The snowball Hoary Redpoll stood out from the rest the distant flock of Redpolls at Sherwood Island SP, Westport CT. We spent several hours, on two days, observing the flock of approximately 20 Redpolls, all were Common except for one clearly identified as a Hoary Redpoll. Currently the Common and Hoary Redpolls are each considered “good” species but their genetic similarity is noted but for now I ticked a new species.
The flock of 20 Redpolls were first seen foraging on the ground in the damp tundra like vegetation along side a gravel path that lead to the east end of Sherwood Island. They took flight soon after and continuous observation found their pattern.
The flock first circles foraging area in flight and then lands in nearby tree. Taking flight again the flock either lands on ground to forage or flies to another tree. Once on the ground they forage for a few seconds or a few minutes, and often flush for no apparent reason. Redpolls seem to be flushed by moving walkers, with or without dogs. They tolerated however close approaches by observers who stand fast or move slowly on the oblique.
It was difficult to determine at first what the Redpolls were doing on the ground.
Considering that the air temp was around freezing and the was 15-20 mph north wind, there appeared to be no new spring growth and the damp area they were foraging on had been covered by snow only days before. While foraging, they did not appear to take grit.
They were foraging on patches of low growing of green vegetation. While probing they could be seen repeatedly pulling up and consuming slender green shoots and denser brown stems that may have held seeds. The vegetation has not been identified to date. The plants grew a quarter to half an inch off the ground, could tolerate being covered by snow and damp muddy conditions, and much foot traffic.
Unfazed by the cold, the little songbird’s restless comings and goings are fueled by almost constant feeding. They may eat more than 40% of its body mass every day in the winter. A special, expandable pouch in its throat allows it to store seeds gathered quickly. At some point later in the day the Redpolls can process the consumed forage in a warmer, sheltered spot over the course of several hours.
Addendum: Encounters Kentucky Warbler
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