Blanford’s Snowfinch

In China, Blanford’s Snowfinch Pyrgilauda blanfordi ventorum is resident in the Altun Mountains in southeastern Xinjiang and northwestern Qinghai, barbata in the Qilian Mountains to Qinghai Lake, and nominate is in southern Qinghai and Tibet. Patchily distributed but locally common on dry, stony, sparsely vegetated plains at high altitude (4000 m to 5500 m). Runs on ground. Hovering display flight. In pair or flocks; large flocks in winter. Often around colonies of pika, whose burrows it may use for nesting. Colorful; has 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 buffish-orange (grey in barbata, yellowish in ventorum). 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;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 has lateral throat stripe and streaking on upperparts. Bill black (yellow in juvenile); feet black; iris dark brown. Flocks twitter rapidly on ground and in flight. — Craig Brelsford

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

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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