Blanford’s Snowfinch

Blanford's Snowfinch
Blanford’s Snowfinch Pyrgilauda blanfordi barbata, Wulanshan–Huashixia Highway, Qinghai, China, elev. 3580 m (11,740 ft.), July. Top right, note grey nape and neck sides, characteristic of barbata. (Craig Brelsford)
Blanford's Snowfinch
Blanford’s Snowfinch P. b. barbata, near Chaka (36.714283, 99.241628), Qinghai, elev. 3140 m (10,290 ft.), July. (Craig Brelsford)

Blanford’s Snowfinch Pyrgilauda blanfordi ventorum is resident Altun Mountains, southeast Xinjiang and northwest Qinghai; barbata Qilian Mountains to Qinghai Lake; and blanfordi southern Qinghai and Tibet. Patchily distributed but locally common. HABITAT & BEHAVIOR Dry, stony, sparsely vegetated plains between 3000–5000 m (9,840–16,400 ft.). Runs on ground and has hovering display flight. In pairs or flocks, large flocks in winter. Often around colonies of pika, whose burrows it may use for nesting. ID & COMPARISON Colorful with distinctive facial pattern. Nominate has white forehead and supercilium disrupted by black line on forehead and by black “spurs”—thin lines on side of forehead. Thin eyeline black, cheek creamy white, lores and bib black. Crown grey-brown. Nape and neck sides yellowish in ventorum, grey in barbata, buffish-orange in blanfordi. Grey-brown mantle and back may show weak dark-brown streaking. Uppertail coverts pale grey. Tail feathers dark-brown in center, white on sides, with black terminal band. Flight feathers black or dark brown with pale edging. Has white panel at base of secondaries and narrow white tips to secondaries. Wing coverts fairly uniform brown-buff, with blackish centers and pale buff tips to median and greater coverts and tertials, but no obvious wingbars on folded wing. Underparts creamy white with buffish wash on breast. Juveniles paler with only hint of facial pattern, grey chin, and wing coverts broadly tipped buff. Juvenile Rufous-necked Snowfinch P. ruficollis has lateral throat stripe and streaking on upperparts. BARE PARTS Bill black, yellow in juvenile. Feet black. Iris dark brown. VOICE Flocks twitter rapidly on ground and in 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.

Go to Birds of China page

Reach us:

Be notified every time we post. Send an
email with “Subscribe” as the subject to

Donate to Shanghai Birding!

Shanghai Birding 上海观鸟