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There are quite a few birds that have conspicuous streaking on the flanks and mantle so this bird's identity may not immediately leap out at us. Luckily, we have a fairly good view of this bird's bill, as well as a fairly good profile of the bird.
Several species of warblers in the genus Dendroica are streaked below. Yet our bird's bill, while very short, appears a bit too wide at the base and a bit thick for any warbler. The bill also appears quite pale, even yellowish. While some warblers have pale or yellowish bills, those species not match our bird's heavily streaked appearance. Our bird also has frosty white and black streaking above, which isn't shown to this extent by many warblers. Even Blackburnian Warbler, which has heavy streaking on the mantle, would not show as much of a frosty appearance to the upperparts. I also wouldn't expect the flanks to be quite as heavily or thickly streaked on that species. Furthermore, a Blackburnian Warbler should have darker auriculars that would contrast with the supercilium.
When we think streaky, our thoughts may jump to sparrows. Still, the short yellowish bill doesn't seem right for any sparrow. The heavy broad streaking on the flanks is also too extensive for most sparrows. If we look carefully at the wings, we can see that the primaries extend well beyond the tertials. Most sparrows have relatively short primary projection, as shown by the photograph of the Field Sparrow (above left). Longspurs and buntings have relatively long primary projection (see the Lapland Longspur photo above right), but the plumage does not closely match our bird.
Many finches are long-winged birds with conspicuous streaking on the flanks. Among the finches, only redpolls and siskins would have a bill as small as our bird. Most Pine Siskins would show at least some yellow coloration at the base of the tail and base of the primaries and Pine Siskins have dark bills.
Separation of Common and Hoary Redpolls can be very difficult. In this case out bird is much too heavily streaked for a Hoary Redpoll with the streaks continuing down the flanks and onto the undertail coverts. Hoary Redpolls are much paler with far less streaking below and more of a frosty appearance overall.
This Common Redpoll was photographed by the author at Bonny Reservoir State Park, Yuma County, Colorado in late December of 2003.
The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the February Bird Photo Quiz—Common Redpoll:
The graph below shows that the highest number of answers submitted was for Common Redpoll (42), followed by Pine Siskin (36). We received a number of answers that did not conform to the ABA Checklist format. Please note that answers must consist simply of the Common or English name exactly as it appears in the ABA Checklist.
The photo and answer for this quiz were supplied by Chris Wood.