A Phenetic Analysis of the Redpolls Carduelis flammea flammea and C. hornemanni exilipes

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:1985
Authors:Troy, DM
Journal:The Auk
Date Published:1985
ISBN Number:00048038
Keywords:Acanthis, Acanthis flammea, Acanthis hornemanni, Canada, Carduelis, Carduelis flammea, Carduelis hornemanni, Fringillidae
Abstract:A review of the historical treatment of Common and Hoary redpolls (Carduelis flammea flammea and C. hornemanni exilipes) revealed no diagnostic means of distinguishing the two taxa. Interpretations of species limits have varied, resulting in conflicting treatment of intermediate forms. Variability in plumage and skeletal characters of redpolls from 9 breeding locations in Alaska and Canada were examined to determine if a means of discriminating between the two taxa could be found, and to determine if individuals with intermediate plumage characteristics (potential hybrids) were also morphologically intermediate. Because sexes differed in most skeletal dimensions, all analyses were duplicated for the two sexes. A character index was developed based on three plumage characteristics: rump streaking, undertail covert streaking, and lateral (side) streaking. This index characterized redpolls on a darkness gradient from extreme flammea (dark, heavy streaking) to extreme exilipes (light, no streaking). The observed range of scores was divided into thirds to designate flammea, unknown (intermediate), and exilipes classes. Females showed a much narrower range of plumage variability than males. No females were white enough to be considered exilipes on the scale used for males. Most birds from the flammea and exilipes extremes of plumage variability could be distinguished by skeletal criteria (using discriminant fuction analysis); however, no discontinuity existed, as other birds were intermediate for both plumage and skeletal characteristics. Intermediates were found at all sampled localities where both plumage morphs occurred. Results of analyses based on plumage (character index) and skeletal measurements were very similar and showed that samples containing intermediate plumage birds were also intermediate skeletally. Considering the continuous variability of both plumage and skeletal characters and the lack of any diagnostic criterion for identifying the taxa, the two redpolls should be merged into a single taxon, Carduelis flammea.
Short Title:The Auk
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith