Rufous-necked Snowfinch

In China, Rufous-necked Snowfinch Pyrgilauda ruficollis isabellina is resident in the eastern Kunlun Mountains and Altun Mountains and in the western Qilian Mountains, with ruficollis in southwestern Qinghai and western Sichuan south across Tibet. Inhabits stony plains and pastures at high altitude (3800 m to 5000 m), often near water; is less commonly found among burrowing mammals than other snowfinches . In display flight, rises silently, descends in song. Runs fast; digs in dung. Often in flocks, particularly outside breeding season. Similar to Blanford’s snowfinch, but readily distinguishable by longer and thicker black eye-stripe, black lateral throat stripes and 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 is 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. Bill grey-black (yellow in juvenile); feet black; iris reddish-brown. Buzzes in display flight; chatters in alarm; calls with sparrow-like chirps and slightly down-slurred “wheeu”. — Craig Brelsford


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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