Tony Towner's picture


Observed: 21st February 2010 By: Tony Towner

These two Redpolls visited my garden Niger seed feeder.
Can anyone help with their identification please? Are they both Lesser or Common Redpolls or even one of each? Please add your reasons for the identification as this will help me in the future.

Species interactions

No interactions present.


j.tweedie's picture

I'm inclined to go with

I'm inclined to go with Lesser Redpolls for these, the top one in particular looks very like one. The bottom bird hints at being a Common Redpoll, but I'm not sure about this. Have a look at this which has a good comparison between the two species, although it only concentrates on the males:

bobthebirder's picture


I would say they are both far too dark to be anything other than Lesser Redpolls.

Bob Ford

RoyW's picture

Certainly one Lesser Redpoll

The top bird is a Lesser Redpoll (very dark brown plumage with lots of obvious buff tones, buff wing bars, and a small dark bib).

The lower bird could be a Common Redpoll - but I wouldn't want to bet on it (if you have any other photos they may be useful).
It is fairly dark, particularly on the mantle, but it clearly has greyer tones (most noticeably on the face) and is lacking any buff tones. The wing bars are very white with no buff, the supercilium above the eye is whitish, and there is a noticeable white patch on the rump. These features would all fit with a female or 1st winter Common Redpoll - and females are sometimes fairly similar in size to Lesser Redpolls.

Identification features for redpoll species/races are still being worked out, but there is a very good discussion here (based on birds in Britain rather than the breeding range of Common Redpoll though);
A more humerous discussion (but with some good pointers) can be found here;

drbob's picture


Both are Lesser. The top one is classic, but the way the image has resulted for the lower poses a quick ask. However, I consider its the same size as the other (Common is slightly bigger), and although appearing whiter than the upper bird there is no sign of any white on the rump. In my book both Lesser.

RoyW's picture

Both may be Lesser

Although I would agree that both could be Lesser's (and the top one in the first shot definitely is), I would not be prepared to completely rule out the possibility that the lower bird is a female Common based on the features visible in the original photo.
There is some size overlap between the two forms, and small female Common Redpolls can be the same size as Lessers. I would certainly disagree with the statement that no white is visible n the rump - the lower back/upper rump is just visible between the tertials and if it is not white it is certainly very pale. The lower rump/upper tail covert, visible between the primary tips, also appears lighter than the mantle which is what I would expect on a Common.
I am not saying that the lower bird is a Common/'Mealy' Redpoll (it's pehaps more likely that it is a Lesser), it is certainly not a classic pale Mealy, but I don't believe that enough is known about variation in either form to be certain that it is not (whether the two forms are separate species is also contested by some authors!). All detailed papers on these agree that some individuals cannot be safely assigned to a specific form, and so far no-one has said anything to convince me about this bird.

Tony Towner's picture


I have posted another photo, this time of a single bird which is slightly closer.


RoyW's picture

I still won't call this one!

Assuming that this photo is of the same individual as the lower bird in the first shot (which it does resemble it other visible features), I would personally still not be prepared to say that it was definitely either Common or Lesser!
The extent of the buff colouring on the flanks is probably far more suggestive of Lesser, but the rest of the underparts, including much of the face are very pale.
Redpolls (all forms) tend to be darker when they are in fresh plumage during the autumn, and become - paler as the feathers wear. It is either a pale Lesser, or a fairly dark (perhaps only partially worn) female Common.