Rufous-necked Snowfinch

Rufous-necked Snowfinch
This Rufous-necked Snowfinch shows the distinctive head pattern of the species, with black eye-line and submoustachial stripe, white throat, and reddish band on neck-sides. Pyrgilauda ruficollis is a common species of the Tibetan Plateau, with a range nearly perfectly coterminous with the Rooftop of the World. I took this photo in June at the base of a mountain (36.765674, 99.666459) near Heimahe, Qinghai at an elevation of 3480 m (11,420 ft.). (Craig Brelsford)

Rufous-necked Snowfinch Pyrgilauda ruficollis isabellina is resident in eastern Kunlun Mountains and Altun Mountains and in western Qilian Mountains, with ruficollis in southwest Qinghai and western Sichuan south across Tibet. HABITAT & BEHAVIOR Stony plains and pastures, often near water, at high altitude (3800–5000 m or 12,470–16,400 ft.). Less commonly found among burrowing mammals than other snowfinches. In display flight rises silently and descends in song. Runs fast; digs in dung. Often in flocks, particularly outside breeding season. ID & COMPARISON Similar to Blanford’s Snowfinch P. blanfordi but readily distinguishable by longer and thicker black eye-stripe, black lateral throat stripes, white throat (no black bib), greyish-white forehead lacking black central line and black “spurs” on sides of forehead, warmer rufous neck sides, more prominently streaked mantle and scapulars, and white patch in median coverts. Female less brightly rufous. Juvenile less distinctly patterned, with broad buff tips to greater and median wing coverts; distinguished from juvenile Blanford’s by lateral throat stripe and streaking on upperparts. BARE PARTS Bill grey-black, yellow in juvenile. Feet black. Iris reddish-brown. VOICE Buzzes in display flight; chatters in alarm; calls with sparrow-like chirps and slightly down-slurred wheeu. — 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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