Winter Finches ID Quiz (with answers)

Erik BruhnkeIdentification, quiz birdsLeave a Comment

I hope all of you enjoyed looking at the winter finch photo from earlier in this week! Below is the same photo, with the bird species pointed-out appropriately.

Most of the finches in this photo are Red Crossbills. The male Red Crossbills host a tomato-red coloration throughout their heads, upper backside, and the entire throat and underbelly. Their wings are sooty-black, as is their tail. Adult male Red Crossbills have a dark complexion overall, compared to the frosty-edged adult male White-winged Crossbills which have white on their wings. Throughout the photo you will see  many dark-winged crossbills that have a dull-yellow coloration throughout their uppersides, connecting to a belly of faded light tan and gray streaks. These drabber, dull-yellow crossbills are the adult female Red Crossbills. In the very center of the photo are two adult male Red Crossbills… If you look closely at the bird between them, this Red Crossbill has the appearance of a female Red Crossbill with a light orange cast throughout it’s head and chest. This bird is what is known as a 1st-year male. First-year male Red Crossbills are essentially going through a teenage plumage, before their full adult deep orangey-red coloration.

On the right side of the picture, you’ll see the White-winged Crossbill pointed out. White-winged Crossbills host two bold, white wing bars throughout their black wings. Adult male White-winged Crossbills have a rosy-red coloration throughout their undersides, with gray undertail coverts (no male White-winged Crossbill is shown in this photo). The White-winged Crossbill in this photo is an adult female, which not only shows the distinct white wing bars, but also has a dark yellow/gray wash throughout the head, as well as streaks throughout the upper backside of the bird. Although it isn’t shown in this photo, White-winged Crossbills are smaller-billed than Red Crossbills are.

Three Common Redpolls are shown on the right side of this photo as well. They have white sides with considerable streaks lining the flanks (the area just below the underwing); as well as a light brown set of streaks throughout each bird’s head and backside. Common Redpolls show a gorgeous little ruby-red spot on top of their head. The Common Redpolls’ appearances are much paler than the nearby crossbills’ appearances.

On the left side of this picture, you will see a Hoary Redpoll.  There is an upcoming Nemesis Blog post about redpoll ID that I will be writing, and don’t want to spill all of the fun ornithological beans just yet. The frosty-white appearance of the redpoll on the left, plus the limited streaking throughout its sides and very petite bill, are field marks that favor the Hoary Redpoll species. More redpoll tidbits are coming up in the near future… Enjoy!

Red Crossbills, White-winged Crossbill, Hoary Redpoll and Common Redpolls