Sillem’s Mountain Finch

Sillem’s Mountain Finch Carpodacus sillemi In 1929, Dutch ornithologist Jerome Alexander Sillem collected two specimens of an unknown finch-like bird near the Karakoram Pass in extreme southwestern Tibet. In 1992, those specimens were recognized as coming from a new species, the Sillem’s mountain finch. In 2012, French photographer Yann Muzika photographed the Sillem’s mountain finch in Yeniugou in western Qinghai. It was the first time the bird had been documented in the wild since 1929. The species is probably scarce and localized throughout its range, which may include much of the country above 4500 m between Yeniugou and the Karakoram Pass, 1500 km to the west. The Sillem’s may often associate with other high-altitude finches: The specimens collected in 1929 were part of a mixed flock of other mountain finches, and the Sillem’s that Muzika saw were with Tibetan rosefinches and Brandt’s mountain finches. Birders should look for a plain, brownish-grey finch with long wings that extend almost to the tail tip. The species is probably sexually dimorphic, with male having a tawny head (browner around face), drab, brownish-grey upperparts, pale rump, and dull blackish-brown tail and wings fringed pale grey. Underparts off-white with yellowish-buff wash on flanks. Female paler greyish-brown and streaked above; underparts off-white with faint grey streaks on upper breast. In Muzika’s photos, the male Sillem’s has a short, greyish-black bill; in the photo of the bird considered to be a female Sillem’s, the bill is yellow. Compared to female Tibetan rosefinch, female Sillem’s mountain finch has a shorter bill and longer wings, is paler grey and less streaked. Feet black. Vocalizations unknown. — 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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