Birds of America
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
MEALY REDPOLL LINNET.
LINARIA BOREALIS, Temm.
Whilst in Newfoundland, I procured four specimens of this curious bird, all
of which were shot while feeding on the berries of the summer apple. It was in
the month of August, and I well remember the pleasure I felt when at the same
moment several Indian boys approached and offered me their waterproof bark
baskets filled with those delightful berries equally pleasing to my taste and
that of the Mealy Redpoll. One of the birds appeared to me to be an adult, but
to have already changed its spring livery for the plainer one exhibited in the
Plate. The others were evidently younger, as none of them shewed the least
appearance on the forehead, cheeks, breast of rump, of the red colour that
existed on the same parts of what perhaps was their parent.
In their habits I could see no difference between them and the Common
Redpoll; but their notes, although in some degree similar, as is usually the
case in all birds of the same family, differed sufficiently to induce me to
believe that this mealy-coloured bird is quite distinct from the species above
mentioned, although very nearly allied to it. I wish it were in my power to
describe this difference of modulation, which seems to me still vibrating in my
ear; but I cannot, and therefore must be content with assuring you, that the
notes of the two birds are as nearly the same, and yet as distinct, as those of
the American Gold-finch and the European bird of the same name.
Removing from one spot to another with the peculiar activity and
capriciousness of the Linnet family, they would fly from one portion to another
of the wild natural meadow on which I watched them nearly an hour before I shot
them, alight here and there, peck at the berries a few moments, and suddenly, as
if affrighted, rise, perform various wide and circling flights, in deep
undulations, and at once alighting repose for a short while.
Like Titmice, and often with downward inclined head, they fed, chattered to
each other, and then resting for an instant plumed themselves. These
occupations they would have continued much longer had not the trigger of my gun
been touched at a favourable moment, on which I walked to the spot and picked up
the little flock, all of them having been killed at one shot.
I and my party had procured a good number of Common Redpolls in the rugged
country of Labrador, but not a single bird of this species; which yet removes
during winter to our middle districts. A specimen in my possession was procured
near Moorestown, in the State of New Jersey, by my valued friend EDWARD HARRIS,
Esq., and I have seen several others that were obtained near Baltimore in
That the Mealy Redpoll becomes a richly coloured bird at the approach of
the breeding season I feel quite confident, and I will now venture to give you
some idea of its appearance at that happy period of its life. Then, I would
say, the cheeks and the whole under part of the body, excepting a large black
patch on the throat, are of a rich carmine, as is the rump. The spots seen on
the sides of the breast, and along the lower parts of the body, almost to the
femorals, disappear, and the upper parts, or the shoulders and back, become
almost of a uniform rich brown, as those parts are in the Common Linnet of
The present species is rather larger than the Common Redpoll. The colour
of its bill even during winter differs in being of a rich yellow, and its legs,
feet, and claws at that season are pure black, instead of reddish-brown.
On two occasions I have seen the Mealy Redpoll associated with the American
Siskin, in the beginning of October, in the province of New Brunswick. They
were then feeding on the needs of neglected sun-flowers.
Accidental in New Jersey and New York. More common from Maine northward.
Labrador and Fur Countries. Columbia river.
GROSBEC BOREAL, Fringilla borealis, Temm. Man. d'Orn., vol. iii. p. 264.
MEALY REDPOLL, Fringilla borealis, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. v. p. 87.
Bill short, strong, conical, much compressed toward the end, extremely
acute; upper mandible with the dorsal line straight, the ridge narrow, the sides
convex, the edges sharp and overlapping, without notch, the tip acuminate; lower
mandible with the angle short and semicircular, the dorsal line straight, the
ridge narrow, the sides convex, the edges sharp and inflected, the tip very
acute. Nostrils basal, roundish, covered by stiffish reversed feathers.
Head of moderate size, roundish; neck short; body moderate. Feet of
moderate length, rather slender; tarsus short, compressed, anteriorly covered
with a few scutella, of which the upper are blended, posteriorly with two
longitudinal plates meeting at a very acute angle; toes rather stout, the first
with its claw as long as the third with its claw; the lateral toes equal; claws
large, moderately arched, much compressed, acute.
Plumage soft, blended. Wings rather long; the first three quills almost
equal, but the second longest; the second, third, and fourth cut out on the
outer web toward the end; the outer secondaries emarginate. Tail rather long,
deeply emarginate or forked, the middle feathers being half an inch shorter than
Bill yellow, with the ridge of the upper mandible dusky; iris brown; feet
and claws black. The upper part of the head crimson, the feathers of the
cheeks, sides of the body and hind part of the rump pale carmine. A band edging
the forehead, the loral space, and the throat, black. The upper parts are
dusky, streaked with brownish-white, the margins of the feathers being of the
latter colour, and the former gradually disappearing on the hind part of the
back and rump, which are nearly white, tinged with rose-colour; the lower parts
greyish-white, the sides streaked with dusky. The wings and tail are dusky,
with greyish-white edges, and two transverse bands of the same on the tips of
the first row of small coverts and the secondary coverts.
Length to end of tail 5 1/4 inches; extent of wings 9; bill along the ridge
5/12; wing from flexure 3 2/12; tail 2 5/12; tarsus 7/12; hind toe (3 1/4)/12,
its claw (4 1/4)/12; third toe 4/12, its claw (3 1/4)/12.
The female, which is somewhat less, has the black of the forehead and
throat tinged with brown, the crimson patch on the head of less extent, the
sides and rump destitute of red.