Spring Arctic Redpolls

Arctic Redpoll, Quendale

On 18 May I found this Arctic Redpoll (exilipes) at Quendale. Identification of spring birds, which tend to be worn and streaky, is not a piece of cake; it took close study in the field followed by scrutiny of photos before I was satisfied. Its size could be assessed in relation to a presumed Mealy (Common) Redpoll which was with it.

Key features included:
Face pattern, with shadow of the ‘classic’ autumn buff pattern
Rump, with reasonably extensive area of unstreaked white
Undertail-coverts, which showed ‘classic’ Arctic pattern (single narrow shaft streak on longest feather)

In some photos the bird looks reasonably distinctive, but in others much less so.

The status of Arctic Redpoll in Shetland in spring is interesting. Both taxa are very rare at this season: Pennington et al. (2004) list just 2 records of hornemanni and 9 of exilipes. The hornemanni both arrived in April, whilst the exilipes were in late April or May (four following influxes the previous autumn/winter) with the exception of one on Fetlar in June 2001. The Quendale bird therefore accords with this pattern.

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