Acanthis hornemanni

Status:  Rare casual winter visitor statewide.

Documentation:  Photograph: 5 Feb 1982 Ames, Dodge Co (Bray et al 1986).

Taxonomy:  Two subspecies are generally recognized (Pyle 1997, Gill and Donsker 2017, Clements et al 2016, Knox and Lowther 2020), exilipes, breeding in the tundra of northern Eurasia and northern North America, and hornemanni, breeding Ellesmere Island, Baffin Island, and northern Greenland; wintering to northern USA and British Isles (Clements et al 2016). There is no evidence regarding subspecies occurrence in Nebraska.

A recent proposal to AOU to lump the redpolls, including Common and Hoary Redpolls has not yet been voted upon (AOU 2016). Reports of Hoary Redpolls may merely represent the palest redpolls in a continuum of a single species; there is little or no genetic structure among redpolls (see Comments).

Winter: There are 11 reports of this species for Nebraska.  There are no records accepted by NOURC, although only three, all in Jan-Mar 2013, have been submitted.  Nevertheless, Hoary Redpoll was added to the state list based on a record (cited above) accepted by Bray et al (1986) prior to the inception of NOURC in 1986.  There were four additional records before 1986, three accepted by Bray et al (1986); these were in 1970, 1972, and 1978 (Douglas Co). There were only two more reports between 1986 (Bray et al 1986) and the 2013 reports; one in 1996 was acceptably documented (see Comments).

We find the following records to be suggestive of Hoary Redpoll:

Jan 1970 Custer Co (Cortelyou 1970). “I couldn’t believe the whitish look of a few with the Commons. They had a striking white rump and lack of streakedness there.”

27 Feb-15 Mar 1972 Offutt Base Lake, Sarpy Co. “The Hoary Redpoll was found at Offutt Base Lake by Terry Maxwell and was observed over a period of days by others. It was very white, with a white rump and a distinct lack of streaking on the sides. It could be picked out of  the flock of Common Redpolls easily without binoculars” (Cortelyou 1972).

“A hoary Redpoll was studied carefully at Bellevue, Nebr. daily from Feb. 28 – Mar 15 (TM, mob).” (Williams 1972).

13-17 Feb 1978 Douglas Co (Bray et al 1986 written description in possession of authors; Williams 1978).

5 Feb 1982 Ames (Manning 1982; Bray et al 1986: “This photo is considered diagnostic as it shows an immaculate rump and a rather short bill”.

17 Jan 1996 Dawes Co (Grzybowski 1996). ”A Hoary Redpoll was documented in Dawes, NE Jan. 17 (RCR).”

2 Jan 2013 male Lancaster Co; this record was not accepted by NOURC (Brogie 2014)

18 Jan 2013 photograph Lincoln Co; this record was not accepted by NOURC (Brogie 2014)

18 Mar 2013 photograph Burwell, Garfield Co; this record was not accepted by NOURC (Brogie 2014).

The only other reports are of one in Gering, Scotts Bluff Co on the extraordinary date 20 May 1968, described as having an “unstreaked white rump,” and not with any other redpolls (Young 1968), and one reported without details 25-26 Feb 1978 by Daryl Giblin in Lancaster Co (Williams 1978; Cortelyou 1978). One was “apparently observed” in Dixon Co 29 Jan-29 Feb 1996 (Grzybowski 1996).

Nebraska is at the southern limit of occurrence of Hoary Redpoll, although Iowa has a surprising 29 records, all in the period 16 Dec-21 Mar (Iowa Birds and Birding, accessed April 2018).  There are none for Kansas (Thompson et al 2011), and Colorado’s six records were all in winter 2012-2013 (CBRC).  Hoary Redpoll is rare in South Dakota, mostly in the northeast (Tallman et al 2001), and in Wyoming there are 11 reports (Faulkner 2010).

Comments: The three 2013 reports submitted to NOURC were treated conservatively by the Committee and none were accepted. However, we believe that these records, all accompanied by a photo, were suggestive of Hoary Redpolls, or at least represent the pale end of a phenotypic continuum of a single redpoll species that rarely occurs as far south as Nebraska. Perhaps significantly, during the same winter, there were six accepted records for Colorado, that state’s first accepted records (CBRC). Photos of the Nebraska birds were submitted to at least one observer from a northern state, who agreed that, if seen in his area, he would identify them as Hoary Redpolls. It is not unusual for Records Committees in states where Hoary Redpoll is unexpected to take a very conservative approach to Hoary Redpoll submissions.  Applying the David Sibley Character Index for redpolls to the photos submitted in 2013, all three were found to be more likely Hoary Redpolls than not (Sibley 2008).   As stated by Sibley (14 Jan 2008): “There’s nothing wrong with excluding some intermediate birds from being called Hoaries, as long as birders understand that some Hoaries are being excluded. This is conservative. But most people give redpolls very uneven treatment by demanding that Hoaries meet high standards, and then calling everything else Common.”

Notwithstanding, there is a proposal submitted to AOU (2016) to lump the redpolls as a single species, but as of Jan 2021 a vote has not yet been taken.


CBRC: Colorado Bird Records Committee
NOURC: Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union Records Committee


Photograph (top) of a possible Hoary Redpoll at Burwell, Garfield Co 18 Mar 2013 by Bob Gerten; this record was not accepted by NOURC (Brogie 2014; see Comments).

Literature Cited

American Ornithologists’ Union [AOU]. 2016. AOU Classification Committee – North and Middle America Proposal Set 2016-A 10 Nov 2015.

Bray, T.E., B.K. Padelford, and W.R. Silcock. 1986. The birds of Nebraska: A critically evaluated list. Published by the authors, Bellevue, Nebraska, USA.

Brogie, M.A. 2014. 2013 (25th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 82: 131-146.

Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2016. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2016, accessed 30 January 2018.

Cortelyou, R.G. 1970. 1970 (Forty-fifth) Spring Migration and Occurrence Report. NBR 38: 74-87.

Cortelyou, R.G. 1972. 1972 (Forty-seventh) Spring Migration and Occurrence Report. NBR 40: 72-86.

Cortelyou, R.G. 1978. 1978 (Fifty-third) Spring migration and Occurrence Report. NBR 46: 66-85.

Faulkner, D.W. 2010. Birds of Wyoming. Roberts and Company, Greenwood Village, Colorado.

Gill, F., and D. Donsker (Eds). 2017. IOC World Bird List (v 7.3), accessed 30 January 2018.

Grzybowski, J.A. 1996. Southern Great Plains Region. Field Notes 50: 296-300.

Knox, A.G. and P.E. Lowther. 2020. Hoary Redpoll (Acanthis hornemanni), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.hoared.01.

Manning, R. 1982. A Hoary Redpoll in Dodge County. NBR 50: 37.

Pyle, P. 1997. Identification Guide to North American Birds. Part I, Columbidae to Ploceidae. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, California, USA.

Sibley, D. 2008.  A Character Index for Redpoll identification (blog post).  The Sibley Guides (blog), accessed 19 Jun 2018.

Tallman, D.A., Swanson, D.L., and J.S. Palmer. 2002. Birds of South Dakota. Midstates/Quality Quick Print, Aberdeen, South Dakota, USA.

Thompson, M.C., C.A. Ely, B. Gress, C. Otte, S.T. Patti, D. Seibel, and E.A. Young. 2011. Birds of Kansas.  University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, USA.

Williams, F. 1972. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 26: 624-626.

Williams, F. 1978. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 32: 223-227.

Young, S.R. 1968. Hoary Redpoll. NBR 36: 77-78.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen.  2021.  Hoary Redpoll (Acanthis hornemanni). In Birds of Nebraska — Online. www.BirdsofNebraska.org

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 30 Jan 2021