Black-winged Snowfinch

Black-winged Snowfinch
Black-winged Snowfinch Montifringilla adamsi xerophila warily eyes camera before entering cavity nest. KM 2189.5 (36.778749, 99.653861) on Highway G109 near Qinghai Lake, Qinghai, China, elev. 3400 m (11,270 ft.), June. (Craig Brelsford)

Black-winged Snowfinch Montifringilla adamsi xerophila is resident Qilian Mountains in Gansu and Qinghai to eastern Tibet and western Sichuan, and adamsi resident southern Tibet (Himalaya) and southern Xinjiang (Kunlun Mountains). HABITAT & BEHAVIOR Forages on ground at edges of snowfields between 3500–5200 m (11,480–17,060 ft.). Paler than Tibetan Snowfinch (Henri’s Snowfinch) M. henrici, with grey-brown not earth-brown head. Overall less contrasting than henrici, 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 Black-winged, being especially faint on overall paler ssp. xerophila. Female duller with browner wings and smaller and less distinct or imperceptible bib. White-winged Snowfinch M. nivalis groumgrzimaili and M. n. kwenlunensis have more white on wings, a more distinct bib and submoustachial stripe, and a darker grey head and prefer higher country. BARE PARTS Breeding bill black, non-breeding horn-yellow with black tip. Feet black. Iris brown. VOICE 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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