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Number of species: 82

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Hoary Redpoll - Acanthis hornemanni

Hoary Redpoll has a partial preformative molt but no prealternate molts. The extent of pink on Hoary Redpolls is generally less than on Common Redpolls, and as such, the plumage differences between age/sex classes are even more subtle; except for extremes, examination of the wing and tail is usually required to be confident of age and sex.

Two distinct subspecies of Hoary Redpolls are recognized; while hornemanni is somewhat larger and paler than exilipes, ageing and sexing considerations are similar for both.

Quick tips

  • Examine the greater coverts - on FCF (HY/SY) birds there is generally a contrast between darker replaced inner feathers with pale to white tips versus slightly paler outer feathers with buff tips; note that some individuals replace no greater coverts in their preformative molt, such that the contrast is between the median and greater coverts. On DCB (AHY/ASY) birds the coverts are uniform in appearance.
  • Look at the outer rectrices - they are narrow and distinctly pointed at the tip on FCF (HY/SY) birds, and somewhat broader and more rounded on DCB (AHY/ASY) birds, but note that some intermediates are difficult to classify.
  • Consider the overall plumage - individuals with particularly extensive red and pink patches are usually DCB (AHY/ASY) males, but those with little or no pink may be FCF (HY/SY) males or females of any age.

Species account prepared by McGill Bird Observatory (2018). Last updated by Marcel Gahbauer (Mar 2022)

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The molt categories displayed below may be filtered by month.


Click on any image below to bring up the side-by-side comparison tool.

Individuals not in molt

FCJ - (HY: July - August)
Pale beige-gray overall, lacking black in throat and red on crown
No images available yet
FCF - (HY/SY: July - following September)
Contrast between replaced median and greater coverts that are darker and with whitish tips, versus paler unreplaced greater coverts with buffy tips; rectrices generally narrow and pointed; little or no pink on the underparts
Thumbnail - MG2-2650-25778-Acanthis_hornemanni_AOU_7_52-3267.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2650-25778-Acanthis_hornemanni_AOU_7_52-3265.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2650-25778-Acanthis_hornemanni_AOU_7_52-3266.jpg
DCB - (AHY/ASY: July - following September)
Greater coverts all with whitish tips; rectrices often somewhat broad and rounded, little to no (F) or noticeable (M) pink on the underparts
Thumbnail - MG2-2650-45245-Acanthis_hornemanni_AOU_7_52-3270.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2650-45245-Acanthis_hornemanni_AOU_7_52-3268.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2650-45245-Acanthis_hornemanni_AOU_7_52-3269.jpg
Thumbnail - MG2-9900-00010-Acanthis_hornemanni_AOU_7_52-3272.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-9900-00010-Acanthis_hornemanni_AOU_7_52-3271.jpg

Individuals in active molt

FPJ - (HY: July - August)
Similar to FCJ; some natal down remaining and/or juvenile flight feathers still growing in
No images available yet
FPF - (HY: July - September)
Similar to FCF; body feathers, some to all median coverts, and up to five inner greater coverts being replaced
No images available yet
SPB - (SY: July - September)
Flight feathers being replaced, with retained juvenile primaries, secondaries, and/or primary coverts distinctly pale brown and quite worn
No images available yet
DPB - (AHY: July - September)
Flight feathers being replaced, with retained primaries, secondaries, and/or primary coverts either distinctly adult (generally dark and less worn) or intermediate
No images available yet

Applicable unknown plumage/age classes

Molt classes Age Months Key traits
M-FPF / UPU (FPF, SPB, DPB) U July - September Undergoing preformative or prebasic molt, but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FCF / UCU (FCF, SCB, DCB) U/AHY January - December In formative or basic plumage (molt completed), but cycle is not reliably distinguishable

Number of species: 82

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