull. 😲
Algonquin Provincial Park, January 2018. (and -30C as I recall…)
Bird of the Day #207 – White-rumped Sandpiper
Originally posted 2 November 2020
Apologies for the late delivery of today’s bird. I had a mission to perform which took me out of town and I have just now returned to our lair.
On the plus side I was able to stop near Trenton on the way home to (a) add a new sewage lagoon to my collection, and (b) nab some White-rumped Sandpipers, Ontario bird species #233 for 2020.
So obviously, the bird of the day is the White-rumped Sandpiper.
The extended wings on this bird are a clue that it is one of the two long-distance migrant sandpiper species that grace our shores each year. (The other being Baird’s Sandpiper, which will be a BOTD in due course).
The annual migration of this species is a dazzling feat of endurance. They breed in the Arctic islands and along the northern coast of Canada and Alaska. They then move south at a great rate of knots, arriving within a month at their wintering grounds in Patagonia and as far as the South Shetland Islands. In the spring they repeat the route, only faster, with non-stop jumps of up to 4,200km between refueling stations.
So opportunities to see these birds are fleeting. But the really good news is that, having spotted four of them today, I can delete tomorrow’s planned White-rumped Sandpiper hunt, which involved wading out to Gull Island with freezing Lake Ontario waves caressing my nether regions. So it’s all good.
Presqu’ile Provincial Park, September 2018.
And finally, one from the archives…
Bird of the Day #10 – African Grass Owl
Originally posted 17 April 2020
Today’s bird is the African Grass Owl, a close relative of the Barn Owls that can be seen in Europe and the US.
It was previously believed that these owls were only present in central and southern Africa with relict populations in Kenya, Uganda and Cameroon. But then along came eBird, a project of Cornell University that is building a worldwide database of birds based on the observations of citizen-scientists. So now we know that there are active populations in Tanzania’s Arusha, Tarangire and Serengeti National Parks. This beastie greeted us as we passed through the main gate of the Serengeti park.
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, February 2015