Black-winged Snowfinch

Black-winged Snowfinch Montifringilla adamsi adamsi is resident in southern Tibet (Himalayas) and southern Xinjiang (Kunlun Mountains), and xerophila occurs from Qilian Mountains in Gansu and Qinghai south to eastern Tibet and western Sichuan. Forages on ground at edges of snowfields between 3500 m and 5200 m. Similar to Henri’s snowfinch, but paler, with grey-brown not earth-brown head. Overall less contrasting than Henri’s, the lack of contrast being especially visible on head, on which submoustachial stripe is faint or absent, and on wings, which show less white (white broken by broad black bases of secondaries in open wing). Black, white-tipped bib also less prominent on Tibetan, being especially faint on overall paler ssp. xerophila. Female duller with browner wings and a smaller and less distinct (or completely imperceptible) bib. White-winged snowfinch (ssp. groumgrzimaili and kwenlunensis) has more white on wings, a more distinct bib and submoustachial stripe, and a darker grey head; also prefers slightly higher country. Juvenile Tibetan also recognized by wing pattern and paler head. Non-breeding bill horn-yellow with black tip. Breeding bill black. Feet black; iris brown. Utters distinctive, monotonous, single-note song from perch or during display flight. — Craig Brelsford

THE OLD WORLD SPARROWS OF CHINA has research on most of the 13 species in the family Passeridae in China. Click any link:

Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia
White-rumped Snowfinch Onychostruthus taczanowskii
Tibetan Snowfinch Montifringilla henrici
White-winged Snowfinch M. nivalis
Black-winged Snowfinch M. adamsi
Rufous-necked Snowfinch Pyrgilauda ruficollis
Pere David’s Snowfinch P. davidiana
Blanford’s Snowfinch P. blanfordi
Russet Sparrow Passer cinnamomeus
Eurasian Tree Sparrow P. montanus
Saxaul Sparrow P. ammodendri
Spanish Sparrow P. hispaniolensis
House Sparrow P. domesticus


Daniel Bengtsson served as chief ornithological consultant for Craig Brelsford’s Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of China, from which this species description is drawn.

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